Building on Abstract Ideas: Alice v CLS Bank

By Evan Jensen In its much-anticipated Alice v CLS Bank decision the Supreme Court held that Alice’s software patent was patent-ineligible subject matter under §101. But in its decision the Supreme Court seems to have blended a §101 analysis with a §103 analysis. The Court seems to infer that well-known ideas, such as methods that are fundamental to modern economy, are abstract and therefore patent-ineligible under §101. There is no debate that abstract ideas are not patentable subject matter. No one may claim exclusive rights to the idea of addition, or of binary-decimal conversion, or any other generic abstract mathematical or conceptual idea. To allow a patent on an abstract idea would preempt everyone else from using that idea, greatly discouraging innovation, which is contrary to the primary goals of the patent system. The issue is which software claims, or whether software claims in general, are made patent-ineligible by the Alice decision.

In re Hyon: Substantial Evidence Standard Helps Preserve Finding of Obviousness

By Chris Reaves A recent appeal of a lengthy prosecution ended last week, when the Federal Circuit in In re Hyon, 102 USPQ2d 1889 (Fed. Cir. 2012) upheld the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) findings that a person of ordinary skill would have reason to combine two references to create the invention at issue.  The Board’s decision, though possibly “flawed,” could not be found unreasonable under the applicable standard of review, emphasizing the challenge that patent prosecutors face in overcoming a factual finding. Background The applicants, Suong-Hyu Hyon and Masanori Oka, were granted U.S. Patent No. 6,168,626 on a specific type of “Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene” (abbreviated throughout the patent and the opinion as “UHMWPE”), and on the method for creating these material.  The inventors intended the material to be used for artificial joints although the claims were not limited to this embodiment.  The patent had only eleven claims, with limitations such as thickness of the UHMWPE

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Federal Circuit Reaffirmed Lead Compound Analysis for Evaluating Obviousness of a New Chemical Compound

James Jang In Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. v. Sandoz, Inc., 678 F.3d 1280 (Fed. Cir. 2012), the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court that the patent was not obvious based on prior art evidence, nor the asserted claims were invalid for nonstatutory double patenting. The Defendants are drug manufacturers who submitted ADNA filings to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an approval to manufacture, use, or sale of generic aripiprazole products. Otsuka Pharmaceutical Corporation brought action against the drug manufacturers for infringement of patent on the compound claimed in Patent No. 5,006,528, aripiprazole, an atypical antipsychotic compound approved by the FDA for the treatment of schizophrenia. The Defendants counterclaimed that the patent was invalid for obviousness and nonstatutory double patenting. The Federal Circuit analyzed three ‘lead compounds’ asserted by the Defendants, unsubstituted butoxy compound, 2,3-dichloro propoxy compound, and OPC-4392 compound. A ‘lead compound’ means “a compound in the prior art that would be most promising to modify

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Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences Rules on Indefiniteness of the Term “Substantially Filled,” Prima Facie Obviousness in an Engine Cooling Method

By Charles Pierce In Ex Parte Evans et al. (Appeal 2011-004119; Application serial no. 11/823,993), the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences reversed examiner rejections under 35 U.S.C. § 112 for indefiniteness, and 35 U.S.C. § 103(a) for obviousness. Claim 1 of the patent states: A method for cooling an internal combustion engine using a reduced toxicity, ethylene glycol and water based heat transfer fluid, said method comprising the steps of: (a) formulating a heat transfer fluid comprising (1) a glycol component consisting of ethylene glycol and propylene glycol, wherein the weight of the propylene glycol is between 5% less to less than 30% of the total weight of the glycol component and wherein the glycol component is less toxic than 10,000 mg/kg on an acute LD50(rat) oral toxicity basis, and (2) water, wherein the water comprises between 40% and 70% by weight of the total weight of the heat transfer fluid; and (b) substantially filling the cooling system of

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Fort Properties, Inc. v. American Master Lease LLC

By Zi Wang In Fort Properties, Inc. v. American Master Lease LLC, 2012 WL 603969 (Fed. Cir. 2012), the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s holding that a method patent for creating real estate investment instrument adapted for performing tax-deferred exchanges is invalid because it is directed at an unpatentable abstract idea, even though the claim language of the patent at issue recited a computer in certain operations. American Master Lease LLC (“AML”) holds the ‘788 patent at issue.  The ‘788 patent discloses an investment tool designed to enable property owners to buy and sell properties without incurring tax liability pursuant to a tax law provision that exempts certain investment property exchanges when an owner of investment property exchanges one property for another of like kind and certain conditions are met. Specifically, the claims require the aggregation of a number of properties into a “real estate portfolio.”  The property interests in this portfolio are then divided into shares, called “deedshares”,

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Cell Phone Network Patent Survives § 112 Attacks in Federal Circuit

By Chris Reaves HTC Corporation v. IPCom GmbH & Co., KG, No. 2011-1004, Fed. Cir. Jan. 30, 2012 In a recent infringement suit, a patent for a cell phone network mobile station narrowly survived several attempts at invalidation through indefiniteness.  The Federal Circuit applied numerous rules of claim interpretation, especially for means-plus-function claims, and reminded the defense of the importance of addressing all issues at the trial level.  The case serves as a good lesson in “what not to do” for both prosecutors and litigants. Background IPCom GmbH & Co., KG owns US Patent No. 6,879,830 (‘830) and other patents, which go to cell phone networks and their methods.  ‘830 in particular discusses an efficient cellular phone network “handover” – the process by which one cell tower takes over a call from another as the phone moves from place to place. IPCom and the HTC Corporation countersued each other for, respectively, infringement of three of IPCom’s patents, including ‘830, and

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Federal Circuit Says § 101 Requires “Concrete Steps” In Software Methods

By Chris Reaves Dealertrack, Inc. v. Huber, No. 2009-1566, Fed. Cir. Jan. 20 2012 The Federal Circuit on January 20 once again addressed the question of 35 U.S.C. § 101 eligibility for a software method.   The court found the patent at issue closer to CyberSource than Ultramercial, drawing a distinction between “a practical application with concrete steps” and a mere declaration that the method is “computer-aided.”  It also looked to the interpretation of claims, expanding the rule of Phillips v. AWH to cover exemplary lists. Background Plaintiff Dealertrack, Inc. owns three patents related to the same concept: the use of a computer system as a loan intermediary, converting one generalized application for a car loan into several bank-specific applications and processing said applications with their respective banks.  The original patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,878,403 (‘403), was filed in 1995.  Later, 7,181,427 (‘427), patenting the computer system, was filed as a continuation-in-part, and 6,587,841 (‘841), patenting the method, was filed as

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Federal Circuit Finds District Courts Can Correct Obvious Errors Without Certificate of Correction

In CBT Flint Partners, LLC v. Return Path, Inc., 99 USPQ2d 1610 (Fed. Cir. 2011), CBT Flint Partners, LLC (“CBT”) appealed the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia’s grant of summary judgment of invalidity of claim 13 of U.S. Patent 6,587,550 (“the ‘550 patent”).  CBT owns the ‘550 patent, as well as another patent, the ‘114 patent, which both relate to methods and systems for charging a fee for sending spam email to recipients.  In the preferred embodiment of the ‘550 patent, the invention is implemented as part of an Internet Service Provider (“ISP”).  When a sender attempts to send spam emails over the ISP network, the patented system determines whether this sender is an “authorized sending party,” i.e., a party who has agreed to pay a fee to the ISP.  If the sender is an authorized sending party, the ISP will forward its spam emails to the intended recipients.  If the sender is not an authorized sending

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Federal Circuit finds Patent Obvious in view of Common Sense despite Objective Evidence

In Wyers v. Master Lock Co., 95 USPQ2d 1525 (Fed. Cir. 2010), plaintiff Philip W. Wyers (Wyers) sued defendant Master Lock Company (Master) for infringement of its patents for hitch pin locks.  Hitch pin locks are typically used to secure draw bars or tow-ball mount to a hitch receiver attached to a motor vehicle.  Wyers’ patents describe a barbell-shaped lock with a stop portion on one end, a locking head on the other end, and a shank portion which passes through the aligned apertures of the hitch receiver and the tow-ball mount. The use of barbell-shaped locks and locks on trailer hitch receivers was well known in prior art.  Specifically, the prior art had examples of locks with a lock head, a shackle having a stop member, a shank, and a latch.  Moreover, the prior art also had examples of barbell-shaped locks being used as a trailer hitch receiver lock. Wyers’ patents claim improvements to the prior art locks; mainly

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Federal Circuit Clarified Abstractness in the Context of Software

Court Finds Software Patentable Unless Unmistakably Abstract In Research Corp. Technologies, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp., Civ. Case. No. 10-1037 (Fed. Cir. December 8, 2010), Research Corporation Technologies, Inc. (“RCT”) owns six related patents: U.S. Patent Nos. 5,111,310 (“’310 patent”); 5,341,228 (“’228 patent”); 5,477,305 (“’305 patent”); 5,543,941 (“’941 patent”); 5,708,518 (“’518 patent”); and 5,726,772 (“’772 patent”).  The six related patents relate to digital image half toning which allows a computer to create more colors than otherwise possible with the limited number of pixel colors available in a typical printer.  In order to measure the quality of the half toning, the inventors created a method of detecting a power spectrum which measures the frequency of the dots used to create the half tone and compares this power spectrum to an ideal spectrum stored in a mask.  By comparing the stored mask and detected power spectrum, the method determines half tone quality.