Tag Archives: Abstract Idea

Receiving a Sequence of Symbols

I am somewhat amazed by Google’s New Patent No. US 9633013 B2; Claim 1 below:

1. A computer-implemented method comprising:

receiving a sequence of symbols that have been optically captured from a rendered document;

determining that the sequence of symbols includes a particular symbol, word, or phrase that has been mapped to one or more actions;

selecting an action from the one or more actions; and

transmitting an instruction to a document management system to perform the selected action.

In addition to its gaping abstract idea problems, the patent claims priority to a collection of more than one hundred (100) provisional patent applications – 2004 priority date.

Despite this application being filed in 2016 and issued in 2017, the claims were never rejected on eligibility grounds – or on any grounds other than obviousness-type-double-patenting.  The notice of allowance explains:

The prior art of the record fail to teach or suggest singly and/or in combination a system and computer implemented method which provides for receiving a sequence of symbols that have been optically captured from a rendered document, determining that the sequence of symbols includes a particular symbol, word, or phrase that has been mapped to one or more actions, selecting an action from the one or more actions, and transmitting an instruction to a document management system to perform the selected action as prescribed for in the claimed invention.

I’ll also note here that the patent appears to be co-owned by Google and the widow of named inventor, Martin King.  More claims continue to be filed in the family, including pending APN 15/462,309, which has also been rejected only on one ground – obviousness type double patenting – without any consideration for Alice/Mayo.   The first claim of the ‘309 patent soon-to-issue is as follows (written as Claim 20):


Abstract Ideas: The Turnstile Keeps Spinning

by Dennis Crouch

Smart Sys. Innovations v. Chicago Transit Authority (Fed. Cir. 2017)

In a split opinion, the Federal Circuit has affirmed the district court’s judgment on the pleadings – R. 12(c) – that the asserted claims of SSI’s four patents are invalid under Section 101 for claiming an abstract idea.  U.S. Patent Nos. 7,566,003, 7,568,617, 8,505,816, and 8,662,390. (Claim 14 of the ‘003 patent – covering a method for validating entry to a city bus or train – is reproduced below).

The baseline for eligibility analysis is the two-step Alice test:

A patent claim falls outside § 101 where (1) it is “directed to” a patent-ineligible concept, i.e., a law of nature, natural phenomenon, or abstract idea, and (2) if so, the particular elements of the claim, considered “both individually and ‘as an ordered combination,’” do not add enough to “‘transform the nature of the claim’ into a patent-eligible application.”

Elec. Power Grp., LLC v. Alstom S.A., 830 F.3d 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (quoting Alice).

The patents here are are directed to a method for collecting fares – without dedicated fare-cards, paper tickets, or tokens.  Instead, the system uses credit/debit cards.   After “stripping” the patent claims from their technical jargon and obtuse syntax, the District Court ruled that the patents “really only cover an abstract concept [of] paying for a subway or bus ride with a credit card.”

On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed – holding that these steps were – as a whole – directed toward an abstract idea:

The Asserted Claims are not directed to a new type of bankcard, turnstile, or database, nor do the claims provide a method for processing data that improves existing technological processes. Rather, the claims are directed to the collection, storage, and recognition of data. We have determined that claims directed to the collection, storage, and recognition of data are not [sic] directed to an abstract idea.

Note here the suggestion from the court that “a new type of bankcard, turnstile, or database” could be patent eligible.  Here, the limitation to the field of mass-transit did not help the patentee: “merely limiting the field of use . . . does not render the claims any less abstract.” Quoting Affinity Labs.  In thinking through the step one, the majority looked toward the Alice focus on whether the claims are “directed to” an abstract idea.  According to the court – that question is separate and distinct from the “thrust,” “heart,” or “focus” of the invention.

According to the majority, Alice Step 2 is also easily met – because the tech-focused aspects of the claims are simply directed to the use of a general purpose computer and thus “offer no inventive concept that transforms them into patent-eligible subject matter.”  In the process of reaching this result, the court distinguished both Diehr and DDR Holdings:

  • Diehr does not apply when, as here, the claims at issue use generic computer components “in which to carry out the abstract idea.”
  • DDR Holdings does not apply when, as here, the asserted claims do not “attempt to solve a challenge particular to the Internet.”

Finally, the majority considered several ‘other arguments’ regarding eligibility:

  • No preemption: Although one purpose of the abstract-idea exception is to limit preemption, the test itself does not actually consider preemption.  Thus, once the abstract idea analysis is completed “preemption concerns are … moot” Ariosa.
  • Transformation:  Although the machine-or-transformation test “can provide a useful clue to the second step of the Alice framework” it does not overwhelm the primary search for an ‘inventive concept.’ Quoting Ultramercial.

Thus, the claims were all affirmed to be invalid and thus not enforceable.

The majority opinion was penned by Judge Wallach and joined by Judge Reyna.  Judge Linn filed an opinion dissenting in part. Judge Linn argues that the “gist” analysis by the Federal Circuit is improper:

The majority commits the same error as the district court in engaging in a reductionist exercise of ignoring the limitations of the claims in question and, at least with respect to the ’003 and ’617 patents, in failing to appreciate that the abstract idea exception—if it is to be applied at all—must be applied narrowly, consistent with its genesis. . . . All three nonstatutory exceptions are intended to foreclose only those claims that preempt and thereby preclude or inhibit human ingenuity with regard to basic building blocks of scientific or technological activity. They are intended to be read narrowly.

As the Supreme Court has done in its 101 analysis, Judge Linn linked his work back to cases such as Le Roy, Mackay, and Funk Bros. The language of those cases focus on “fundamental truths” and “hitherto unknown phenomenon of nature.”  In Benson and Alice, the court also explained “Phenomena of nature, though just discovered, mental processes, and abstract intellectual concepts are not patentable, as they are the basic tools of scientific and technological work.”

For Judge Linn, a method of charging a bank-card at a bus-turnstile does not fit into those expansive definitions.

Judge Linn’s opinion recognizes that his concern directly stems from the Supreme Court’s approach in Alice and Mayo.  He writes: “The problem with this test, however, is that it is indeterminate and often leads to arbitrary results.”  His solution is that the two part test should not be “applied in a legal vacuum divorced from its genesis” and the three exceptions should be treated consistently. Patents should not be struck down simply because they “seemingly fail the Supreme Court’s test.” Rather, the focus should be on whether the patents “attempt to appropriate a basic building block of scientific or technological work.”

The solution for Judge Linn: Focus on the language of the claims and each limitation when determining whether a claim is directed to an abstract idea – “a basic building block of scientific or technological activity” or instead to a “tangible application” that serves a “new and useful end.”

= = = = =

Here is Claim 14 of the ‘003 patent:

A method for validating entry into a first transit system using a bankcard terminal, the method comprising:

downloading, from a processing system associated with a set of transit systems including the first transit system, a set of bankcard records comprising, for each bankcard record in the set, an identifier of a bankcard previously registered with the processing system, and wherein the set of bankcard records identifies bankcards from a plurality of issuers;

receiving, from a bankcard reader, bankcard data comprising data from a bankcard currently presented by a holder of the bankcard, wherein the bankcard comprises one of a credit card and a debit card;

determining an identifier based on at least part of the bankcard data from the currently presented bankcard;

determining whether the currently presented bankcard is contained in the set of bankcard records;

verifying the currently presented bankcard with a bankcard verification system, if the bankcard was not contained in the set of bankcard records; and

denying access, if the act of verifying the currently presented bankcard with the bankcard verification system results in a determination of an invalid bankcard.

Do you get the Gist: Tracking Mail is an Abstract Idea

Secured Mail v. Universal Wilde (Fed. Cir. 2017)

The district court dismissed this case for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted – R.12(b)(6) – after finding that the claims of all seven asserted patents were ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit has affirmed.  U.S. Patent Nos. 7,814,032, 7,818,268, and 8,073,787 (“Intelligent Mail Barcode”); Nos. 8,260,629 and 8,429,093 (“QR Code”); and Nos. 8,910,860 and 9,105,002 (“Personalized URL”).

The patents all involve an mailer (i.e. package or envelope) with an identifier on the outside such as a barcode, QR code, or URL.  Once delivered, information is communicated (via computers) to the recipient about the contents and the sender.

As Patently-O readers understand, abstract ideas themselves are not patentable. Likewise a patent directed to an abstract idea is also unpatentable, unless the claims include an additional inventive concept that goes beyond the unpatentable idea to “transform the nature of the claim into a patent-eligible invention.” Alice.

The Alice two-step inquiry first asks whether the claims are directed to an abstract idea.  Here, the courts agreed that the claims “are directed to the abstract idea of communicating information about a [mailer] by use of a marking.”  Under Step Two, the appellate panel found that the claims merely recited “well known and conventional ways to allow generic communication between a sender and recipient using generic computer technology.”  Invalid.

I have included claim 1 of the ‘002 patent below (issued post-Alice):


1. A method for providing electronic data to a recipient of a mail object, comprising:

using an output device to affix a single set of mail ID data to said mail object, said single set of mail ID data including at least recipient data, said recipient data comprising a personalized network address associated with said recipient of said mail object;

submitting said mail object to a mail carrier for delivery to said recipient of said mail object;

receiving said recipient data from a reception device of said recipient via a network; and

providing by at least one processor said electronic data to said reception device via said network in response to receiving said recipient data, said electronic data comprising a sender’s web page that identifies said recipient of said mail object and includes data corresponding to a content of said mail object;

wherein said electronic data is configured to be displayed to said recipient via a web browser on a display of said reception device.

Note – the patentee has at least one additional patent issued in the family (US 9,390,394). However, that new patent does not appear to include any new inventive elements that go beyond the prior family members.

Read it and weep: [Federal Circuit Opinion]

I’ll note here that I believe the force behind the patentee is patent attorney Todd Fitzsimmons who also runs his own LA County patent firm.


AIPLA On Board with Statutory Reform of 101

The AIPLA has now offered its legislative proposal for rewriting 35 U.S.C. § 101 that is quite close to that offered by the IPO:

Inventions Patentable

(a) Eligible Subject Matter.—Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, or any useful improvement thereof, may obtainshall be entitled to a patent therefor, subject only to the conditions and requirements ofset forth in this title.

(b) Sole Exceptions to Subject Matter Eligibility.—A claimed invention is ineligible under subsection (a) only if the claimed invention as a whole exists in nature independent of and prior to any human activity, or can be performed solely in the human mind.

(c) Sole Eligibility Standard.—The eligibility of a claimed invention under subsections (a) and (b) shall be determined without regard to the requirements or conditions of sections 102, 103, and 112 of this title, the manner in which the claimed invention was made or discovered, or whether the claimed invention includes an inventive concept.

AIPLA statement. The AIPLA proposal is strikingly similar to that of the IPO’s (although not acknowledged by the AIPLA statement).

[DOCX File of Table: Comparing101ProposalsComparing101

EasyWeb => Easy 101 Invalidation

EasyWeb v. Twitter (Fed. Cir. 2017) (nonprecedential opinion)

In this case, the appellate court affirmed summary judgment that all of the asserted claims of five EasyWeb patents are ineligible under the Mayo/Alice interpretation of 35 U.S.C. 101 and therefore invalid.

Representative Claim 1 of U.S. Patent No. 7,685,247 is directed to a message-publishing-system that “accepts messages in multiple ways, such as by fax, telephone, or email” then verifies the message as being sent from an authorized sender, converts the message to a web format, and publishes the message on the Internet.  Although claim 1 is directed to a computer system, it includes a functionally claimed software component:

A message publishing system (MPS) operative to process a message from a sender in a first format, comprising:

a central processor;

at least one sender account;

at least one storage area configured to store at least a first portion of the message;

and software executing in the central processor to configure the processor so as to:

  1. identify the sender of the message as an authorized sender based on information associated with the message in comparison to data in the sender account, wherein the identification is dependent upon the first format;
  2. convert at least a second portion of the message from the first format to a second format; and
  3. publish the converted second portion of the message so as to be viewable in the second format only if the sender has been identified as an authorized sender.

Following the now standard two-step eligibility analysis, the court first found the claim directed toward an abstract idea.

Claim 1 merely recites the familiar concepts of receiving, authenticating, and publishing data. As we have explained in a number of cases, claims involving data collection, analysis, and publication are directed to an abstract idea.

Of import here for the abstract idea finding is that the claim simply uses generic computer technology rather than improving-upon the technology or designing particularized components.

Moving to step-two, the court looked – but could not find – an “inventive concept” beyond the claimed abstract idea sufficient to “transform the nature of the claim’ into a patent-eligible application.” (quoting Alice).

Although EasyWeb argues that an inventive concept arises from the ordered combination of steps in claim 1, we disagree. Claim 1 recites the most basic of steps in data collection, analysis, and publication and they are recited in the ordinary order. In sum, all the claims are directed to the abstract idea of receiving, authenticating, and publishing data, and fail to recite any inventive concepts sufficient to transform the abstract idea into a patent eligible invention.

Its decision is not quite correct, the Federal Circuit does not find abstract ideas simply because a claim involves “data collection, analysis, and publication.”  However, when (as here), the claim is directed toward these activities at a high level of abstraction, then the Alice/Mayo approach easily fits.

Analytically, the decision adds further weight to the theory that steps 1 and 2 are closely linked and are highly likely to correlate with one another.

No real consensus yet on CBM Sunsetting

Once initiated, CBMs are identical to post-grant reviews (PGR) – allowing for patents to be challenged on any patentability grounds.  As implemented, this includes 101 and 112 challenges in addition to the more traditional obviousness and novelty grounds.   PGRs, however, are limited to only AIA-patents and must be filed within a 9-month window from issuance.  Those caveats have severely limited the number of PGR petitions filed thus far.   For CBMs, the AIA-patent restriction and 9-month window are both eliminated.  However, the statute creates a subject-matter limitation that restricts CBMs to only non-technological financial-services business method patents.

Another feature of the CBM program is that it is “transitional” – i.e., it sunsets in 2020 and no petitions will be accepted after that date.

Last week, I hosted a quick anonymous survey on the transitional Covered Business Method Review program — asking whether the CBM program should be allowed to sunset or somehow extended.  240 Patently-O readers responded with results shown in the chart below.  About 44% of responses favored ending of the program outright — allowing it to sunset.  About 29% favored extending the program as-is, with the narrow financial-services scope.  The remaining favored extension and expansion: 17% would expand the scope to include all information processing patents, and the remaining 10% would extend the program to include all patents.  This final option would essentially mean ending the 9-month window for PGR filing.



The survey also offered (but did not require) an explanation of the answer.  A variety of themes emerge from that explanation. The following are a few examples.

For patent challengers, the key response is that “it works” as a mechanism for cancelling patents, and could be extended to other technology areas.  

  • CBM is a big success addressing one of the most abused categories of patents. Extend it to the very worst and most abused patents by including all of information processing and it can help clean up the system and make it stronger.
  • Business methods are not the only abstract processes being patented by the Office Patent. A majority of all information processing methods (even those outside of the Business arts) suffer from encompassing non-statutory abstract processes without reciting subject matter that amounts to anything significantly more than said abstract processes.

The historic problem associated with poor business method examination quality has now been fixed. 

  • It was intended to handle a temporary problem in a specific area.  State Street caused a flood of applications in an area that was new to the USPTO.  Now skills and databases have developed and the stats show that there is no particular need for either expanding or extending CBM.  Permanently singling out a particular subject matter for extra scrutiny could cause other countries to do the same in other areas.
  • If the goal was to clean up shoddy and overly broad patents and applications, then most all of the necessary work should be done by then.  There are existing mechanisms in place that should be forcing quality such that this becomes redundant and therefore unnecessary.
  • It was a political sop to begin with and should be allowed to expire per the legislation and the underlying political agreement.  It’s argument was to take care of “low-hanging fruit”, patents of old vintage, issued when the Office’s resources in this area were low.  8 years is more than enough time to pick that fruit.
  • CBM petitions are declining because most of the patents intended for consideration have already been undone.

Patents need to be strengthened, not weakened. 

  • The patent systems is already nearly dead.  Make patent owners in all areas feel the pain of having their patent rights trampled over by a kangaroo administrative court.
  • Broad restrictions on patentability are harming U.S. competitiveness in the areas of its greatest strength.  China and the EU are poised to eat our lunch, and we are serving it up to them.
  • A terrible idea from the outset.
  • It (CBM) deprives some of the best technological innovators the chance to protect their valuable property.  Abandon CBM, and instead seek recourse to the traditional approaches (102, 103 and 112) to rid the patent landscape of those patents that don’t rise to the level of technological innovation.

The PTAB process is either corrupt or incompetent. 

  • It has been abused by petitioners and PTAB has taken it too far.
  • Go back to district court litigation. The present scheme is a disaster.
  • The USPTO is turning into a mini-court system. That is not its competency. It needs to focus on technology, granting patents to those inventions that meet the basic statutory criteria, and leave the legal hair-splitting to courts.
  • This is a corrupt Review that benefits a specific class of infringers and is detrimental to the development of new technology.

The approach should be ended because it violates the constitutional rights of patent owners.

  • Unconstitutional.
  • AIA has overstepped its boundaries on constitutional grounds as patents are private rights.
  • All patent owners are entitled to due process, and that includes the right of access to a court of law before their patents are summarily cancelled by a political, the end-justifies-the means, so-called court.

Of course, there are other responses as well (perhaps more below in the comments).

The bottom line here, as you might expect, is that there is not yet any consensus on whether to extend the CBM program.  My own general framework begins with the recognition that CBM does no longer adds much value post Alice/Mayo and with district court eligibility determinations being done on the pleadings.  However, I would like to see the empirical evidence.   The point of creating legislation that sunsets is that it effectively places the burden of proof on anyone wanting to continue the program.  That work has not yet been done.


Step one: Find the Gist (Do not Construe)

In Blue Spike v. Google, the patentee has asked the Supreme Court to further elucidate its test for eligibility under Mayo, Alice, and Myriad with the following three questions presented.

  1. May patentable subject matter under § 101 properly be assessed by over-generalizing patent claims to a “gist”?
  2. May a district court properly assess patentability under § 101 prior to authoritatively construing the patent’s claims?
  3. May a district court adjudicating a motion for judgment on the pleadings on § 101 patentability grounds properly consider questions of patent enablement under 35 U.S.C. § 112?

We have an interesting case here where the district court expressly stated its approach to Mayo/Alice Step 1 is to distill the claimed invention to its “gist” and ask whether that gist is an abstract idea.

In its lawsuit against Google, Blue Spike asserted five related patents: U.S. Patent Nos. 7,346,472 (the “’472 Patent”), 7,660, 700 (the “’700 Patent”), 7,949,494 (the “’494 Patent”), 8,214,175 (the “’175 Patent”), and 8,712,728 (the “’728 Patent”).  Looking at asserted claim 1 of the ‘472 patent as an example: the claim requires comparing a query signal with a reference signal.  The process involves creating an “abstract” (essentially a hash or digital fingerprint) of each signal that uses “perceptual qualities” of each signal, and then comparing those abstracts.

The district court dismissed the case on the pleadings – holding that the asserted claims were all invalid as a matter of law for effectively encompassing an abstract idea.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed without opinion.

In its decision, the district court expressly “distill[ed] the gist of the claim[s]” and found that the gist of the claims is to “model, on a computer, ‘the highly effective ability of humans to identify and recognize a signal’ [using a method that] mirrors the manner in which the human mind undertakes the same task.” (quoting the patent specification).   Essentially, the court found, all of the claims are directed to the abstract idea – “the idea of comparing one thing to another.”  Moving on from there, the court recognized the computer implementation, but found no inventive concept in that implementation.  The patentee argues here that the court erred in its gist analysis, and compounded that error by failing to construe the claims prior to the gisting process:

[M]any trial courts have adopted the practice of reducing patent claims to a highly general “gist,” then assessing that gist to determine whether it is so abstract as to be unpatentable. Because distillation to a “gist” inherently abstracts from a patent’s specific claims, this approach builds in a bias towards invalidity. . . . Deciding eligibility before claim construction exacerbates the tendency noted above to ignore a patent’s specific claims and over-generalize its “gist.”

The petition also spends substantial time discussing the Federal Circuit’s new status quo of issuing a substantial number of no-opinion judgments under Rule 36:

[T]he Federal Circuit appears unwilling to shoulder the responsibility for clarifying the Alice/Mayo analysis. That court’s use of summary Rule 36 affirmances seems to be both commonplace and increasing. This is particularly true in cases concerning patentable subject matter under § 101. One recent report identified a dozen Federal Circuit appeals raising this issue decided by Rule 36 affirmances in 2016 alone. . . . [P]recedential opinions in § 101 cases are important not just for trial courts reviewing issued patents, but also for the PTO’s examiners who must determine whether to issue patents in the first place. When the Federal Circuit fails to write a written opinion, it fails to provide the USPTO with necessary examples to use in granting patent applications.

In this particular case, the R.36 judgment is not a law violation (since the case arose from the district court rather than the PTO) but should also not be an excuse for failing to properly resolve the case – certainly the issues raised are not resolved and there is need for explanatory precedent.

[Blue Spike Petition (April 6 2017)]


Broad Estoppel After Failed IPR: What Prior Art “could have been found by a skilled searcher’s diligent search?”

by Dennis Crouch

Douglas Dynamics v. Meyer Prods (W.D. Wisc 2017) [2017-04-18 (68) Order re post IPR invalidity defenses].US06928757-20050816-D00003After Douglas sued Meyer for infringing its U.S. Patent No. 6,928,757 (Snowplow mounting assembly), Meyer petition for inter partes review — alleging that several of the claims were invalid.  Although the “director” iniated the review, the PTAB eventually sided with the patentee – reaffirming the validity of the claims.

Back at the district court, Douglass asked the court to apply the estoppel provisions that of Section 315(e)(e):

The petitioner in an inter partes review … that results in a final written decision under section 318(a) . . . may not assert . . . in a civil action arising [under the patent laws] . . . that the claim is invalid on any ground that the petitioner raised or reasonably could have raised during that inter partes review.

35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(2).  The question for the district court here, was the scope of estoppel – what constitutes grounds that were “raised or reasonably could have [been] raised” during the IPR.  Here, the court took a position for fairly strong estoppel:

If the defendant pursues the IPR option, it cannot expect to hold a second-string invalidity case in reserve in case the IPR does not go defendant’s way. In many patent cases, particularly those involving well-developed arts, there is an abundance of prior art with which to make out an arguable invalidity case, so it would be easy to have a secondary set of invalidity contentions ready to go. The court will interpret the estoppel provision in § 315(e)(2) to preclude this defense strategy. Accordingly, the court will construe the statutory language “any ground that the petitioner . . . reasonably could have raised during that inter partes review” to include non-petitioned grounds that the defendant chose not to present in its petition to PTAB.

In Shaw Industries Group, Inc. v. Automated Creel Systems, Inc., 817 F.3d 1293 (Fed. Cir.), the Federal Circuit wrote in dicta that no estoppel should apply to grounds that were petitioned, but not instituted.  The Wisconsin court here suggested some potential problems with that outcome, but decided to follow the CAFC’s lead, writing:

So until Shaw is limited or reconsidered, this court will not apply § 315(e)(2) estoppel to [petitioned but] non-instituted grounds, but it will apply § 315(e)(2) estoppel to grounds not asserted in the IPR petition, so long as they are based on prior art that could have been found by a skilled searcher’s diligent search.


What this means for the defendant here is that the only 102/103 arguments that it gets to raise are ones already deemed total failures by the PTAB – and thus are unlikely winners before a district court.

= = = = =

Of some importance, the PTAB’s final written decision was released in November 2016.  For estoppel purposes, that final decision is all that is required for estoppel to kick-in. However, the case currently on appeal to the Federal Circuit — already giving the defendant its second bite at the apple.

= = = =  (more…)

Supreme Court: Challenging Quick-Look Eligibility Denials

by Dennis Crouch

Broadband ITV v. Hawaiian Telecom (Supreme Court 2017)

A newly filed petition for writ of certiorari offers a substantial challenge to the quick-look eligibility decisions that have been so popular among district courts.  The challenge here is especially focused on no-evidence eligibility decisions that serve as a substitute for an obviousness determination.

In the case, the claims of BBiTV’s U.S. Patent No. 7,631,336 have been repeatedly upheld as non-obvious before a Hawaii district court ruled them ineligible on summary judgment.  In its 103 analysis, the Hawaii court also denied summary judgment of obviousness – finding questions of material fact regarding whether (1) elements of the claims were found in the prior art or (2) PHOSITA would have been motivated to combine those elements.  In its simultaneous 101 decision, however, the court determined as a matter of law that those same elements were “well-understood, routine, conventional activities previously known to the industry” that lack the “inventive concept” required by Alice.  The decision was (as is now common) affirmed without opinion by the Federal Circuit.

The petition challenges the decision and the newly-popular approach of using eligibility as a shortcut to more difficult and fact-intensive obviousness analysis. The three three questions:

1. Evidence for Underlying Factual Findings: Whether the statutory presumption of validity set forth in 35 U.S.C. § 282 applies to claims challenged under 35 U.S.C. § 101, as set forth by this Court in Microsoft Corp. v. i4i L.P., 564 U.S. 91 (2011), when the ultimate legal conclusion relies upon underlying findings of fact, such as whether the additional novel and non-obvious elements of the claims are merely well-understood, routine, and conventional or whether they add an inventive concept.

2. Standard for Summary Judgment: Whether, unlike every other area of law involving motions for summary judgment, as set forth by Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 and Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986), and its progeny, a district court may resolve material underlying fact disputes against the non-movant party on a summary judgment motion for lack of patent-eligibility under § 101.

3. Not All Abstraction Are Abstract: Whether the judicially-created exception for “abstract ideas” broadly includes any abstraction of a claim (including novel business practices or methods of organizing human activities) or only “fundamental” and “long-standing” (i.e., pre-existing) practices and methods, as recognized by this Court in Bilski v. Kappos, 561 U.S. 593, 611 (2010) and Alice Corp. Pty. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 134 S. Ct. 2347, 2356- 57 (2014).

The questions begin with the implicit understanding that, although a question of law, eligibility decisions are based upon a set of factual determinations that should be treated like any other factual determination by the court.  This approach is directly contrary to the approach often taken these days that follows Judge Mayer’s concurring opinion in Ultramercial, Inc. v. Hulu, LLC, 772 F.3d 709 (Fed. Cir. 2014).

An important legal question here is how close the link should be between obviousness and eligibility.  Post-KSR and Alice, there does appear to be substantial connection between the obviousness analysis associated with combining-old-elements and the eligibility analysis of elements that are “well-understood, routine, and conventional.”  The two should often correlate, the court here may have the opportunity to explain the differences both in doctrine and procedure.

Read the petition here: [LINK]

Amicus Briefs in support of the Petition are due by May 17, 2017.


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Unwired Planet v. Huawei: An English Perspective on FRAND Royalties

FRONDGuest Post by Professor Jorge L. Contreras

In the latest decision by the UK High Court of Justice (Patents) in Unwired Planet v. Huawei ([2017] EWHC 711 (Pat), 5 Apr. 2017], Mister Justice Colin Birss has issued a detailed and illuminating opinion regarding the assessment of royalties on standards-essential patents (SEPs) that are subject to FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) licensing commitments.  Among the important and potentially controversial rulings in the case are:

  1. Single Royalty: there is but a single FRAND royalty rate applicable to any given set of SEPs and circumstances,
  2. Significance of Overstep: neither a breach of contract nor a competition claim for abuse of dominance will succeed unless a SEP holder’s offer is significantly above the true FRAND rate,
  3. Global License: FRAND licenses for global market players are necessarily global licenses and should not be limited to a single jurisdiction, and
  4. Soft-Edge: the “non-discrimination” (ND) prong of the FRAND commitment does not imply a “hard-edged” test in which a licensee may challenge the FRAND license that it has been granted on the basis that another similarly situated licensee has been granted a lower rate, so long as the difference does not distort competition between the two licensees.


This case began in 2014 when Unwired Planet, a U.S.-based patent assertion entity, sued Google, Samsung and Huawei for infringement under six UK patents (corresponding actions were filed in Germany).  Unwired Planet claimed that five of the asserted patents, which it acquired from Ericsson in 2013 as part of a portfolio comprising approximately 2000 patents, were essential to the 2G, 3G and 4G wireless telecommunications standards developed under the auspices of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).  Because Ericsson participated in development of the standards at ETSI, any patents shown to be SEPs would necessarily be encumbered by Ericsson’s FRAND commitment to ETSI.

The UK proceedings involved numerous stages, including five scheduled “technical trials” which would determine whether each of the asserted patents was valid, infringed and essential to the ETSI standards.  During these proceedings Google and Samsung settled with Unwired Planet and Ericsson (which receives a portion of the licensing and settlement revenue earned by Unwired Planet from the patents), leaving Huawei as the sole UK defendant.  By April 2016 three of the technical trials had been completed, resulting in findings that two of the asserted patents were invalid and that two were both valid and essential to the standards.  These findings are currently under appeal. The parties then agreed to suspend further technical trials.  In October 2016 a “non-technical” trial began regarding issues of competition law, FRAND, injunction and damages.  Hearings were concluded in December 2016, and the court’s opinion and judgment were issued on April 5, 2017.

A. The High Court’s Decision – Overview

The principal questions before the court were (1) the level of the FRAND royalty for Unwired Planet’s SEPs, (2) whether Unwired Planet abused a dominant position in violation of Section 102 of the Treaty for the Formation of the European Union (TFEU) by failing to adhere to the procedural requirements for FRAND negotiations outlined by the European Court of Justice (CJEU) in Huawei v. ZTE (2014), and (3) whether an injunction should issue in the case.  In the below discussion, Paragraph numbers (¶) correspond to the numbered paragraphs in the High Court’s April 2017 opinion.

B. FRAND Commitments – General Observations

Justice Birss begins his opinion with some general observations and background about the standard-setting process and FRAND commitments.  A few notable points emerge from this discussion. (more…)

Eligibility: Get Technical or Get Denied

Dennis Crouch

The principle that patent prosecutors are following today is in the headline: Get Technical or Get Denied.  The following is a case-in-point.

Nonprecedential decision today in Clarilogic v. FormFree Holdings affirming that the claims of FormFree’s U.S. Patent No. 8,762,243 are ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101 as directed to an abstract idea.   [Decision: clarilogic] The patent is directed toward a credit reporting scheme.  The gist – according to the court:

In brief, the … system seeks a potential borrower’s financial information from a third party, applies an “algorithm engine” to the data, and outputs a report. . . . the logic rules applied by the engine are received “from government entities or particular users.”

Claim 1 is drafted as a seven step method as follows :

1. A computer-implemented method for providing certified financial data indicating financial risk about an individual, comprising:

(a) receiving a request for the certified financial data;
(b) electronically collecting financial account data about the individual from at least one financial source,
(c) transforming the financial account data into a desired format;
(d) validating the financial account data by applying an algorithm engine to the financial account data to identify exceptions, wherein the exceptions indicate incorrect data or financial risk;
(e) confirming the exceptions by collecting additional data and applying the algorithm engine to the additional data,
(f) marking the exceptions as valid exceptions when output of the algorithm engine validates the exceptions; and
(g) generating, using a computer, a report from the financial account data and the valid exceptions,
wherein the financial account data comprises at least one of real-time transaction data, real time balance data, historical transaction data, or historical balance data; and the algorithm engine identifies a pattern of financial risk; the method is computer implemented, and steps (c), (e), and (f) are executed via the computer or a series of computers.

The Supreme Court’s atextual reading of 35 U.S.C. 101 has created a set of subject matter excluded from patentability – including abstract ideas.  The two step eligibility framework under Alice/Mayo first asks whether the claims are “directed to” an abstract idea and then, if so, asks whether the claims include “something more” beyond the abstract idea such as an “inventive concept” that is “sufficient to transform the nature of the claim into a patent eligible application.”  Quoting Alice.  These issues have generally been treated as questions of law amenable to judgment by a court even at the pleading stage of a lawsuit.

Step 1: The claims are directed to an abstract idea because their focus is “on collecting information, analyzing it, and displaying certain results of the collection and analysis.” (quoting Elec. Power Grp., LLC v. Alstom S.A., 830 F.3d 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2016).   Here, the court suggests the claims might have passed the test if the “algorithm engine” had been further identified or explained, but simply “claiming an algorithm does not alone render subject matter patent eligible.”

Step 2: The requisite ‘something more,’ does not include recitation of the use of a generic computer.  Here, FreeForm argues that its invention uses algorithms to transform data in parallel fashion to the way that Diehr used an algorithm to transform rubber.  On appeal, however, the Federal Circuit disagreed:

In contrast to Diehr, claim 1 recites a method that changes the way electronic information is displayed via an unknown and unclaimed process. Absent any limitation to how the data are changed, there is little, if any, transformative effect. Data are still data.

The problem, according to the court, is that the patent simply does not reach any inventive “technical manner” in which the “data is gathered, analyzed, or output.”


Holding the Line on Anticipation against Eligibility Encroachement

Nidec Motor v. Zhongshan Broad Ocean Motor (Fed. Cir. 2017)

In a short and tidy opinion, the Federal Circuit has reversed a PTAB anticipation decision in an inter partes review – holding that the Board’s decision “is not supported by substantial evidence.”

At issue is claim 21 of Nidec’s U.S. Patent No. 7,208,895, which claims a “permanent magnet rotating machine and controller assembly configured to perform the method of claim 12.”  Claim 12, in turn is a motor control-method that involves calculating  two different phase currents:

The method disclosed in the ‘895 Patent relates to vector control of a permanent magnet machine in the rotating frame of reference. The claimed novel feature requires “combining” calculated Q-axis and d-axis currents to produce an “IQdr current demand” in the rotating frame of reference, which can later be further manipulated and back-transformed into the three phase currents in the stationary frame of reference that drive the motor. Combining the Q-axis and d-axis currents to produce a unitary IQdr demand occurs prior to the back-transformation process.

Appellant Brief.

My reading of the single prior art reference (Kusaka, U.S. Patent No. 5,569,995) is that it also uses the same inputs to achieve a three-part motor-control output, but does not particularly disclose that the transformation happens by first combining the inputs and then transforming the combination into the three-part output.  In its opinion, the Federal Circuit found this analysis compelling:

Because Kusaka does not disclose a signal in the rotating frame of reference, it does not disclose an IQdr demand.


Abstract Idea Creep: The decision approach here is important because it holds the line against encroachment of eligibility issues (Section 101) into the anticipation analysis.  Notably, the identified inventive step here is essentially requiring a two-step mathematical transformation (with IQdr intemediary) rather than a single-step transformation done in the prior art.  Of course, the claims themselves do not indicate how the combination occurs occurs – just requiring “combining” the inputs. I expect that a number of courts thinking about the eligibility analysis would see that step as lacking sufficient concrete inventiveness.

Remand? The court reversed, but did not indicate any remand.  That suggests to me that the case is over with the patentee winning the IPR.

Claim Scope: I’m still somewhat confused about whether the claim structure used here is proper under the law.  35 USC 112 states that “A claim in dependent form shall be construed to incorporate by reference all the limitations of the claim to which it refers.” In my mind, one element of claim 12 is that it is a “method” and claim 21 is a “machine . . . configured to perform the method.”  As such, claim 21 cannot itself meet the method limitation of claim 12.

= = = =

12. A method of controlling a permanent magnet rotating machine, the machine including a stator and a rotor situated to rotate relative to the stator, the stator having a plurality of energizable phase windings situated therein, the method comprising:

calculating an IQr demand from a speed or torque demand;
calculating a dr-axis injection current demand as a function of a speed of the rotor; and
combining the IQr demand and the dr-axis injection current demand to produce an IQdr demand that is compensated for any torque contribution of dr-axis-current.
21. A permanent magnet rotating machine and controller assembly configured to perform the method of claim 12.

Intellectual Ventures: XML Patent Invalid

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.[1]

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.[2]  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).[3] 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.[4]

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.”



= = = = =

[1] 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).

[2] 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”).

[3] Vardon Golf Co. v. Karsten Manufacturing Corp., 294 F.3d 1330 (Fed. Cir. 2002).

[4] Claim 21.

An apparatus for manipulating XML documents, comprising:

a processor;

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.

= = = = =

As an aside, folks might be interested in looking back at the i4i XML Patent No. 5,787,449 that resulted in the $200 million verdict against Microsoft.

Eligibility: Explaining the IPO Legislative Proposal

by Dennis Crouch

Following Bilski, Prof. Rob Merges and I published a paper titled “Operating Efficiently Post-Bilski by Ordering Patent Doctrine Decision-Making” arguing, inter alia, that eligibility decisions are largely out of the normal bailiwick of PTO examiners.  As imagined by the Supreme Court, the eligibility doctrine really became too philosophical and policy based to be administrable.  Alice and Mayo were subsequently released and did not help the situation.  Under Dir. Lee, the USPTO did figure out a way to administer the test — by not following the test set-out by the Supreme Court.  Rather than looking for abstract ideas and laws of nature as imagined by the Supreme Court, examiners are guided to look specifically only for concepts that the courts have already identified as problematic.  Of course, as the number of court cases finding ineligible subject matter rises, the PTO’s approach has necessarily expanded as well.

The administration concern is one factor behind the IPO’s newly proposed legislative change to 35 U.S.C. 101.   For the IPO, though, the larger issue though is “revers[ing] the recent Supreme Court rulings and restore the scope of subject matter eligibility to that intended by Congress in the passage of the Patent Act of 1952.”

IPO Steps Up: Proposes Statute to Overturn Mayo and Alice

In a newly published whitepaper, the IPO explains its proposed legislative amendment. [PDF20170207_ipo-101-tf-proposed-amendments-and-report]

Following an explanation rejected by the Supreme Court in its eligibility doctrine, IPO explains that the traditional subject matter exceptions including abstract ideas and laws of nature were part of the pre-1952 “invention” requirement.  That requirement was eliminated in the 1952 Act in a way that, according to the IPO, should have opened the door to broad subject matter jurisprudence.  As the organization sees it, the Supreme Court began to go off track in the 1970s – a path revived in recent years.

With this avenue of legal argument rejected by the courts, the IPO sees itself forced to appeal to Congress for a more direct statement of broad subject matter eligibility.

The IPO’s proposed amendment is as follows:

101 Inventions patentable.

101(a) ELIGIBLE SUBJECT MATTER: Whoever invents or discovers, and claims as an invention, any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereto, shall be entitled to thereof, may obtain a patent for a claimed invention thereof therefor, subject only to the exceptions, conditions, and requirements set forth in this Title of this title.

101(b) SOLE EXCEPTION TO SUBJECT MATTER ELIGIBILITY: A claimed invention is ineligible under subsection (a) if and only if the claimed invention as a whole, as understood by a person having ordinary skill in the art to which the claimed invention pertains, exists in nature independently of and prior to any human activity, or exists solely in the human mind.

101(c) SOLE ELIGIBILITY STANDARD: The eligibility of a claimed invention under subsections (a) and (b) shall be determined without regard as to the requirements or conditions of sections 102, 103, and 112 of this Title, the manner in which the claimed invention was made or discovered, or the claimed invention’s inventive concept.

In describing the 101(a) amendment, the IPO explains that, in the amended structure “utility [is] the sole basis of eligibility.”  The requirement that the entitlement to a patent is “subject only to the exceptions and conditions set forth in this Title” is, according to the IPO, intended “to foreclose the development of any future ‘judicial exceptions” to section 101.” and to recognize that the “only exceptions to the entitlement to a patent … are those defined in the statute.”  The IPO statement does not consider the impact of other already-existing non-statutory exceptions such as double-patenting, but presumably those will disappear unless a sufficient statutory hook is found.

Proposed 102(b) includes a very narrow exception to eligibility.  I would suggest that there is almost nothing on earth that provably “exists in nature independently of and prior to any human activity” leaving the only actual exception that the invention “exists solely in the human mind.”  On this second exception, IPO writes:

This ineligibility criterion … makes eligible any claim limitation that requires some external involvement with the physical world or any representation thereof (e.g., data in a computer).
. . . [However] ideas that do not have physical or tangible aspects . . . are not patentable.

The IPO does not indicate whether the exception would be triggered if a single embodiment of the invention could conceivably exist solely in a human mind.  I expect that it would.

According to the IPO, 101(c) is designed to ensure that eligibility is not determined based upon the novelty, obviousness, or definiteness of a patent claim.  I would suggest that the language does not quite achieve the purpose suggested.  A more effective revision might state instead that “eligibility of a claimed invention. . . shall be determined without regard to its novelty, obviousness, or definiteness, or lack thereof.”

I compliment the IPO on taking this major step and beginning a conversation on legislative fixes to the eligibility doctrine.

I agree with the IPO members that the current situation is quite problematic both because the lines are so unclear and because they are ruling-out many inventions that should qualify in my conception.  That said, I believe that the provision likely goes too far.  I would suggest that the proposal take at least two further steps: (1) include a third exception to eligibility derived from the printed matter doctrine; and (2) include a new 102(d) that expressly defines the scope of the utility doctrine so that it becomes clear what work will be going on there.  It should be clear from the statute that ordinary works of authorship, for instance, are not patent eligible.

Supreme Court Update: Are Secondary Indicia of Invention Relevant to Eligibility?

by Dennis Crouch

The Supreme Court is on recess until Feb 17.

I don’t know if my end-of-April prediction will hold true, but I do expect Neil Gorsuch to become a Justice on the United States Supreme Court.  As a 10th Circuit Judge, Gorsuch never decided a patent case, but does have a handful of interesting IP cases.

There are a few petitions filed that we have not discussed here: 

 In its newest petition, DataTreasury takes 101 for a new spin by taking the 101/103 analysis to its next logical level.  If we are going to include a 103 analysis as part of the eligibility doctrine then lets go whole hog.  Thus, DataTreasury asks: whether a court must consider secondary indicia of invention as evidence in its eligibility analysis? In the case, the Federal Circuit had affirmed the PTAB judgment without opinion under R.36. A second eligibility petition is found in TDE Petroleum Data Solutions, Inc. v. AKM Enterprise, Inc., dba Moblize, Inc. TDE asks the court to “please reconcile Diehr and Alice.” (I’m not literally quoting here).  The patent at issue (No. 6,892,812) claims a four-step process of “determining the state of a well operation.” (a) store several potential “states”; (b) receive well operation data from a plurality of systems; (c) determine that the data is valid by comparing it to a threshold limit; and (d) set the state based upon the valid data.

In Wi-LAN v. Apple, the patentee revives both Cuozzo and Markman claim construction arguments – this time focusing on “whether claim terms used to define the metes and bounds of an invention are generally given their “plain and ordinary meaning,” or are redefined (limited) to match the scope of the exemplary embodiments provided in the specification.”

duPont v. Macdermid asks whether summary judgment of obviousness is proper because of the factual disputes at issue.  Similarly, in Enplas v. Seoul Semiconductor, the petitioner argues that a finding of anticipation by the PTAB must be supported by findings each and every element of the subject patent claim is disclosed in the prior art.  In Enplas, the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB on a R.36 Judgment Without Appeal — it difficult for the petitioner to point to the particular deficiencies.


=== THE LIST===

1. 2016-2016 Decisions:

  • Design Patent Damages: Samsung Electronics Co. v. Apple Inc., No 15-777 (Total profits may be based upon either the entire product sold to consumers or a component);  GVR order in parallel case Systems, Inc. v. Nordock, Inc., No. 15-978.  These cases are now back before the Federal Circuit for the job of explaining when a component

2. Petitions Granted:

3. Petitions with Invited Views of SG (CVSG): 

4. Petitions for Writ of Certiorari Pending:

  • Claim Construction: Wi-LAN USA, Inc., et al. v. Apple Inc., No. 16-913 (“plain and ordinary meaning”)
  • Is it a Patent Case?: Boston Scientific Corporation, et al. v. Mirowski Family Ventures, LLC, No. 16-470 (how closely must a state court “hew” federal court patent law precedents?) (Appeal from MD State Court)
  • Anticipation/Obviousness: Google Inc., et al. v. Arendi S A.R.L., et al., No. 16-626 (can “common sense” invalidate a patent claim that includes novel elements?) (Supreme Court has requested a brief in response)
  • Anticipation/Obviousness: Enplas Corporation v. Seoul Semiconductor Co., Ltd., et al., No. 16-867 (“Whether a finding of anticipation under 35 U.S.C. § 102 must be supported by findings that each and every element of the subject patent claim is disclosed in the prior art?”)
  • Anticipation/Obviousness: E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company v. MacDermid Printing Solutions, L.L.C., No. 16-905 (summary judgment of obviousness proper)
  • Jury Trial: Oil States Energy Services, LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group, LLC, et al., No. 16-712 (“Whether inter partes review … violates the Constitution by extinguishing private property rights through a non-Article III forum without a jury.”) [oilstatespetition]
  • Jury Trial: Nanovapor Fuels Group, Inc., et al. v. Vapor Point, LLC, et al., No. 16-892 (Can a party forfeit a properly demanded trial by jury without an explicit, clear, and unequivocal waiver?)
  • Is it a Patent Case?: Big Baboon, Inc. v. Michelle K. Lee, No. 16-496 (Appeal of APA seeking overturning of evidentiary admission findings during reexamination – heard by Federal Circuit or Regional Circuit?)
  • LachesMedinol Ltd. v. Cordis Corporation, et al., No. 15-998 (follow-on to SCA); Endotach LLC v. Cook Medical LLC, No. 16-127 (SCA Redux); Romag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil, Inc., et al, No. 16-202 (SCA Redux plus TM issue)
  • Eligibility: TDE Petroleum Data Solutions, Inc. v. AKM Enterprise, Inc., dba Moblize, Inc., No. 16-890 (Please reconcile Diehr and Alice)
  • Eligibility: DataTreasury Corporation v. Fidelity National Information Services, Inc., No. 16-883 (secondary indicia as part of eligibility analysis).
  • Eligibility: IPLearn-Focus, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., No. 16-859 (evidence necessary for finding an abstract idea)

5. Petitions for Writ of Certiorari Denied or Dismissed:


Trading Technologies: User Interface for Stock Trading

Before writing more about Trading Technologies v. CQG, I will first note that TT is my former client and I personally filed the original complaint in this very case 12 years ago (2005).  Although TT is no longer my client, I am bound by and respect the rules of professional ethics and the duties owed to former clients.  

The new non-precedential opinion from the Federal Circuit affirms the district court ruling that TT’s asserted claims are patent eligible.

The patent claims here cover a computerized method and system used for trading stocks and similar products.  When buying and selling stocks, speed and accuracy are both critically important and in this invention, TT created a Graphical-User-Interface design (and operational software) that helps traders buy and sell stock more quickly and more accurately. See U.S. Patents No. 6,772,132 and No. 6,766,304.

The court writes:

It is not disputed that the TTI System improves the accuracy of trader transactions, utilizing a software implemented programmatic [method]. For Section 101 purposes, precedent does not consider the substantive criteria of patentability. For Section 101 purposes, the claimed subject matter is “directed to a specific improvement to the way computers operate,” Enfish, for the claimed graphical user interface method imparts a specific functionality to a trading system “directed to a specific implementation of a solution to a problem in the software arts.” Id.

The opinion is authored by Judge Newman and joined by Judges O’Malley and Wallach.  The court’s opinion is a short and interesting read:

Precedent has recognized that specific technologic modifications to solve a problem or improve the functioning of a known system generally produce patent-eligible subject matter. … [I]neligible claims generally lack steps or limitations specific to solution of a problem, or improvement in the functioning of technology.

For some computer-implemented methods, software may be essential to conduct the contemplated improvements. Enfish… Abstraction is avoided or overcome when a proposed new application or computer-implemented function is not simply the generalized use of a computer as a tool to conduct a known or obvious process, but instead is an improvement to the capability of the system as a whole.

We reiterate the Court’s recognition that “at some level, all inventions . . . embody, use, reflect, rest upon, or apply laws of nature, natural phenomena, or abstract ideas.” Alice, quoting Mayo. This threshold level of eligibility is often usefully explored by way of the substantive statutory criteria of patentability, for an invention that is new, useful and unobvious is more readily distinguished from the generalized knowledge that characterizes ineligible subject matter. This analysis is facilitated by the Court’s guidance whereby the claims are viewed in accordance with “the general rule that patent claims ‘must be considered as a whole’.” Alice, quoting Diamond v. Diehr.

As demonstrated in recent jurisprudence directed to eligibility, and as illustrated in the cases cited ante, the claim elements are considered in combination for evaluation under Alice Step 1, and then individually when Alice Step 2 is reached. Applying an overview of this evolving jurisprudence, the public interest in innovative advance is best served when close questions of eligibility are considered along with the understanding flowing from review of the patentability criteria of novelty, unobviousness, and enablement, for when these classical criteria are evaluated, the issue of subject matter eligibility is placed in the context of the patent-based incentive to technologic progress.


The patents are also currently being challenged on 101 grounds in CBM proceedings before the USPTO.  Although I feel that it should have a direct impact, it is unclear to me whether this decision will impact the PTO proceedings addressing the identical question.  (For instance, the court here holds that the patent covers a technological invention – and CBM proceedings can only proceed for non-technological inventions.) Patentees may also consider petitioning the court to make this decision precedential.