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Simio, LLC v. FlexSim Software Products, Inc.: Important Precedent for § 101 Patent-Eligibility of Software (or Lack Thereof)

The Federal Circuit ended 2020 with a precedential opinion holding that patent claims directed to providing a graphical user interface for controlling a software object’s behavior were patent-ineligible under the Alice/Mayo test and 35 USC § 101. Simio, LLC v. FlexSim Software Products, Inc., No. 2020-1171 (December 29, 2020; opinion by Chief Judge Prost, joined by Judges Clevenger and Stoll). The court held claims of U.S. Patent No. 8,156,468 were “directed to the abstract idea of using graphics instead of programming to create object-oriented simulations,” and that this abstract idea is patent ineligible. Claim 1, the only independent claim of the ’468 patent, recites: A computer-based system for developing simulation models on a physical computing device, the system comprising: one or more graphical processes; one or more base objects created from the one or more graphical processes, wherein a new object is created from a base object of the one…

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Online User Authentication Service Fails § 101 Patent-Eligibility Test

Claims of a patent directed to “an interaction between a user, an ASP [authentication service provider] client, and an ASP” were invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the Mayo/Alice patent-eligibility test, said a Northern District of California judge in Smart Authentication LLC v. Electronic Arts, Inc., Case No. 19-cv-01994-SI (N.D. Cal. Sept. 11, 2019). The court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice. Following Inter Partes Review proceedings, the only remaining asserted claim of U.S. Patent No, 8,082,213B2 was claim 11, which depended from claim 1: 1. A user-authentication service implemented as routines that execute one or more computer systems interconnected by two or more communications media with both an authentication-service client, and a user, the user-authentication service comprising: the one or more computer systems; stored user-authentication policies specified by the user; stored user information; account interface routines that implement an account…

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Easy CAFC Patent-Eligibility Case: Digital Product Licensing

In a one-line order under its Rule 36, the Federal Circuit has affirmed a decision of Judge Schroeder in the Eastern District of Texas granted a Rule12(b)(6) motion to dismiss claims of patent infringement where claims were directed to “adjusting the number of devices allowed to use a digital product (e.g., software) under a license.”  Uniloc, USA, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc., No. 2017-2051 (Fed. Cir., Aug. 9, 2018).  The district court decision finding claims of U.S. Patent No. 8,566,960 patent-ineligible under the Alice/Mayo test and 35 U.S.C. § 101 is discussed in this post. It should be no surprise that the Federal Circuit panel (Chief Judge Prost and Judges Taranto and Chen) made this a Rule 36 affirmance.  In a nutshell, the district court’s decision had explained that the claims of the ’960 patent were invalid under § 101 because “time-adjustable licenses” were a “fundamental economic practice.”  Certainly, if you look at the…

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Are the Fed. Circuit’s Rule 36 Judgments Always a Bad Thing?

The Federal Circuit has been widely criticized for the practice, under its Rule 36, of affirming lower court and USPTO PTAB decisions without any opinion.  This post highlights two recent Rule 36 affirmances of holdings of patent-ineligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101.  I should stress that I don’t disagree that the court generally owes its litigants an explanation of its decisions, and may even be bound to do so by statute. But I want to suggest that the two cases discussed below demonstrate that there are areas of patent law, even relating to applying the Mayo/Alice patent-eligibility test, whose contours are well-enough defined and do not need elucidation. The Federal Circuit’s Rule 36 provides as follows: Rule 36. Entry of Judgment – Judgment of Affirmance Without Opinion The court may enter a judgment of affirmance without opinion, citing this rule, when it determines that any of the following conditions exist…

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With License Ambiguous, Patent Exhaustion Heads to Jury

In Audio MPEG, Inc. v. Dell Inc., the Eastern District of Virginia denied summary judgment of patent exhaustion because it was ambiguous whether a license between Audio MPEG and Dell’s supplier Microsoft covered the allegedly infringing software, leaving the issue to the jury. Audio MPEG asserted that Dell’s sales of computers infringed three of its patents on encoding and decoding digital audio signals. Dell sold computers with both Microsoft Windows and third-party audio software preinstalled. The parties primarily disagreed on two factual questions: (1) Did Audio MPEG’s license agreement with Microsoft cover Windows codecs called by the third-party software? (2) Did the preinstalled third-party software only call the codecs or does it contain infringing programming? (According to the expert witness quoted by the court, “A codec is a piece of software that encodes and/or decodes a digital data stream. Codecs typically exist as a part of a shared library, such…

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