“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.’”
A 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:
- 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
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.
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