Technological Improvement in Roof Imaging is Patent-Eligible

Can claims directed to correlating images into a three-dimensional model provide a technological improvement sufficient to be patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101? Yes, says the Court in Eagle View Techs., Inc. v. Xactware Sol’ns, Inc., No. 15-07025 (D.N.J. Jan. 29, 2018).

Plaintiffs’ asserted patents (U.S. Patent No. 8078436 is representative) for providing a roof repair estimate based on aerial images. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the claims are invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 as an abstract idea without significantly more. The Court denied the motion, holding under the 2-part Alice test that the claims were directed to a technological improvement, and thus not an abstract idea.

For the first step of the Alicetest, the Court noted that the claims included elements toward two non-stereoscopic and non-identical images of the roof structure that the computer manipulated to overlie each other and develop a three-dimensional model of the roof. While Defendants argued that the claims could be performed by a human sketch, the Court disagreed, noting that the claims are directed to specific methods of correlating the non-stereoscopic views of different sections of the roof. The Court compared this improvement to Thales Visionix and Finjan, noting that the claims provided a concrete and specific solution of correlating non-stereoscopic aerial views to the problem of generating a roof repair estimate without direct human measurement of a roof.

While not required to address the second step of the Alicetest, the Court noted that an improvement in the functioning of a computer is a specific inventive concept that would satisfy the second step. The Court noted that the parties’ dispute over whether a human mind is even capable of combining two non-stereoscopic images without drawing them first to correlate the image into a 3D model naturally suggests that the claimed method represents an improvement in the functioning of a computer. Furthermore, following the decision in Berkheimer, the Court noted that Defendants did not provide evidence that the claims were routine, well-understood, or conventional.

Lessons for Practice

As more software claims are surviving Section 101 challenges, the Court’s clear invocation of the technological problem/technological solution approach and admonishment of Defendants’ “automation of mental steps” argument provides additional clarity on the level of detail required for patent-eligible software claims.

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