by Dennis Crouch
Intellectual Ventures v. Capital One (Fed. Cir. 2017)
In parallel decisions, the Federal Circuit has affirmed two lower court judgments that Intellectual Ventures patents are ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. This post discusses the Capital One decision and leaves Erie for later.
Collateral Estoppel Following Partial Summary Judgment: An initial issue is that of collateral estoppel. In a parallel still-pending case, a SDNY district court found IV’s Patent No. 6,715,084 ineligible under Section 101. That decision was a partial summary judgment – not yet final judgment – since other patents are still at issue. Still, the MD district court in Capital One found that the prior invalidity decision collaterally estopped IV from arguing validity in this case. On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed the preclusion – finding that, under 4th Circuit law, a sufficiently complete partial-summary-judgment of invalidity is sufficient to preclude a patentee from asserting a patent in a parallel case. This outcome contradicts the Federal Circuit’s prior decision in Vardon Golf (issue preclusion does not flow from partial summary judgment prior to final judgment). However, the Federal Circuit distinguished that case by noting that Vardon Golf was based on 7th Circuit law rather than 4th Circuit law at issue here.
The two additional patents at issue in Capital One (U.S. Patent Nos. 7,984,081; and 6,546,002) cover the editing of XML data. A representative claim (claim 21) of the ‘081 patent is directed to an “apparatus for manipulating XML documents” and includes a processor along with operational elements (software?). The patent claims use of a hierarchy of data structures for creating a dynamic document. At the top of the hierarchy is a “management record type” made-up of “primary record types” that are, in turn made up of “data objects” designated by “data components” of an XML document. A user interface allows modification and modifies (in an undefined way) the underlying XML document.
Alice Step 1: Reviewing these elements, the Federal Circuit found that “the patent claims are, at their core, directed to the abstract idea of collecting, displaying, and manipulating data.” IV had argued that the claims offered “a concrete solution” to the problem of dynamically managing multiple sets of XML documents. That view, according to the court, limits the patent to the XML technological environment but does not make it any less abstract since XML documents were already well known and used in routine business transactions.
Further, the inventor’s naming of the data structures with unique names does not overcome the fact that the limitations are directed to generic data types and “merely encompass the abstract idea itself of organizing, displaying, and manipulating data of particular documents.”
Alice Step 2: In applying step two of Alice, the court looked for whether the claims included something “significantly more” than merely describing the abstract idea and applying well-understood, routine, conventional activity.” In considering the claims at issue, the court found “no inventive concept” beyond the aforementioned abstract idea.
[T]he Claims recite both a generic computer element—a processor—and a series of generic computer “components” that merely restate their individual functions—i.e., organizing, mapping, identifying, defining, detecting, and modifying. That is to say, they merely describe the functions of the abstract idea itself, without particularity. This is simply not enough under step two.
Repeating its prior statement regarding the inventor’s coined-terms, the court wrote: “The mere fact that the inventor applied coined labels to conventional structures does not make the underlying concept inventive.”
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 Intellectual Ventures v. Erie Indemnity (Fed. Cir. 2017) affirming invalidity of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,510,434; 6,519,581; and 6,546,002 under 35 U.S.C. § 101 (eligibility).
 See Intellectual Ventures II, LLC v. JP Morgan Chase & Co., No. 13-cv-3777-AKH, 2015 WL 1941331, at *17 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 28, 2015) (“JPMC”).
 Vardon Golf Co. v. Karsten Manufacturing Corp., 294 F.3d 1330 (Fed. Cir. 2002).
 Claim 21.
An apparatus for manipulating XML documents, comprising:
a component that organizes data components of one or more XML documents into data objects;
a component that identifies a plurality of primary record types for the XML documents;
a component that maps the data components of each data object to one of the plurality of primary record types;
a component that organizes the instances of the plurality of primary record types into a hierarchy to form a management record type;
a component that defines a dynamic document for display of an instance of a management record type through a user interface; and
a component that detects modification of the data in the dynamic document via the user interface, and in response thereto modifies a data component in an XML document.
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