Koninkijke KPN N.V. v. Gemalto, et al. and LG Electronics, Inc.
Docket Nos. 2018-1863-65
DYK, CHEN, STOLL
November 15, 2019
Brief Summary: DC finding of invalidity under § 101 reversed (claims “employs a new way of generating check data”).
Summary: KPN appealed DC finding that claims 2-4 of US 6,212,662 were invalid under § 101 since “the claims recite no more than mere abstract data manipulation operations, such as ‘reordering data and generating additional data.’” The FC panel opinion explains that “[c]onventional prior art systems detected errors in data transmissions by generating something called ‘check data’ (or ‘supplementary data’)” that is “attached to the original data” so that a receiver can detect errors. Errors are detected by the receiver by comparing the original data (“d1”) with the check data (“d2”). The system described in the ‘662 patent is designed to reduce “systematic error” by varying “the way check data is generated from time to time” (“a variable checking system”) and “different ways” of doing so (e.g., “varying the generating function”, “vary the original data before it is fed into the generating device”, varying it by “permutation” (the embodiment to which the disputed claims relate)). Under step one of Alice (US 2014), the DC found the claims to be “directed to the ‘abstract idea of reordering data and generating additional data’” as in Two-Way Media (FC 2017), RecogniCorp (FC 2017), Intell. Ventures (FC 2017), and Digitech (FC 2014) (e.g., “they do ‘not say how data is reordered”, how to use it, or “even that any data is transmitted”). Under step two of Alice, the DC “concluded that the claims are ineligible because KPN’s ‘purported inventive concept [was] not captured in the claims”. The FC panel explained that “[s]ince Alice”, it has “found software inventions to be patent-eligible where they have made non-abstract improvements to existing technological processes and computer technology” and that “[a]n improved result, without more stated in the claim, is not enough to confer eligibility” (“the claims must recite a specific means or method that solves a problem in an existing technological process”) (citing McRO, FC 2016; Enfish, FC 2016; Finjan, FC 2018; Ancora, FC 2018). Here, the FC panel reversed the DC, finding the claims to be “directed to an improved check data generating device that enables a data transmission error detection system to detect a specific type of error that prior art systems could not.” “[A]s in Finjan”, the FC panel wrote, “the claimed invention is also directed to a non-abstract improvement because it employs a new way of generating check data that enables the detection of persistent systematic errors in data transmissions that prior art systems were not previously equipped to detect” (“sufficiently capture the inventors’ asserted technical contribution”). The FC panel also explained that “[a] claim that is directed to improving the functionality of one tool…that is part of an existing system…does not necessarily need to recite how that tool is applied in the overall system” and that “the more relevant inquiry” is “whether the claims…focus on a specific means or method…or are instead directed to a result or effect” (McRO; Electric Power Group, FC 2016). The DC decision was therefore reversed.