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Your Garage Door Opener Is Not Patent-Eligible

Patent claims directed to a “movable barrier operator,” i.e., controlling a garage door, are not patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the Alice/Mayo test. Chamberlain Group, Inc. v. Techtronic Industries Co. Ltd., Nos. 2018-2103, 2018-2228 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 21, 2019) (precedential) (Judge Chen, joined by Judges O’Malley and Lourie).  There are a lot of lessons in this procedurally rich post-trial appeal from, and partial reversal of, denial of a JMOL motion. In this post we will focus on a substantive lesson: patent claims reciting devices and hardware elements have no particular claim to patent-eligibility. Representative claim 1 of U.S. 7,224,275 recites A movable barrier operator comprising: a controller having a plurality of potential operational status conditions defined, at least in part, by a plurality of operating states; a movable barrier interface that is operably coupled to the controller; a wireless status condition data transmitter that is operably coupled to the…

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Graphical User Interface not Patent-Eligible

Patent claims directed to a remote user interface displaying a plurality graphical user interfaces (GUIs) were held not patent eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101 in Valmont Industries, Inc. v. Lindsay Corporation, No. 15-42-LPS (D. Del. Nov. 14, 2018). The Court found that the claims of U.S. Pat. No. 7,003,357 were directed to the abstract idea of “remotely monitoring and controlling irrigation equipment” without an inventive concept, granting a motion to dismiss under F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6). Claim 25, added in the first ex parte reexamination and the focus of this decision, recites: A remote user interface for reading a status of and controlling irrigation equipment including a pivot and at least two end-guns affixed to the pivot, comprising: a hand-held display; a processor; wireless telemetry means for transmitting signals and data between the remote user interface and the irrigation equipment; and software operable on said processor for: (a) displaying data received from the irrigation…

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Enfish=Patent-Eligibility for Software License Enforcement

Reversing a District Court decision, the Federal Circuit had held that patent claims directed to enforcing software licenses are patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. §101 and the Alice abstract idea test. Ancora Technologies, Inc. v. HTC America, Inc., No. 2018-1404 (Nov. 16, 2018) (precedential) (opinion by Judge Taranto, joined by Judges Dyk and Wallach).  Claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,411,941 recite “methods of limiting a computer’s running of software not authorized for that computer to run.”  Relying on Enfish, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., (Fed. Cir. 2016), the Federal Circuit reversed the lower court’s Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, holding that “the claimed advance” was patent-eligible as “a concrete assignment of specified functions among a computer’s components to improve computer security.” Claim 1 of the ’941 patent recites 1. A method of restricting software operation within a license for use with a computer including an erasable, non-volatile memory area of a BIOS of the computer, and a…

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Can One Predict Patent-Eligibility at the Federal Circuit?

Some claims directed to a computer spreadsheet are patent-eligible, while others are not, said the Federal Circuit in Data Engine Techs. LLC v. Google LLC (Fed. Cir. 2018) (precedential).  The District of Delaware had granted a Rule 12 judgment on the pleadings of 35 U.S.C. § 101 invalidity of claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,590,259; 5,784,545; 6,282,551; and 5,303,146; the Federal Circuit thus reversed-in-part, affirmed-in-part, and remanded. The three surviving patents (with the exception of one independent claim which had a patentable dependent claim), the ’259, ’545, and ’551) were dubbed the “Tab Patents.”  The Tab Patents purportedly solved the problem that “complex commands” were required by “prior art three-dimensional or multipage electronic spreadsheets.”  The patent-eligible solution was “a notebook-tabbed interface” to provide users with easy navigation through three-dimensional spreadsheet.  Why?  Because the notebook tab “allowed computers, for the first time, to provide rapid access to and processing of information in different spreadsheets,…

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Menu Claims Patent-Ineligible Under Apple, Core Wireless

Claims directed to an “information management and real time synchronous communications system for configuring and transmitting hospitality menus” were held patent-ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the Alice abstract idea test in Ameranth, Inc. v. Pizza Hut, Inc., No. 3-11-cv-01810 (S.D. Cal. Sept 25, 2018).  The court thus granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment that U.S. Patent No. 8,146,077 is unpatentable. The independent claims of the ’077 patent (which you can see at the above link) are all really, really long, but boil down to steps to generate user-friendly menus for entering data, and to provide for easy updating when menus change.  The defendants argued that the “claims are directed to the abstract idea of configuring and transmitting menu information,” while the patent owner was less clear what the claims were about, variously arguing for novel arrangements of, first, software, and then hardware. The patent owner tried to argue that the claims…

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