Tag Archives: patent eligibility

Supreme Court Update: June 2024

The US Supreme Court’s October 2023 term will come to a close later this month.  The patent side has not seen much action in terms of new cases. 27 IP-related petitions for writ of certiorari have been filed during this time. Of those 23 have been denied. Four recently filed petitions are still pending. In each of the remaining cases, respondent has indicated that it will be filing a brief.

  • Cellect, LLC v. Vidal (23-1231): Whether a patent procured in good faith can be invalidated for obviousness-type double patenting when the improper term extension is due to Patent Term Adjustment.  NYIPLA amicus in support; USPTO responsive brief due: July 22, 2024.
  • Chestek PLLC v. Vidal (23-1217): Whether the USPTO is exempt from notice-and-comment requirements when exercising its rulemaking power under 35 U.S.C. § 2(b)(2). USPTO responsive brief due: July 15, 2024.
  • Eolas Technologies Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc. (23-1184): Patent eligibility issues. Responsive brief due: July 31, 2024.
  • Surti v. Fleet Engineers, Inc. (23-1142): Pro se patent owner focused on DoE as well as tortious interference. Responsive brief due: July 22, 2024.

I’ve listed these in what I see as the most to least likely grant.  Cellect is of particular interest as debates over double patenting continue. Based upon the timing of the briefs, a certiorari decision won’t come until the Fall.

Patently-O Bits and Bytes

USPTO Patent News:

  • Patent number 12 million issued on Tuesday, June 4, 2024, to Pacific Biosciences of California.  The patent covers particular labeled nucleotide analogs that include an avidin protein for use in analyzing enzymatic reactions and molecular recognition events, such as single-molecule real-time nucleic acid sequencing. From the file history, it looks like David Roise was the lead attorney on the case.
  • Derris Banks has been appointed as the Regional Director of the USPTO’s Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office (Detroit), where he will oversee outreach efforts while serving inventors and entrepreneurs in the Midwest region.  Banks has been at the USPTO since joining as an examiner in 1994, rising to various leadership positions.  Damian Porcari, who led the office for five solid years, retired in 2023.
  • Several comment periods are still open at Regulations.Gov. Yesterday the period for comments closed on upcoming USPTO fee increases. At least 30 comments were submitted, including those from the AIPLA who “objects to the major policy shift wherein front-end fees are being added not only to recover aggregate costs, but change applicant behavior and implement significant policy changes, including large fee increases for claiming benefits of earlier effective filing dates, filing of Requests for Continued Examinations (“RCEs”), terminal disclaimer submissions, and for filing of large Information Disclosure Statements (“IDSs”).”  [This sentence was almost certainly written by a patent attorney.]

Recent Job Postings on Patently-O Jobs:

  • Van Pelt, Yi & James LLP is seeking local or remote patent engineers to prepare, file, and prosecute patent applications in the fields of computer science and electrical engineering. [Link]
  • Withrow + Terranova, PLLC is looking for an Associate Patent Attorney to work in Apex, NC (open to hybrid and remote arrangements) for patent application preparation and prosecution, client counseling, opinion work, and other related IP matters. [Link]
  • Epstein Becker & Green is seeking an intellectual property associate with at least three years of experience in patent prosecution within the life sciences industry to join their Columbus, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Portland, or Princeton office. [Link]
  • Viering, Jentschura & Partner mbB is seeking a U.S. patent attorney in either their Dresden or Munich office to draft and prosecute patent applications in the United States for various companies. [Link]
  • Dority & Manning is looking for an EE/CS Patent Attorney or Agent to draft and prosecute patent applications in their Raleigh-Durham, NC or Greenville, SC office. [Link]
  • Suiter Swantz IP has an immediate opening for a Patent Attorney or Patent Agent with 2-5 years of experience in their Omaha, NE office (remote considered). [Link]
  • Harrity & Harrity, LLP is seeking a patent professional to draft patent applications for leading global technology companies in software, computer, and electrical technology areas. The position is 100% remote. [Link]
  • The Marbury Law Group is seeking a highly motivated individual to join their Life Sciences team as a Pharma Associate in their Reston, VA, Boston, MA office or remote. [Link]
  • Ballard Spahr LLP is seeking an Electrical/Computer Engineering Patent Prosecution Associate with 2-4 years of experience to work in their Atlanta, Denver, Minneapolis or Phoenix office. [Link]
  • Ballard Spahr LLP is seeking a patent agent with 5+ years of patent prosecution experience to assist in prosecution, IP diligence, IP-transfer commercial transactions, and strategic IP business counseling in their Atlanta, New York, or Philadelphia office. [Link]
  • McNeill Baur is seeking experienced attorneys and agents with advanced degrees in Chemistry and at least 3 years of relevant experience in patent prosecution and/or patent counseling or patent litigation to work remotely. [Link]

Eolas Seeks Supreme Court Review of Federal Circuit’s Patent Eligibility Decision

Eolas is seeking a writ of certiorari from the Supreme Court — hoping that the court will overturn the Federal Circuit’s decision invalidating its distributed computing (WWW) claims as ineligible under Alice Corp. and Mayo and ostensibly under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The petition presents three key questions: (more…)

Patenting Informational Innovations: IOEngine Narrows the Printed Matter Doctrine

by Dennis Crouch

This may be a useful case for patent prosecutors to cite to the USPTO because it creates a strong dividing line for the printed matter doctrine — applying the doctrine only to cases where the claims recite the communicative content of information. 

IOEngine, LLC v. Ingenico Inc., 2021-1227 (Fed. Cir. 2024).

In this decision, the Federal Circuit partially reversed a PTAB invalidity finding against several IOEngine patent claims. The most interesting portion of the opinion focuses on the printed matter doctrine.   Under the doctrine, certain “printed matter” is given no patentable weight because it is deemed to fall outside the scope of patentable subject matter. C R Bard Inc. v. AngioDynamics, Inc., 979 F.3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2020).  In this case though the Federal Circuit concluded that the Board erred in giving no weight to IOEngine’s claim limitations requiring “encrypted communications” and “program code.”

The printed matter doctrine a unique and somewhat amorphous concept in patent law that straddles the line between patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the novelty and non-obviousness requirements of §§ 102 and 103. (more…)

What I’m reading from academic journals

I’m always on the lookout for interesting new scholarship related to intellectual property and innovation policy. The following are a few of the articles that I’ve been delving into this past week:

  • James Hicks, Do Patents Drive Investment in Software?, 118 NW. U. L. REV. 1277 (2024).
  • Ana Santos Rutschman, From Myriad to Moderna: The Modern Pharmaceutical Company, ___ Texas A&M University Journal of Property Law ___ (2024) (forthcoming).
  • John Howells, Ron D Katznelson, Freedom to Operate analysis as competitive necessity—the Selden automobile patent case revisited, Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice (2024).
  • Christa Laser, Scientific Educations Among U.S. Judges, ___ American University Law Review ___ (2025) (forthcoming).
  • Garreth W. McCrudden, Drugs, Deception, and Disclosure, 38 BERKELEY TECH. L.J. 1131 (2024).


Rader on 101 and the Statutory Text

By David Hricik, Mercer Law School

Over on Gene Quinn’s IPwatchdog page, former chief judge Rader has written an article about the Supreme Court’s 101 jurisprudence.  I clerked for then chief-judge Rader in 2012-13 (I think I have been the clerk’s oldest clerk, then 51 years old).  Alice was issued by the Federal Circuit during my tenure and of course I can’t talk about what I saw, but I can say that the article aligns with my own thoughts about 101: Congress in 1946 (and then 1952) did its level best to get rid of “eligibility” as condition of patentability. The fact that Section 101 is not a “condition of patentability” lends great support to that, as does the legislative history of the 1946 and 1952 act.

I blogged about the textual arguments 11 years ago (sigh) and you can find those comments here.

Tilting at wind mills but maybe this strongly textualist court will realize it has run astray from the text… And maybe I’ll win the Powerball…


Federal Circuit Affirms Invalidity of Blockchain Gemstone Tracking Patent Under Section 101

by Dennis Crouch

In Rady v. The Boston Consulting Group, Inc., No. 2022-2218 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 27, 2024), the Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a patent infringement lawsuit, holding that the asserted claims of Rady’s US10469250 were ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101.  The patent, owned by Max Rady, patent describes scanning a physical item, determining its unique pattern of imperfections (i.e., “signature”), and recording that signature to a blockchain if not previously registered.


The Quest for a Meaningful Threshold of Invention: Atlantic Works v. Brady (1883)

by Dennis Crouch

My recent discussion of Vanda v. Teva references the landmark Supreme Court case of Atlantic Works v. Brady, 107 U.S. 192 (1883).  I thought I would write a more complete discussion of this important historic patent case.

Atlantic Works has had a profound impact on the development of patent law, particularly in shaping the doctrine of obviousness, but more generally providing theoretical frameworks for attacking “bad patents.”  As discussed below, I believe the case also provides some early insight into the new AI inventorship dilemma.

The case addressed the validity of a patent granted to Edwin L. Brady for an improved dredge boat design.  The Supreme Court ultimately reversed the lower court’s decision upholding the patent and found instead that Brady’s claimed invention lacked novelty and did not constitute a patentable advance over the prior art.


A New Horizon: Design Patent Practitioner Bar Proposed by USPTO

by Dennis Crouch

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has proposed a rule to create a separate design patent practitioner bar. The USPTO is publishing this proposal in the Federal Register on May 16, 2023 (link below to the prepub).

As it stands today, there is a single patent bar that applies to those practicing in patent matters before the USPTO, covering utility, plant, and design patents.  And, even though design patents cover ornamentally, the current rules require that the  design patent practitioner be an engineer or scientist.

The proposed rule aims to establish an additional separate bar for those who only specialize in design patents, ensuring that they have the necessary qualifications, while opening the door to non-engineers.  The proposal appears to not affect those already registered to practice. Existing patent practitioners will continue to practice as before, and new applicants who meet the current criteria, including passing the existing registration exam, will also be permitted to practice in all patent matters, including design patent matters.

In Fall 2022, the USPTO asked for comments on proposals in this direction and received mostly positive comments. Stakeholders acknowledged that the move would encourage broader participation in the patent system.

The proposal would still have a ‘technical’ requirement, typically a degree in one of the following: industrial design, product design, architecture, applied arts, graphic design, fine/studio arts, or art teacher education. The degree requirements here align with the current hiring practices of the USPTO for design patent examiners.  In addition to the degree requirements, applicants would have to meet the other requirements to register for the bar, including taking and passing the current registration examination and passing a moral character evaluation.

The USPTO will accept comments on the proposed rulemaking through August 14, 2023 via the regulations.gov portal.


Certiorari Denied in Eligibility Cases

by Dennis Crouch

In spite of robust amicus backing, including from the US Solicitor General, the Supreme Court has declined to review two pending patent-eligibility petitions: Interactive Wearables v. Polar and Tropp v. Travel Sentry. These cases contended that the Alice/Mayo framework produced (1) instability and unpredictability in the law; (2) facilitated non-evidence based judgments by district courts; and (3) prohibited patenting of subject matter that has traditionally been eligible for patents.

In my perspective, these cases wouldn’t have led to pro-patentee opinions from the Supreme Court as the inventions involved were not firmly rooted in technology. Rather, the court would likely have regarded the appellate cases as correctly denying eligibility.

The case of utmost importance still awaiting judgment, in my opinion, is CareDx Inc. v. Natera, Inc. CareDx is centered around the eligibility of an important diagnostic method for early detection of transplant organ failure. In this instance, the patent holder (Stanford University) solved a significant, longstanding problem that others had been unable to resolve. However, the lower courts determined that the patent claims were improperly directed towards a law of nature. Another petition pending before the Court is the eligibility appeal in Avery Dennison Corp. v. ADASA Inc. In the Avery Dennison case, the patent for RFID unique-ID encoding was deemed eligible and therefore valid on debatable grounds. The patent challenger has petitioned the Supreme Court, arguing that the lower courts are unduly narrowing their eligibility assessment.

A further petition, Killian v. Vidal, was reportedly filed in April but has yet to appear on the Supreme Court docket. Killian’s patent application proposes a computerized algorithm for detecting “overlooked eligibility for social security disability insurance.” The petition contends that the uncertainty created by the courts, along with the non-statutory eligibility exceptions, amount to violations of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and Due Process. Furthermore, the petition asserts that these judge-made exceptions “overstep the constitutional authority of the courts.” This petition has a minimal likelihood of being granted.

= = = =

The court also denied certiorari in the skinny-label FDA-Patent case of Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. v. GlaxoSmithKline LLC.

Can States Legislate in the AI Rights Space?

by Dennis Crouch

In Bonito Boats, Inc. v. Thunder Craft Boats, Inc., the Supreme Court addressed the issue of state laws that provide additional patent-like rights. The Court held that a Florida law prohibiting the use of a direct molding process to duplicate unpatented boat hulls was preempted by federal patent law. The Court reasoned that the Florida law conflicted with the “carefully crafted” goals of the federal patent system.

The USPTO and Courts have made clear that AI-created inventions are outside of the scope of US patent law. I think the answer is probably quite clear, but do folks think that the Bonito Boats approach would also preempt the states from from creating an exclusive-right award for AI-generated innovations?

Add your vote and remarks here.

The Supreme Court and Patent Protection for Medical Diagnostics: A Closer Look at CareDx and Stanford U v. Eurofins

by Dennis Crouch

The recently filed petition for certiorari in CareDx and Stanford University v. Eurofins Viracor, Inc. (Supreme Court 2023) offers an opportunity to examine the patent eligibility doctrine in the context of an important health diagnostics innovation. The inventions at issue relate to early detection of organ transplant failure, which obviously hold significant potential to save lives and reduce reliance on invasive exploratory surgical procedures. The detection method involves identifying DNA fragments from the transplant within the bloodstream, a challenge that had stumped scientists for over a decade.  Although various scientists had proposed mechanisms for using this information, the evidence shows more than a decade of failed ideas, and at least one article reported that the process is “difficult and impractical.”  The breakthrough came when Stanford researchers successfully applied high-throughput multiplex sequencing (“shotgun sequencing”) to detect single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) unique to donor organs.  Of potential importance, the Stanford researchers did not create these new sequencing techniques, but they were the first to take advantage of them in this particular context and, as the claim language below shows, the scientists focuses on creating thresholds as part of a method that particularly work in this situation.

Three patents are central to this case: U.S. Patent Nos. 8,703,652, 9,845,497, and 10,329,607. Claim 1 of the ‘607 patent exemplifies the claimed method, which includes the following steps:

  1. Providing a plasma sample from the recipient;
  2. extracting cell-free DNA from the sample;
  3. performing “selective amplification” of target DNA sequences, wherein that amplification “amplifies a plurality of genomic regions comprising at least 1,000 [SNPs]” using PCR;
  4. performing “high throughput sequencing” comprising a “sequencing-by-synthesis reaction” with an error rate of less than 1.5%;
  5. providing sequences comprising “at least 1,000 [SNPs]”; and
  6. quantifying the proportion of donor-derived DNA, using distinguishing biomarkers drawn from those at least 1,000 SNPs, and wherein the donor’s cell-free DNA comprises at least 0.03% of the total in the sample.

The Infringement Lawsuit: The Delaware District Court initially denied defendants’ motions to dismiss and for summary judgment of ineligibility. However, Chief Judge Connolly later reconsidered the summary judgment motion and ultimately ruled that the claims were ineligible under the two-step analysis set forth in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 566 U.S. 66 (2012). The Federal Circuit affirmed this decision.

The petition to the Supreme Court raises the following simple question: Is a new and useful method for measuring a natural phenomenon, which improves upon prior methods for measuring the same phenomenon, eligible for patent protection under Section 101? The petition emphasizes the importance of this case compared to Tropp and Interactive Wearables, and it underscores the need for the Supreme Court to review its application of eligibility exceptions to medical diagnostics.

This case has potentially significant implications for US patent law doctrine as well as potential impact on investment in medical diagnostics. We’ll be following the case closely and talking more about its potential effects.

Supreme Court Holds Over Two Patent Cases, Considers Two More on Patent Eligibility

by Dennis Crouch

On May 1, the U.S. Supreme Court revealed its decisions from the April 28 conference. Among the three patent cases considered, the court denied certiorari for the pro se case of Wakefield v. Blackboard, while holding over the other two for reconsideration at a later conference. This development increases the likelihood of these two cases being heard by the court, although a grant of certiorari has not yet been announced.

The held-over cases include: (more…)

Eligibility and the U.S. Solicitor General: Patenting the Scientific, Technological, and Industrial Arts

by Dennis Crouch

A decade ago, the US Supreme Court issued a pair of decisions that upended substantial aspects of patent practice. Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc., 566 U.S. 66 (2012); and Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 573 U.S. 208 (2014).  These cases broadened scope of the “abstract idea” and “law of nature” exclusions in ways that largely overlap with other patent law doctrines, such as obviousness, indefiniteness, and even enablement.  But, unlike those doctrines, subject-matter eligibility jurisprudence is more of free-wheeling approach that typically does not require evidence.  In court, these cases are often decided at pleading-stage, before any evidence is introduced or considered.

Many thousands of patents have been denied or invalidated under the expanded doctrine.  Opponents of the change argue that it has created unpredictability, lack of respect for the law, and overreach that inhibits our culture of innovation historically fostered by the fuel of potential exclusive rights.

One difficulty with the law here is that it is entirely judge made.  The statute isclear that patents should be awarded to “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof” so long as the other requirements of patentability are met.  35 U.S.C. 101.  The Supreme Court added its admittedly atextual gloss of excluding “laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas.”  And, although those limits have been longstanding, the court expanded their scope and simplified the procedures for invalidating patents in Mayo and Alice. A substantial number of prior petitions have asked the Supreme Court to clarify and revise its stance on Section 101 eligibility, but the Supreme Court has repeatedly denied certiorari.  We may be moving to the next step with the two pending cases discussed below.

Most recently, the Solicitor General has provided its views in two pending cases and has recommended that the court grant certiorari and revise its eligibility doctrine. “These cases would be suitable vehicles for providing much-needed clarification in this area.”

In its briefing, the SG ties itself to the idea of “technological inventions”; arguing that “quintessentially technological inventions” should be patent eligible. SG Brief. A positive SG amicus brief usually indicates a high likelihood that the Supreme Court will hear the case. The two parallel pending cases are:

  • Interactive Wearables, LLC, v. Polar Electro Oy, 21-1281.  Interactive Wearables asserts two patents covering a wearable content player connected to a screen-based remote control that permits users to view information about the song being played from the remote. U.S. Patent Nos. 9,668,016 and 10,264,311.  The district court dismissed the case with prejudice on the pleadings for lack of eligibility. On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed without opinion.
  • Tropp v. Travel Sentry, Inc., 22-22.  Tropp’s asserted patents claim a method of improving airline luggage inspection by selling TSA-labelled locks having a master key held by TSA authorities.  If TSA needs to open the luggage for inspection, they use their key rather than cutting the lock. U.S. Patent Nos. 7,021,537 and 7,036,728. The district court found the claims ineligible on summary judgment.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed with a non-precedential per curiam opinion. Importantly, Tropp does not claim to have created any new technology here, but rather a new process.  Of course, Section 100 of the Patent Laws defines process to “include[] a new use of a known process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, or material.”

In its brief filed jointly in both cases, the Solicitor General distinguishes between the inventions in Interactive and in Tropp; arguing that only the first represents a patent eligible invention because it is directed to the “scientific, technological, [or] industrial arts” rather than “non-technological methods of organizing human activity.”

Properly construed, [the abstract idea] exception helps cabin Section 101’s reach to patent law’s traditional bailiwick of the scientific, technological, and industrial arts. The category of patent-ineligible abstract ideas thus does not encompass quintessentially technological inventions, like the improved content player that the patentee claimed in Interactive. By contrast, as the court of appeals correctly recognized, Section 101 excludes non-technological methods of organizing human activity like the luggage-inspection method claimed in Tropp.

SG Brief.  In looking at the court decisions, the SG also argued that the lower courts had unduly considered other doctrines such as novelty, obviousness, and enablement and overlayed them into the obviousness analysis.

A court at step two therefore should ask whether a claimed invention sufficiently transforms an abstract idea into the kind of innovation eligible for patent protection. Rather than undertake that inquiry, however, the Interactive court placed undue emphasis on considerations of novelty, obviousness, and enablement. Although those considerations may sometimes overlap with the abstract-idea inquiry, they are the purview of different statutory provisions and perform different functions. See 35 U.S.C. 102, 103, 112. By contrast, the Tropp court correctly held that nothing in the claimed method transforms it into a technological invention.

Id. Although not clear, the Supreme Court may consider whether to grant or deny certiorari in these cases as early as its May 18, 2023 conference.  Meanwhile, a third eligibility case of Avery Dennison v. ADASA is also pending and could be taken-up on the same date.

It is of some importance here that the USPTO also signed the brief – indicating that it is on board with creating a technological invention dividing line.

Patently-O Bits and Bytes by Juvan Bonni

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A Typical Eligibility Case in 2023

by Dennis Crouch

The U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress to legislatively create a patent system. And, Congress has so since the beginning, with George Washington signing the the First Patent Act into law in 1790.  As Congress continued to legislatively develop the statute, courts also added common law nuance, including the law of patent eligibility.  In Bilski, the Supreme Court recognized that the traditional exclusions of “abstract ideas” and “laws of nature” were not textually derived, but were of such antiquity that their precedent could be maintained and justified. Bilski v. Kappos, 561 U.S. 593 (2010). Later, in Mayo and Alice, the Supreme Court fleshed-out its two step test for determining eligibility for these categorical exclusions.

  1. Ask whether the claimed invention is directed toward a categorical exclusion.
  2. If yes, ask whether the claimed invention includes something more, such as an inventive concept that transforms the abstract idea into a patent eligible invention.

Mayo v. Prometheus, 566 U.S. 66 (2012); Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, 573 U.S. 208 (2014).  Since 2012, almost 2,000 court decisions have referenced these cases along with 8,000+ PTAB decisions.  These were clearly watershed cases that dramatically changed the landscape of patent law and patent litigation.

Prior to Alice/Mayo, most courts focusing on eligibility  issues contended with major policy goals associated with preemption of ideas and fundamental principles.  That analysis reeks of policymaking and helps explain why courts shied away.  The Alice/Mayo revolution systemized eligibility doctrine into a framework more familiar to judges. Although the purpose is still to avoid improper preemption of fundamental ideas, courts no longer have to grapple with the question of preemption, but rather only the jurisprudential proxies created by the Court.

The recent decision in Hawk Tech Sys. v. Castle Retail, — F.4th — (Fed. Cir. 2023), highlights the current state of the law.  Hawk’s patent relates to video surveillance systems, and claims a method of receiving and/or converting stored video images and then displaying them simultaneously on a remote viewing device.  The district court quickly dismissed the case under R.12(b)(6), finding the claim ineligible on its face.  On appeal  the Federal Circuit affirmed.

At some level, all inventions rely upon abstract ideas and laws of nature for their operation.  At Step 1, Alice asks a more pointed question — is the claim “directed to” one of those excluded forms.  The primary focus then is on what the patent itself “asserts to be the focus of the claimed advance,” looking to both the claim language and the associated specification. Solutran, Inc. v. Elavon, Inc., 931 F.3d 1161 (Fed. Cir. 2019).   Hawk’s claims are directed to a method of viewing images, and includes a series of steps: “receiving, displaying, converting, storing, and transmitting digital video” that are all claimed “using results-based functional language.”  This combination of a data-manipulation process claimed at a high level of abstraction has been regularly tagged as being directed to an abstract idea.  In other cases, details in the specification showing a technological solution has saved claims at step 1.  Here, however, the court concluded that the abstract idea analysis focuses on the claim language itself.  Here, the court (in my view) mis-cited ChargePoint, Inc. v. SemaConnect, Inc., 920 F.3d 759 (Fed. Cir. 2019).  In that case, the court noted that technical details in the specification shouldn’t be imported into the claims for Alice step-on analysis.  Hawk’s argument was somewhat different — it suggested that the specification provided an explanation as to how the claimed approach solved a particular problem.  Even still, the patentee’s arguments are likely lacking because of the dearth of details in both the claims and the specification.  The court concluded that the claims simply “fail to recite a specific solution to make the alleged improvement … and at most recite abstract data manipulation.”

At step 2 the appellate panel agreed with the district court that the claims failed to show any technological improvement sufficient to be considered an inventive concept.  Here, the court concluded that achieving a novel technological benefit was insufficient because the claims were written in “generical functional language” relying upon “conventional computer and network components operating according to their ordinary function.”

One quirk of the district court decision was that it held a hearing and considered some evidence prior to deciding the R.12(b)(6) motion.  But, those motions are designed to be based simply on the pleadings. The rules further provide that, if a court considers matters outside the pleadings then “the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment.”  FRCP 12(d).  And, once it becomes summary judgment, then the court needs to allow more time for the parties to develop the factual evidence.   On appeal, the Federal Circuit agreed that the district court erred, but concluded that the error was harmless since the district court’s decision did not hinge on any of the additional material presented.


Note: The patent here claims a 2002 priority date, but the particular application was filed in 2017 and issued in 2019.  I.e., the case was considered and passed muster under the USPTO’s eligibility examination guidelines.

Justin Hasford of Finnegan handled the the case below and the appeal for the defendant, Castle Retail.  Chris Austin of Weide & Miller represented the patentee .