Recent Cases Show Federal Circuit Is Concerned About ‘Over Abstracting’ Rejections of Method/ Process Patents
In one of its latest opinions attempting to parse precedent on the subject matter eligibility of software, method of use, and business method patents that arguably involve application of laws of nature or recitations of well-known, conventional methods and techniques, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that a patent directed to a method for administering a naturally occurring beta amino acid to cause an increase in the concentration of a naturally occurring amino acid combination in muscle and brain tissues was subject matter eligible for patent protection (Natural Alternatives Int’l, Inc. v. Creative Compounds, LLC, No. 18-1295, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 7647 (Fed Cir. March 15, 2019). The panel’s 2-1 majority decision conceded that the claims at issue involved laws of nature and had similarities to claims the U.S. Supreme Court had found subject matter ineligible but found that the claims possessed sufficient inventiveness beyond natural phenomenon and conventional methods to make them subject matter eligible for patent protection. Since Alice, the Federal Circuit and the federal district courts have been striving to implement and apply the Alice test to methods of use, software, and business method inventions that arguably involve applications of laws of nature and conventional methods. The challenge for the court in these cases has been to determine whether the claims sufficiently go beyond applications of laws of nature and known conventions to qualify as subject matter eligible for patent protection under Section 101. The Federal Circuit has found an inventive concept in several such cases.