Patent claims directed to “a power headroom report” recited the “patent-ineligible concept of calculating and reporting the missing power of a network device,” according to the Eastern District of Texas’ Magistrate Judge Payne. Accordingly, Judge Payne recommended that a defendant’s motion for summary judgment of invalidity of U.S. Patent No. 8,570,957 under 35 U.S.C. § 101 be granted. Cellular Communications Equipment LLC v. AT&T Inc., No. 2-15-cv-00576 (E.D. Texas June 27, 2017).
Power control headroom in a communications network, the court explained, “is the difference between the nominal maximum transmission power of a mobile device (or other user equipment) and the actual transmission power of the device.” (Emphasis in original.) The patent’s alleged innovation was expanding “the lower limit of the reporting range.” For example, the court highlighted language in claim 1 of the ’957 patent as follows:
An apparatus, comprising:
a processor configured to determine a power headroom report; and
a transmitter configured to transmit the headroom report, wherein the processor is configured to determine the power headroom report with both positive and negative values of power headroom, as applicable, in which negative values indicate the missing power in dB to fulfill transmission requirements, and
wherein the processor is configured to determine the power headroom by subtracting the nominal maximum transmission power and the power that the apparatus would use if it did not apply maximum power limitations, wherein the result of said subtracting is not limited to zero and positive values.
Applying the two-part Alice test, under step 1, Judge Payne distinguished Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175 (1981), and Thales Visionix Inc. v. United States, 850 F.3d 1343 (Fed. Cir. 2017). In those cases, mathematical formulae were patentable because they were used to achieve patentable functionality. For example, the claims in Thales allowed use of “raw data from the sensors to more accurately calculate the position and orientation of an object on a moving platform.” The claims here were closer to the invalidated claims in Electric Power Group, LLC v. Alstom S.A., 830 F.3d 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2016), in that they simply recited use of conventional computing technology “to collect information (a power control headroom report which includes any ‘missing power’) and present that information in the form of the power headroom report to the network.”
Step 2 of the Alice test could not save the claims. There was no improved functionality to any technology.