by Dennis Crouch
In a split opinion, the Federal Circuit has affirmed Core Wireless win over LG Electronics [DECISION] – finding the asserted patent claimed eligible subject matter and refusing to disturb the district court’s judgment of no-anticipation and infringement. U.S. Patent Nos. 8,713,476; 8,434,020; and 6,415,164 (UK Priority Date of July 2000). The patents here are directed to user-interfaces — basically users are shown a menu of applications; Selecting on an application takes the user to an “application summary” that includes functions of the application and files (“data”) associated with each application that can be selected to launch the application and enable the file to be seen within the application.
LG Challenged Claim 8 of the ‘476 patent – arguing that was improperly directed to an abstract idea. As shown below, the claim stems from independent broad claim 1.
1. A computing device comprising a display screen, the computing device being configured to display on the screen a menu listing one or more applications, and additionally being configured to display on the screen an application summary that can be reached directly from the menu, wherein the application summary displays a limited list of data offered within the one or more applications, each of the data in the list being selectable to launch the respective application and enable the selected data to be seen within the respective application, and wherein the application summary is displayed while the one or more applications are in an un-launched state.
8. The computing device of claim 1 in which the summary further displays a limited list of functions offered in the one or more applications.
Because eligibility is deemed a question of law, it is decided by district court judges (rather than juries) and reviewed de novo on appeal. Here, the district court refused to find an abstract idea – characterizing the claim as directed to “displaying an application summary window while the application is in an unlaunched state.” In the alternative, the district court also held that key innovations of the patent would render the claims eligible under Alice Step 2. In particular, the district court noted the key innovation of “directly” accessing the application summary from the menu while the application is yet “unlaunched.”
On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed – finding that the invented approach here is an eligible improvement to a computer system rather than simply the use of computers as a tool.
The asserted claims in this case are directed to an improved user interface for computing devices, not to the abstract idea of an index, as argued by LG on appeal. Although the generic idea of summarizing information certainly existed prior to the invention, these claims are directed to a particular manner of summarizing and presenting information in electronic devices. . . . These limitations disclose a specific manner of displaying a limited set of information to the user, rather than using conventional user interface methods to display a generic index on a computer. Like the improved systems claimed in Enfish, Thales, Visual Memory, and Finjan, these claims recite a specific improvement over prior systems, resulting in an improved user interface for electronic devices.
Holding: Claims are not directed to an abstract idea and therefore are eligible under Alice Step 1.
All judges on the panel agreed with this holding. The disagreement between the majority (Moore & O’Malley) and Dissent-in-Part (Wallach) comes over the definition of the claim term “unlaunched state.” The majority construed the term as “not displayed” while the dissent argues that it should be construed as “not running.” The two definitions result in differing treatment of apps that are running in the background. The changed construction result would likely impact both the infringement and anticipation conclusions. For its part, the majority explained that the patent used the word “launch” in several instances to be synonymous with “displayed” – thus leading to its conclusion.