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Some Cases Are Easy Under Alice

For all the uncertainty engendered by Mayo v. Prometheus and Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank and their lower court progeny, many patent claims on their face simply will not be found patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101 after Alice and Mayo. Two patents illustrative of this proposition recently met their fate on motions for summary judgment, one directed to managing real estate listings, and another to telephone directory lookups. Listingbook, LLC v. Market Leader, Inc., 1-13-cv-00583 (M.D. N.C. Nov. 13, 2015); Stanacard, LLC v. Rubard, LLC, No. 1-12-cv-05176 (NYSD Nov. 18, 2015). U.S. Patent No. 7,454,355, at issue in the Listingbook case, was entitled “Method and system for providing real estate information using a computer network, such as the internet.” If that title wasn’t enough, independent claim 1, though really long, gave the game away in the preamble: A computer-implemented method of providing client-accessed real estate information to a real…

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Fed. Cir. Holds Real Estate Mapping Claims Patent-Ineligible

If you want an example of the kind of patent-eligibility question that is now easy to resolve under the Alice abstract idea test, look to the Federal Circuit’s non-precedential decision in Move, Inc. v. Real Estate Alliance, No. 2017-1463 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 1, 2018) (opinion by Judge Stoll, joined by Judges Lourie and Wallach). In this case, the court affirmed a lower court’s summary judgment of invalidity under 35 USC § 101 of claims of two patents directed to computerized methods for locating available real estate, i.e., property for purchase. Perhaps the most striking thing about these two patents, each entitled “Real Estate Search and Location System and Method,” is their age. US 4,870,576 issued in September 1989 from an application filed in March 1986. US 5,032,989, a continuation-in-part of the ’576 patent, issued in July 1991 from an application filed in April 1989. Unsurprisingly, then, the present appeal stemmed…

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CAFC: User-Tailored Data Is Patent-Ineligible Abstract Idea

A Federal Circuit panel easily affirmed a lower court holding of patent-ineligibility of claims “directed to systems and methods for allowing computers to process data that are dynamically modified based upon external-to-the-device information, such as location and time.” Evolutionary Intelligence, LLC v. Sprint Nextel Corp., No. 2016-1188 et al. (Fed. Cir. Feb 17, 2017) (opinion by Judge Lourie, joined by Judges Moore and Taranto) (non-precedential). The lower court had held all claims of US Patent Nos. 7,010,536 and 7,702,682 invalid as patent-ineligible under 35 USC § 101. The District Court had granted a motion to dismiss/motion for judgment on the pleadings, concluding that all claims of the asserted patents are invalid under § 101 as being directed to the abstract idea of “searching and processing containerized data.” The court held that the invention merely computerizes “old forms of information processing,” such as those used in “libraries, businesses, and other human…

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Software Claims to Demand Forecasting and Inventory Management, Predictably, Not Patent-Eligible

The Supreme Court has refused to implement a rule that business methods claims are per se patent-ineligible.  Nonetheless, courts now routinely invalidate business method patent claims under 35 U.S.C. § 101, as exemplified in the recent case of Smart Software, Inc. v. PlanningEdge, LLC, No. 15-13814-PBS (D. Mass. June 17, 2016).  In this case, it can have been no surprise to either party that claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,205,431, entitled “System and Method for Forecasting Intermittent Demand,” were invalidated on the defendants Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Here, the claims of the ’431 patent recited steps of analyzing data to forecast demand and/or inventory requirements.  The court here was able to make short work of the Mayo/Alice two-part patent-eligibility test, concluding at step one that the ’431 Patent claims are directed at forecasting intermittent demand, an abstract idea, analogous to the risk hedging in Bilski and intermediated settlement in…

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Claims to a New Method of Playing Blackjack Not Patent-Eligible, Says Federal Circuit

The Federal Circuit has affirmed the USPTO’s rejection of an applicant’s claims that it concluded “cover only the abstract idea of rules for playing a wagering game and use conventional steps of shuffling and dealing a standard deck of cards.”  In re Smith, No. 2015-1664 (Fed. Cir. March 10, 2016) (opinion by Judge Stoll, joined by Judges Hughes and Moore). Citing several of its recent cases, including Planet Bingo, LLC v. VKGS LLC, 576 F. App’x 1005, 1007–08 (Fed. Cir. 2014), the Court pretty clearly says that rules of a game are per se an abstract idea, albeit while leaving the door open for an “inventive concept” e.g., a new deck of cards, that would render claims to the abstract idea patent-eligible. The PatentlyO blog has a write-up of the substance of the decision; in this post I want to focus on two takeaways. First, while the court took pains…

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