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Mechanical Inventions Still Potentially Ineligible: American Axle & Mfg. v. Neapco Holdings (Part 2 of 2)

The Federal Circuit recently denied a rehearing en banc in American Axle & Manufacturing v. Neapco Holdings, letting stand a panel decision invalidating a method of manufacturing driveline propeller shafts as ineligible subject matter under § 101. This post covers the multiple concurrences and dissents accompanying the rehearing denial, which reveal a splintered court. Part 1 covered the background and the modified panel decision, in which the court invalidated this claim as ineligible subject matter: 22. A method for manufacturing a shaft assembly of a driveline system, the driveline system further including a first driveline component and a second driveline component, the shaft assembly being adapted to transmit torque between the first driveline component and the second driveline component, the method comprising: providing a hollow shaft member; tuning a mass and a stiffness of at least one liner; and inserting the at least one liner into the shaft member; wherein…

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Mechanical Inventions Still Potentially Ineligible: American Axle & Mfg. v. Neapco Holdings (Part 1 of 2)

The Federal Circuit has modified a panel decision and denied a rehearing en banc in a closely watched § 101 case, American Axle & Manufacturing v. Neapco Holdings. The original decision had found all the claims, which were directed to a method of manufacturing driveline propeller shafts, ineligible subject matter (previously covered in this post). The new panel decision maintained that result for two of the independent claims but remanded on a third independent claim. (Stay tuned for a follow-up post on the en banc denial, which revealed a fractured court with multiple concurrences and dissents and a 6-6 tie vote.) Much of the controversy centered on the subject matter of the patent at issue, U.S. Patent No. 7,774,911—not software or medical diagnostics, as in most applications of § 101, but instead a purely mechanical invention. All three independent claims were for “a method for manufacturing a shaft assembly of…

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District Court Corrects Patent by Inserting Missing Temperature Range, Finds Claims Indefinite for Insufficient Structure: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland v. SiTime

Indefiniteness was decided in a claim construction order from the Northern District of California in VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland v. SiTime. The court corrected a claim by inserting a missing element, but also invalidated all the claims for indefiniteness because the means-plus-function element “drive or sense means” lacked sufficient structure. VTT thus won a battle but lost the war. VTT is a Finnish state-owned nonprofit research company, including for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). SiTime is a MEMS manufacturer. VTT is suing for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,558,643, covering a MEMS device used in semiconductors to reduce deformation as a result of temperature fluctuations. Independent claim 29 states: 29. A method for designing a micromechanical device comprising a semiconductor element capable of deflecting or resonating and comprising at least two regions having different material properties, drive or sense means functionally coupled to said semiconductor element, the method comprising choosing…

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CAFC Split Favors Patent-Eligibility of Network Monitoring Claims: Packet Intelligence LLC v. NetScout Systems, Inc.

A split Federal Circuit panel disagreed whether patent claims directed to network monitoring for whether received packets belong to a particular “conversational flow” are directed to an abstract idea. Judge Lourie was joined by Judge Hughes in affirming a district court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law rejecting a defense of patent-eligibility, under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the Alice/Mayo test, of claims directed to determining whether received packets belong to a particular “conversational flow.” Packet Intelligence LLC v. NetScout Systems, Inc., No. 2019-2041 (July 14, 2020) (precedential) (appeal from the Eastern District of Texas; Judge Gilstrap). Judge Reyna, concurring in the court’s opinion on a host of other issues, dissented with respect to § 101 validity, saying that the patent claims were directed to an abstract idea, and that the case should have been remanded to the District Court for further analysis concerning a possible inventive concept under…

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Changing a Game Risk/Reward Parameter Fails Patent-Eligibility at Summary Judgment: Bot M8 LLC v. Sony Corp. of America

A patent claim directed to adjusting an individual gaming machine control parameter (i.e., the risk/reward level) based on aggregate gaming machine results was held patent-ineligible at summary judgment under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the Alice/Mayo test. Bot M8 LLC v. Sony Corporation of America, et al, No. C 19-07027 WHA (N.D. Cal., June 10, 2020.) Background The plaintiff Bot M8 sued defendant Sony for infringement of Bot M8’s Patents US 7,338,363 and US 7,497,777. Bot M8 moved for summary judgment on its infringement claims. Sony moved for summary judgment for invalidity of the patents under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The court identified claim 1 of the ‘363 patent as the remaining relevant claim. The ‘363 patent discloses a method to adjust a controlling parameter of an individual gaming machine based on aggregate results from two or more gaming machines, and uses, as an example, two or more slot machines…

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