Washington, DC The Federal Circuit on October 9, 2012 granted en banc review of a case in which a Federal Circuit panel held that a claim must not be deemed inadequate under 35 U.S.C. §101 if, after taking all of the claim recitations into consideration, it is not “manifestly evident” that a claim is directed to a patent ineligible abstract idea. The court vacated the panel decision and requested briefing on the following questions:
- What test should the court adopt to determine whether a computer-implemented invention is a patent ineligible “abstract idea”; and when, if ever, does the presence of a computer in a claim lend patent eligibility to an otherwise patent-ineligible idea?
- In assessing patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 of a computer-implemented invention, should it matter whether the invention is claimed as a method, system, or storage medium; and should such claims at times be considered equivalent for § 101 purposes?
The panel decision stressed that patent eligibility must be determined by what is evident from specific, concrete applications of the ideas behind an invention disclosed in the claims. The panel opinion, written in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012), included the following observation:
“[N]othing in the Supreme Court’s precedent, nor in ours, allows a court to go hunting for abstractions by ignoring the concrete, palpable, tangible, and otherwise not abstract invention the patentee actually claims. It is fundamentally improper to paraphrase a claim in overly simplistic generalities in assessing whether the claim falls under the limited “abstract ideas” exception to patent eligibility under 35 USC §101. Patent eligibility must be evaluated based on what the claims recite, not merely on the ideas upon which they are premised.”
The challenged patents in this case are directed to a computerized trading platform for exchanging obligations in which a trusted third party settles obligations between a first and second party so as to eliminate “settlement risk.” The district court granted a summary judgment motion that the claims were not patent eligible because they are directed to an abstract idea. On appeal the Federal Circuit panel reversed, concluding that the system, method, and media claims are directed to practical applications of an invention falling within the categories of patent eligible subject matter defined by Section 101.