Fast 101 v. CitiGroup (Supreme Court 2021)
Fast 101 lived up to its name. Soon after the case was filed, Judge Andrews (D.Del.) dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. You guessed it, the claimed invention is directed to an abstract idea and therefor invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101. Fast 101.
Fast 101’s five asserted patents are all part of a single family and claim “an invoiceless trading system that creates incentives for customers to pay suppliers within a predetermined period of time, such as a settlement period.” Basically, you get some discount or coupon (10% off at Saks) if you pay immediately or on-time. U.S. Patent Nos. 8,515,867, 8,660,947, 8,762,273, 9,811,817, and 10,115,098.
On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed finding (1) the “claims are directed to the abstract idea of an intermediated settlement system that employs a discount for early payment”; and (2) “the claims do not recite any inventive concept to render them patent eligible.”
In the briefing, Fast 101 argued that a number of factual issues preclude judgment as a matter of law. On appeal, however, the Federal Circuit only wrote that Fast 101’s arguments regarding factual allegations were not “identified with specificity.”
Now, Fast 101 has petitioned to the Supreme Court with two questions:
1. When analyzing patent claims for subject matter eligibility “as a whole,” does a court need to evaluate the differences between prior art allegations and the alleged inventive concept in order to fully appreciate the claim language selected by the patent drafter?
2. When the plaintiff alleges either that the claims are “directed to” an “improvement” or that the “inventive concept” is found in an “ordered combination” of claim elements, do the relevant steps of the Alice/Mayo Test become questions of fact because a technical analysis of prior art is required, thus precluding a 12(b)(6) dismissal?
3. Whether it is appropriate for a court to dismiss a complaint (and thus invalidate all asserted patents) using Rule 12(b)(6) without amendment to the complaint or oral argument by making factual findings and rejecting the plaintiff ’s detailed factual assertions inconsistent with Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).
Truthfully, I don’t see the petition as having any shot at Supreme Court review, and am primarily writing about the case because of the cute name. I’ll note here that the company Fast 101 is an Australian that has been using the name for more than 20 years.