Docket No. 2017-1135
REYNA, BRYSON, STOLL
October 9, 2018
Brief summary: DC finding certain of DET’s claim ineligible under § 101 affirmed-in-part, reversed-in-part (e.g., claims “not abstract, but rather directed to a specific improved method for navigating through complex three-dimensional electronic spreadsheets”), and remanded.
Summary: DET appealed DC holding that US 5,590,259; 5,784,545; 6,282,551 (“Tab Patents”) and 5,303,146 are ineligible under § 101 as being directed to abstract ideas and failing to provide an inventive concept. The FC panel explained that “[t]he Tab Patents specifically identify problems with navigation through prior art three-dimensional or multipage electronic spreadsheets”, providing a “solution to this problem” by providing a “notebook-tabbed interface” (e.g., in a “preferred embodiment, ‘each page identifier is in the form of a tab member…situated along a bottom edge of the notebook”). The DC concluded that representative ‘259 claim 12 “is ‘directed to the abstract idea of using notebook-type tabs to label and organize spreadsheets’…that humans have commonly performed entirely in their minds, with the aid of columnar pads and writing instruments”, and “that the remaining limitations…fail to recite an inventive concept”, and therefore ineligible under § 101. The DC found the ‘146 patent claims to also be ineligible for similar reasons. Considering the Tab Patents under Alice’s step one (US 2014 (“whether the claims at issue are directed to a patent-ineligible concept”; CellzDirect, FC 2016 (“we must determine whether that patent-ineligible concept is what the claim is ‘directed to’”), the FC panel disagreed with the DC and held the Tab Patents to be directed to patent eligible subject matter because the claims, other than claim 1 of the ‘551 patent, “are not abstract, but rather directed to a specific improved method for navigating through complex three-dimensional electronic spreadsheets” and eligible under § 101” (e.g., “[t]he improvement allowed computers, for the first time, to provide rapid access to and processing of information in different spreadsheets” and “easy navigation”, “applauded by the industry for improving computers’ functionality” (pointing to several articles submitted during prosecution); similar to Core Wireless” (FC 2018 (the “invention…improved the efficiency of…display interfaces…a particular manner of summarizing and presenting information in electronic devices”), Trading Techs., FC 2017 (“require[d] a specific, structured graphical user interface paired with a prescribed functionality”); unlike Affinity Labs (FC 2016 (“[t]he claims were ‘entirely functional in nature’”), Capital One (FC 2017 (“claims ‘directed to the abstract idea of collecting, displaying, and manipulating data’”), and Erie Indemnity (FC 2017 (“claims did not recite any specific structure or improvement of computer functionality”); Enfish, FC 2016 (must claim “a specific improvement to the way computers…operate”)). As it found representative claim 12 not to be abstract under Alice step one, it did not reach step two. Claim 1 of the ‘551 patent was held to be patent ineligible, however, because “under Alice step one, [it] is directed to the abstract idea of identifying and storing electronic spreadsheet pages” (e.g., it “does not recite the specific implementation of a notebook tab interface”) and “fail[s] to provide an inventive concept.” The FC panel agreed with the DC that under Alice step one the ‘146 claims “are akin to those we held ineligible in Content Extraction” (FC 2014 (“must involve more than performance of ‘well-understood, routine, [and] conventional activities previously known to the industry”)), and “do not recite an inventive concept under Alice step two” (“[t]he claims recite the generic steps of creating a base version of a spreadsheet, creating a new version…, and determining changes”).