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10.17.17

The Federal Circuit Continues Squashing Software Patents

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 7:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit virtually overrides even a rare decision from last year — one in which it tolerated a software patent

Sharon ProstSummary: Under the leadership of Sharon Prost (left) the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) continues its war on software patents, making it very hard to remember the last time it tolerated any

THE EPO is depressing, but at the USPTO we are currently seeing a lot of bad patents swept aside and eliminated by the courts.

The latest?

It’s referring to Enfish v Microsoft again:

Federal Circuit finds mail patents invalid under Alice despite Enfish plea

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has affirmed a district court decision that found seven patents belonging to patent licensing company Secured Mail Solutions (SMS) invalid under the Alice Corp v CLS Bank ruling.

This is despite SMS stating that the decision in Enfish v Microsoft—which adopted a more permissive approach to computer-related technology—meant its patents shouldn’t be invalidated.

The dispute began after a complaint was made by SMS, which was set up by former lawyer Todd Fitzsimmons “to pursue the using and licensing of his inventions”. SMS accused marketing company Universal Wilde of infringing seven patents relating to various systems and methods for mail verification.

So Enfish does not quite change much (if anything at all). In fact, on the same day as the above report — a report about invalid patents — the patent microcosm (PCK Perry + Currier Inc Currier + Kao LLP) suddenly recalls Enfish v Microsoft. To quote:

This rare decision bucks the current US trend of invalidating software patents as mere abstract theorems as started by the decision in Alice Corp Pty Ltd v. CLS Bank Int’l, 573 U.S. __ (2014) (“Alice”).

[...]

In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“CAFC”) reversed the decision of the district court in part, finding that the claims at issue were patent-eligible as being directed to “an improvement to computer functionality itself, not on economic or other tasks for which a computer is used in its ordinary capacity.” [pg. 12] The CAFC also reversed the finding that the claims were anticipated, but affirmed the district court’s decision that there was no infringement. [pg. 30]

Let’s wait and see how many patent maximalism sites conveniently ignore the decision regarding the patent troll, SMS.

Here is what Patently-O wrote several hours ago:

The patents all involve an mailer (i.e. package or envelope) with an identifier on the outside such as a barcode, QR code, or URL. Once delivered, information is communicated (via computers) to the recipient about the contents and the sender.

As Patently-O readers understand, abstract ideas themselves are not patentable. Likewise a patent directed to an abstract idea is also unpatentable, unless the claims include an additional inventive concept that goes beyond the unpatentable idea to “transform the nature of the claim into a patent-eligible invention.” Alice.

The Alice two-step inquiry first asks whether the claims are directed to an abstract idea. Here, the courts agreed that the claims “are directed to the abstract idea of communicating information about a [mailer] by use of a marking.” Under Step Two, the appellate panel found that the claims merely recited “well known and conventional ways to allow generic communication between a sender and recipient using generic computer technology.” Invalid.

So yet more software patents bite the dust at the Federal Circuit. When was the last time the Federal Circuit tolerated an actual software patent (not something which the maximalists wrongly described as such)? We can hardly remember.

It certainly seems like, at least as far as the Federal Circuit is concerned, software patents are dead. They have no chance.

Dr. McDonagh has meanwhile mentioned this new case in which “Facebook and Instagram receive enforcement letters over iFramed app” (nothing innovative).

To quote: “Telecoms company UnitedCorp has claimed that features on Facebook and Instagram that allow users to reveal their location infringe technology it owns covering a newly released smartphone app.

“In cease-and-desist letters, Miami-based UnitedCorp said the social media networks’ geolocation-based image overlays infringe a patent covering the iFramed app.”

Seems like a simple Alice case if Facebook (connected to Instagram) decides to file an IPR and/or challenge it in a court. Facebook is one of the loudest PTAB proponents after all. It’s incredible that some patent cases like these are still being filed, let alone against a deep-pocketed company which can afford to appeal all the way up to CAFC (or higher).

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