After the Federal Circuit issued its en banc decision on May 10, 2013 in CLS Bank v. Alice Corp, the patent owner Alice Corp must be feeling like Alice in Alice in Wonderland, bewildered and frightened by the fantastical situation in which they find themselves:
(1) “bewildered” because an equally divided Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s holding that Alice’s claimed system to tangible machine components including a first party device, a data storage unit, a second party device, a computer, and a communications controller, programmed with specialized functions consistent with detailed algorithms disclosed in the patent, constitutes a patent ineligible “abstract idea;”
(2) “frightened” because, as Judge Moore puts it, “this case is the death of hundreds of thousands of patents, including all business method, financial system, and software patents as well as many computer implemented and telecommunications patents” (Moore Op. at 2); and
By now most are likely already familiar with the unfortunate reality that the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a non-decision in CLS Bank v. Alice Corporation on Friday, May 10, 2013. There were 10 judges who heard the case en banc, with 7 of the 10 finding that the method claims and computer-readable medium claims were not patent eligible. While there may be reasonable room for a difference of opinion relative to those claims, it was the system claims that specifically and clearly recited tangible structure that has thrown the patent law of software into such disarray. 5 Judges would have found that the systems claims were patent ineligible (Judges Lourie, Dyk, Prost, Reyna and Wallach), and 5 Judges would have found the systems claims were patentable subject matter (Chief Judge Rader, Judges Newman, Moore, Linn and O’Malley). For more see Federal Circuit Nightmare in CLS Bank and 5 CAFC Judges Say Computer Patentable, Not Software and Did the CAFC Ignore the Supreme Court in CLS Bank?
Today, however, I want to write about one of the more bizarre passages I have ever seen in any decision, and then pose an almost unthinkable question: Is IBM’s Watson still patent eligible in the view of Judges Lourie, Dyk, Prost, Reyna and Wallach?
First, let’s start with the passage. Judge Lourie, who was joined by Judges Dyk, Prost, Reyna and Wallach, actually wrote: “At its most basic, a computer is just a calculator capable of performing mental steps faster than a human could. Unless the claims require a computer to perform operations that are not merely accelerated calculations, a computer does not itself confer patent eligibility.”
In what can only fairly be characterized as utterly ridiculous, 5 of the 10 judges on the Federal Circuit to hear CLS Bank v. Alice Corporationen banc would find that claims that satisfy the machine-or-transformation test are not patentable. While I think it is inappropriate to find the systems claims patent ineligible that isn’t what makes the decision utterly ridiculous. The decision is an embarrassment because 5 other judges would have found the systems claims patent eligible. Thus, we have an even split of opinion at the Federal Circuit.
The Federal Circuit decision in CLS Bank v. Alice Corp. is now being horribly mischaracterized in the media, which will now only further complicate the matter in the court of public opinion. This decision offers no precedent whatsoever regarding systems claims because it was a tie. Alice Corporation loses the systems claims not because that is the law of the land announced by the Federal Circuit, but rather because a single district court judge determined that the systems claims were patent ineligible. Had that same district court judge found the systems claims patent eligible then Alice would have prevailed.
In other words, the Federal Circuit is essentially abdicating its authority relative to whether systems claims are patentable to the district courts and presumably also to the Patent Trial and Appeals Board at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Whatever the district court or PTAB does is just fine. Well, not quite.
Well, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit sort of decided CLS Bank v. Alice Corporation earlier today. Truthfully, all the important questions that we thought might be answered remain completely and totally unanswered because there were only 10 judges who sat on the en banc tribunal and no more than 5 judges signed on to any one opinion.
The only thing we know is this — the Federal Circuit issued an extraordinarily brief per curiam decision, which stated:
Upon consideration en banc, a majority of the court affirms the district court’s holding that the asserted method and computer-readable media claims are not directed to eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. An equally divided court affirms the district court’s holding that the asserted system claims are not directed to eligible subject matter under that statute.
Thus, all of the asserted claims are not patent eligible. At the moment I am completely flabbergasted and don’t know what to say.
On March 25, 2013, I spoke on the record with Eric Gould Bear (left) about all things software, from designing software, to drafting patent applications to litigating. Bear is a successful inventor with over 100 patents and patent applications to his name and a testifying expert witness. He has worked with numerous Fortune 500 companies and has a unique perspective of expert, creator and fan of those who innovate in the software space.
In Part I of our interview, titled Designing Into the Path of Disruptive Technology, we discussed the journey from ideas to designs that establish a technology platform. In Part II, titled Software Patents: Drafting for Litigation and a Global Economy, we discussed (among other things) the unfortunate reality that the top technology innovators simply won’t listen to licensing overtures unless they are first sued. In the final segment, Part III, which appears below, we conclude our discussion of litigation, discuss working with patent examiners and then end with a discussion relating to the reality that an engineering mentality is very different from an experience design mentality, at least relative to development of software.
On March 25, 2013, I spoke on the record with Eric Gould Bear (left) about software innovations, software patents and the trials and tribulations of litigating software patents long after they were first written. Bear, among other things, is a leading authority on the creation of new user experiences, an accomplished inventor with over 100 patents and patent applications to his name and a testifying expert witness.
In Part I of our interview, titled Designing Into the Path of Disruptive Technology, we discussed the journey from ideas to designs that establish a technology platform that could realistically be useful 5, 10 or more years down the road. In Part II of our interview, which appears below, we discuss drafting software patent applications with an eye toward litigation and the unfortunate reality that the top technology innovators simply won’t listen to licensing overtures unless they are first sued.
On March 25, 2013, I spoke on the record with Eric Gould Bear (left) about software innovations, software patents and the trials and tribulations of litigating software patents long after they were first written.
Bear is an inventor on over 100 patents and patent applications in the software space. He has spent over 25 years working with numerous Fortune 500 corporations with respect to assisting them in the creation of new user experiences. He is also a founder of the design studio MONKEYmedia, which recently launched a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple that we will discuss in Part II of the interview. MONKEYmedia also has litigation pending against Sony, Disney and others. And on top of all of this, Bear is a testifying expert witness for patent infringement cases. Simply, there is little in the software/patent space that Bear hasn’t seen or been a part of over his career.
In Part I of our conversation, which appears below, we discuss the journey from ideas to designs that sit in the path of disruptive technology and could realistically be useful 5, 10 or more years down the road.
How to Write a Patent Application is a must own for patent attorneys, patent agents and law students alike. A crucial hands-on resource that walks you through every aspect of preparing and filing a patent application, from working with an inventor to patent searches, preparing the patent application, drafting claims and more.
Without hesitation I recommend One Simple Idea and think it should be required reading for any motivated inventor. There is so much to like about the book and so much that I think author Stephen Key nails dead on accurate. The book is educational, information and inspirational. For the $14 cover price it is essential reading.
Typically blog roll links are not helpful to a website's rank. To give some additional "link love" to those we think you might be interested in reading we have moved our blog roll and links to a dedicated page. Go to IPWatchdog Blog Roll & Links.