Patent Practitioners Tell Justices to Forget American Axle—Fix Eligibility Law with Interactive Wearables’ Petition

“In their amicus brief filed last week, the Chicago Patent Attorneys told the Justices that the Interactive Wearables case presents a ‘better opportunity’ to clarify Section 101 eligibility law because it involves ‘an intuitive technology’ with ‘tangible components for executing a series of recited operations.’”

eligibilityA group of patent practitioners told the Supreme Court on Thursday that a case involving a patent for a type of content player would be a better vehicle for unraveling the patent eligibility problem than American Axle & Manufacturing v. Neapco Holdings, which has been awaiting a brief of the U.S. Solicitor General for about one year now.

The case is Interactive Wearables, LLC v. Polar Electro Oy and Polar Electro, Inc. Interactive Wearables petitioned the High Court in March 2022, asking the Justices to answer the following three questions:

  1. What is the appropriate standard for determining whether a patent claim is “directed to” a patent-ineligible concept under step one of the Court’s
    two-step framework for determining whether an invention is eligible for patenting under 35 U.S.C. § 101?
    2. Is patent eligibility (at each step of the Court’s two-step framework) a question of law for the court based on the scope of the claims or a question of fact for the jury based on the state of art at the time of the
    patent?
    3. Is it proper to apply 35 U.S.C. § 112 considerations to determine whether a patent claims eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101?

The district court held that the relevant claims for Interactive’s patent covering “improved devices for playing audio and visual media content, such as cellphones, radios, and wearable devices,” are directed to the abstract idea of “providing information in conjunction with media content, ‘applied to the context’ of content players.”

The court said that the claims “merely apply the abstract idea behind consulting a TV Guide—i.e., ‘to obtain more information’ about a program while viewing it—to a content player, rather than ‘provide[] a technological improvement’ to the content player itself.”

The Federal Circuit summarily affirmed the district court’s decision under Rule 36, without explanation, and denied Interactive’s petition for rehearing or rehearing en banc in December 2021.

In their amicus brief filed last week, the Chicago Patent Attorneys told the Justices that the Interactive Wearables case presents a “better opportunity” to clarify Section 101 law because it involves “an intuitive technology” with “tangible components for executing a series of recited operations.” In contrast, the American Axle invention—which is directed to “a method for manufacturing driveline propeller shafts that are designed to attenuate vibrations transmitted through a shaft assembly”—is highly technical and requires an understanding of multiple laws of nature.

The representative claims at issue in the Interactive case cover:

A content player comprising:

a receiver configured to receive content and together with the content information associated with the content,

a processor coupled to the receiver and configured to process the content and the information associated with the content,

memory coupled to the processor,

a first display coupled to the processor, and
playing device equipment coupled to the processor and configured to

provide the content to a user of the content player, the playing device equipment comprising an audio player;

wherein the content player is a wearable content player configured to be controlled by a wireless remote control device comprising a second display,

the wireless remote control device being configured to receive commands directing operations of the wearable content player, and wherein the wireless remote control device is configured to provide to the user at least a portion of the information associated with the content.

The amicus brief notes that this technology is relatively straightforward and pertains to consumer electronics products that are “relatively affordable and widely available.” Furthermore, clarifying Section 101 in a case involving an abstract idea rejection would be preferable, since claims are more often invalidated for that reason than for being directed to laws of nature, as in American Axle. The brief concludes:

By clarifying §101 as it pertains to consumer electronics and its intersection with abstract ideas, this Court will provide guidance for industry leaders regarding common-place devices in one of the most rapidly-growing industries in the world.

 

Image rights: Adobe Stock

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8 comments so far. Add my comment.

  • [Avatar for B]
    B
    April 27, 2022 12:01 pm

    @Anon “Not to get all philosophical/political, but in the Age of Narrative, it is precisely that parties believe that they CAN just make this up.”

    I think I’ve written on this exact same thing, and it’s not particularly political.

    “I have been listening to what is basically a shocking and disturbing series of essays by Dr. James Lindsay, and what he describes as the Woke intrusion is emblematic of what you two may be seeing.”

    I’m not sure “woke” is the problem, but then again, all insanity that takes hold of government has a stench about it. The CAFC is collectively insane – a symptom of too many judges believing idiotic legal theories having no nexus to reality.

    I’m also convinced that most of the CAFC hasn’t read any of Bilski, Alice, and Mayo in their entirety. I’m more certain the APJs reviewing business method appeals are still waiting for the Cliff Notes.

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    Anon
    April 27, 2022 09:51 am

    B and concerned,

    Not to get all philosophical/political, but in the Age of Narrative, it is precisely that parties believe that they CAN just make this up.

    I have been listening to what is basically a shocking and disturbing series of essays by Dr. James Lindsay, and what he describes as the Woke intrusion is emblematic of what you two may be seeing.

  • [Avatar for B]
    B
    April 26, 2022 09:48 pm

    @concerned “Perhaps if I used those decoder glasses I got as a kid in a box of Trix cereal it will decode these secret messages and definitions.”

    I can certainly ask the CAFC

    “A person cannot make this stuff up.”

    It’s like talking to children

  • [Avatar for B]
    B
    April 26, 2022 08:42 pm

    @ Benny

    Given that a smartwatch is “wearable” I was thinking a 102 rejection

  • [Avatar for B]
    B
    April 26, 2022 08:38 pm

    @ MaxDrei “So, for which member of the supreme court are the facts of American Axle too challenging?”

    All of them, . . . .

    . . . . and too challenging for Taranto, Dyk, and a half-dozen other judges at the CAFC

  • [Avatar for MaxDrei]
    MaxDrei
    April 26, 2022 12:51 pm

    I snorted with derision when I read in the petition that the Axle case is not suited to inspection by the Supreme Court because not only is it “highly” technical but, worse, it:

    “….requires an understanding of multiple laws of nature.”

    Even “arts majors” who have ever listened to music understand that strings vibrate and that some frequencies are resonant. So, for which member of the supreme court are the facts of American Axle too challenging?

    It is beyond me how anybody can with a straight face seriously contend that “consumer electronics” are lower technology than a vehicle drive shaft, or require understanding of fewer “laws of nature” than those required to understand vibrations in a string.

    But so what? I read on another blog that the last time SCOTUS simplified the law (as opposed to making it needlessly more complex) was back in 1966, in the case of United States v Adams. So let’s hope, shall we, that the court declines to accept not only the Axle case but also this new case. what do you say?

  • [Avatar for Benny]
    Benny
    April 26, 2022 11:58 am

    Never mind 101, it shouldn’t be hard to provide a pretty robust 103 rejection based on prior art wherein information received by your smartphone is displayed on your smartwatch.

  • [Avatar for concerned]
    concerned
    April 25, 2022 07:20 pm

    The PTAB said my invention only improved the technology within my field as a reason for rejection.

    I must be dense. Of course my invention did the same as a person solving cancer did not improve the radio, or anything else, but cancer.

    We did thank the PTAB in our CAFC appeal for their admission as to the technological advancement of my process in my field and their admission that I met the law as written.

    However, the PTAB may have me on those secret definitions of “significantly more” and “inventive concept” that are found in unspecified case law and unspecified MPEP alleged in the PTAB response.

    Perhaps if I used those decoder glasses I got as a kid in a box of Trix cereal it will decode these secret messages and definitions.

    A person cannot make this stuff up.

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