Interval Licensing LLC v. AOL, Inc. et al.


Docket No. 2016-2502, -2505, -06, -07

TARANTO, PLAGER (D), CHEN
July 20, 2018

Brief summary: DC decision finding Interval’s claims patent ineligible under § 101 affirmed.

Summary: Interval appealed DC decision that claims 15-18 of US 6,034,652 “fail to recite patent-eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. §101.” The FC opinion explained that the claims were found ineligible for being “directed to an abstract idea: the presentation of two sets of information, in a non-overlapping way, on a display screen” and “lack[ing] any arguable technical advance over conventional computer and network technology for preforming the recited functions” (Alice, FC 2014; Affinity Labs, FC 2016 (“the ‘abstract idea’ step and the ‘inventive concept’ step”)). “[T]he specification”, the FC panel explained, “describes the claimed instructions as routine and conventional”, but Interval argued “the claimed ‘attention manager’” was not conventional. The DC “noted that ‘the claims do not recite how the attention manager solved the problem” alleged by Interval to be provided thereby (that of providing “a technical solution to problems arising in ‘windowed, multitasking operating systems’”). The FC panel reviewed “[t]he judicial exception in patent law against claiming abstract ideas”, which it explained “dates as far back as 1840” (Wyeth, C.C.D. Mass. 1840; also reviewing Morse, US 1853 (in both of which “the inventors…lost a claim that encompassed all solutions for achieving a desired result…those latter claims failed to recite a practical way of applying an underlying idea; they instead were drafted in such a result-oriented way that they amounted to encompassing the ‘principle in the abstract’ no matter how implemented”); Mayo, US 2012; Gottschalk, US 1972; SAP, FC 2018 (“a claimed invention must embody a concrete solution to a problem having ‘the specificity required to transform a claim from one claiming only a result to one claiming a way of achieving it”); Elec. Power, FC 2016 (“claims lacking ‘any requirements for how the desired result is achieved’”)). The FC panel also explained that “courts must ‘tread carefully’ when wielding this invalidity tool, since ‘all inventions…embody, use, reflect, rest upon, or apply laws of nature, natural phenomena, or abstract ideas’” (Alice; Enfish, FC 2016 (“[s]oftware can make non-abstract improvements to computer technology”); McRO, FC 2016; Core Wireless, FC 2018). The FC panel agreed with the DC that the “‘attention manager’ encompasses a patent-ineligible abstract concept…because the term as properly construed simply demands production of a desired result (non-interfering display of two information sets) without any limitation in how to produce that result.” The FC panel also disagreed with Interval’s inventive concept arguments (e.g., “unlike in DDR Holdings, the claims here do not offer a particular soluton to a problem that, in DDR Holdings, was unique to the Internet” (DDR, FC 2014). Thus, the DC decision was affirmed. Judge Plager’s concurred with the majority’s “carefully reasoned opinion” but dissented in that “[t]he law…renders it near impossible to know with any certainty whether the invention is or is not patent eligible.”

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