Posts Tagged: "software patents"

CAFC Says Dyfan Claim Limitations are Not Invalid Due to Means-Plus-Function Format

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) reversed and remanded a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas that Dyfan, LLC’s claims were invalid as indefinite. The CAFC concluded that the disputed claim limitations were not drafted in means-plus-function format, and therefore 35 U.S.C. § 112 ¶ 6 did not apply. Patent owner Dyfan sued Target Corp. for infringement of various claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 9,973,899 and 10,194,292. Following a claim construction hearing, the district court found that the disputed (1) “code”/“application” limitations and (2) “system” limitations of the patents-in-suit were invalid as indefinite. Specifically, the district court found that: (1) these claim limitations of the patents-in-suit are in means-plus-function format under Section 112 ¶ 6 and (2) the specification does not disclose sufficient structure corresponding to the recited functions. Dyfan subsequently appealed.

U.S. Patent Grants Fell 7% Last Year, but ‘Software-Related’ Grants Remained at 63%

As an update to my posts from 2017, 2019, 2020, March 2021, and August 2021, it has now been 93 months since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank decision. Yet the debate still rages over when a software (or computer-implemented) claim is patentable versus being simply an abstract idea “free to all men and reserved exclusively to none” (as eloquently phrased over 73 years ago by then-Supreme Court Justice Douglas in Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kalo Inoculant Co.). Further, it has been 11 years since famed venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wrote the influential and often-quoted op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Software Is Eating the World.” Today, the digital transformation where software is “eating the world” is undeniable. Let’s look at some facts and figures from the USA, Europe, and China.

IPWatchdog LIVE Panel Asks if Federal Circuit is Killing Software Patents and Answers Definitively, ‘Yes’

On Day 2 of IPWatchdog LIVE, a lively morning panel was convened on the subject of “Is the Federal Circuit Killing Software Patents?” Though that question was answered in the first few seconds of the panel session, the following hour of discussion yielded various ideas on how disastrous jurisprudence on Section 101 subject matter eligibility could be addressed at the Federal Circuit. Speaking on this panel was Robert Stoll, Co-Chair of the IP Group at Faegre Drinker and Former Commissioner of Patents, USPTO; Russ Slifer, Principal at Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner and Former Deputy Director, USPTO; Raymond Millien, CEO at Harness Dickey; and Benjamin Cappel, Partner at AddyHart P.C.

Building High-Quality Patent Portfolios in the United States and Europe: Part II – Software Patents

In Part I of this series, we discussed how patent portfolio managers should be careful when generating company-owned prior art or reviewing competitor prior art, and how a patent litigation or licensing campaign can be significantly hamstrung based on how the United States and Europe consider intervening prior art. In Part II, we will focus on software patents with U.S. and EP family members. The number of software related patent applications that are filed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and European Patent Office (EPO) continues to increase despite heightened scrutiny during examination. Further, U.S. courts and national courts in Europe continue to critically analyze the eligibility of software patents.

In First Half of 2021, 63% of U.S. Patents, 48.9% at EPO and 40.1% in China Were Software-Related

As an update to my posts from 2017, 2019, 2020, and March 2021, it has now been 86 months since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank decision. Yet the debate still rages over when a software (or computer-implemented) claim is patentable versus being simply an abstract idea “free to all men and reserved exclusively to none” (as eloquently phrased over 73 years ago by then-Supreme Court Justice Douglas in Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kalo Inoculant Co.). Further, it has been 10 years since famed venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wrote the influential and often-quoted op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Software Is Eating the World.” Today, the digital transformation where software is “eating the world” is undeniable. Let’s look at some facts and figures from the USA, Europe and China.

Seven Years After Alice, 63.2% of the U.S. Patents Issued in 2020 were Software-Related

As an update to my posts from 2017, 2019, and 2020, it has now been more than seven years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank decision. Yet the debate still rages over when a software (or computer-implemented) claim is patentable versus being simply an abstract idea “free to all men and reserved exclusively to none” (as eloquently phrased over 73 years ago by then-Supreme Court Justice Douglas in Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kalo Inoculant Co.). Further, it has been 10 years since famed venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wrote an influential op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Software Is Eating the World.” This digital transformation where software is “eating the world” is undeniable.

Massive Jury Verdict for VLSI Sets Stage for ‘Efficient Infringement’ Debate

On Tuesday, March 2, a jury verdict  entered into the Western District of Texas awarded $2.175 billion in damages to VLSI Technologies for patent infringement committed by multinational tech firm Intel. The verdict, which includes one of the largest damages amounts ever awarded for patent infringement in a U.S. district court, comes less than two years after VLSI began the lawsuit and arguably marks an important milestone in the effort to address corporate business models employing “efficient infringement” techniques to earn dominant market positions, not as innovators, but as tech implementers.

Drawing Software Patent Drafting Guidance in 2021 from an Unlikely Source: the Federal Circuit

Since the Supreme Court’s Alice decision in 2014, inventors have faced extra hurdles trying to protect their software-related inventions with patents. A chief obstacle has been satisfying the two-part test for eligibility under Section 101 set forth in Alice and Mayo. To meet this test, claimed subject matter must not be directed to a judicial exception, such as an abstract idea, (Step One), and if it is, must add “significantly more” to provide an inventive concept (Step Two)…. Theodore Rand reported in IPWatchdog last week, a disturbing but not surprising trend. Rand found that, in 2020, 81% of software-related patents on appeal for subject matter eligibility in decided precedential cases (22 of 27) were found invalid. But in three cases, software-related patents were found drawn to eligible subject matter for patent purposes. Id. In each of the three cases, the appeals court pointed to aspects of the patent specifications themselves. Looking more closely at the representative claims and court’s comments with respect to the corresponding patent specification is illuminating. In particular, the court looked to the specifications for evidence of performance improvements over conventional systems, description of a technical problem/solution, and technological advantages.

Alice in 2020: Slashing Software Patents and Searching for Functional Language at the Federal Circuit (Part II)

In Part I of this article, I explained that the CAFC invalidated almost every software patent on appeal for eligibility in 2020 and recapped the first 13 such cases of the year. Despite the many software eligibility cases decided last year, there is still some uncertainty about what passes muster under the Alice two-step framework. Below is a recap of the remaining 14 cases considered by the CAFC in 2020 with respect to software patent eligibility.

Alice in 2020: Slashing Software Patents and Searching for Functional Language at the Federal Circuit (Part I)

Last year was an active one at the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) for software eligibility. It also was a brutal year for patent owners, as the CAFC invalidated almost every software patent on appeal for eligibility. Despite the many cases decided last year, there is still some uncertainty about what passes muster under the Alice two-step framework promulgated by the Supreme Court in 2014. But one thing that has become increasingly clear is that the CAFC wants to see how a particular result is achieved or how a problem is solved. This desire for a “how” or rule set from the claims creates an evident tension with the traditional notion that patent claims should recite structure, not functional language. These recent CAFC cases have also made it clear that courts will look to the specification for implementation details, even if these details do not emerge in the claims. This analysis has previously been reserved for the written description requirement under Section 112 but found its way into the Alice two-step.

Uniloc v. LG Shows that Broad Software Claims are Patent Eligible, Highlights the Perils of Concession

The Federal Circuit’s recent Uniloc v. LG Electronics decision (April 30, 2020) may be very helpful for subject matter eligibility. This Federal Circuit panel (Moore, Reyna & Taranto) held software patent claims to be patent eligible subject matter. I find the decision clearly written, with many interesting aspects. What strikes me most, though, is that seemingly very broad software patent claims were held eligible. Additionally, the decision highlights the perils of concession in a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.

Six Years After Alice: 61.8% of U.S. Patents Issued in 2019 Were ‘Software-Related’—up 21.6% from 2018

As an update to my posts from 2017 and 2019, it has now been more than six years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank decision. Still, the IP bar awaits a clear and reliable test to determine when exactly a software (or computer-implemented) claim is patentable versus being simply an abstract idea “free to all men and reserved exclusively to none.” The USPTO’s Section 101 guidelines interpreting Alice—and the accompanying 46 examples—have not cleared the confusion, and Alice continues to distract the USPTO, courts, and practitioners from focusing properly on Sections 102 (novelty) and 103 (obviousness). The net effects still being increased cost, lower patent quality, lower patent portfolio valuations, wasted patent reform lobbying dollars and, in many instances, the denial of patent protection for worthwhile software inventions.

Supreme Court Poised to Reverse CAFC Trademark Decision on Willfulness as Prerequisite for Profits Award

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Romag Fasteners v. Fossil, Inc., Fossil Stores, I. Inc., Macy’s Inc, and Macy’s Retail Holdings, Inc. to decide whether a successful trademark plaintiff must establish that infringement was willful as a hard prerequisite to an award of the infringer’s profits, rather than being just one of multiple factors to be weighed when determining entitlement to a profits award. Under the latter scheme, profits may be awardable even if the infringement was not willful. Taking the Justices’ comments at face value, it seems likely that Romag will prevail and profits may be disgorged for less-than willful infringement.

Federal Circuit Reverses District Court Finding that ‘Check Data’ Patent is Abstract

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), in an opinion authored by Judge Chen, on Friday November 15 reversed a ruling of the District Court for the District of Delaware holding Koninklijke KPN N.V.’s (KPN’s) U.S. Patent No. 6,212,662 (the ‘662 patent) ineligible under Section 101. The patent covers a method that varies “check data” to reduce systematic errors in electronic transmissions. KPN sued Gemalto M2M GMBH (Gemalto) in the district court and Gemalto moved under Rule 12(c) for a judgment on the pleadings, arguing that claims 1-4 of the ‘662 patent were ineligible under 35 U.S.C § 101, which the district court granted. KPN appealed on claims 2-4, stating that they present “a non-abstract improvement in the functionality of an existing technological process and not simply an abstract idea of manipulating data.”

Lessons from an Independent Female Inventor: Today’s Patent Laws Preclude ‘SUCCESS’

It has been one year since my software patent was invalidated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  Now, this intellectual property is considered worthless and my dream of paying off extensive student loans with the proceeds from patent licensing fees are in the past. The irony being that if it were not for these extensive student loans, this invention, most likely, would not have come to into being. My patent No. 6,769,915, issued in 2003, was invalidated under Section 101 and struck down on appeal. The patent covers “a user-interactive behavior modification system” that is in competition with technology pursued by the companies including Nike, FitBit, Apple, and Samsung.  The rules that existed when I applied for this software patent in 2000 no longer guarantee myself and hundreds of other independent inventors the right to collect patent licensing fees. This right was granted to all with The Patent Act of 1790. Yet, over the last 15 years, the U.S. patent laws have been changed drastically by extremely well-financed lobbyists on behalf of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) largest customers— global corporations, including the Big Tech industry. This has relieved Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. from the necessity of having to pay independent inventors software licensing fees. With this shift in intellectual property laws, the once small startups of Silicon Valley have become the large monopolies they are now.