Uniloc USA, Inc. et al. v. LG Electronics USA, Inc. et al.
Docket No. 2019-1835
MOORE, REYNA, TARANTO
April 30, 2020
Brief Summary: DC decision of patent ineligibility under § 101 for being abstract (Alice, step one) reversed and remanded (“patent-eligible improvement to computer functionality”).
Summary: Uniloc appealed DC grant of summary judgment (SJ) to LG after finding the ‘049 patent claims directed to communication systems ineligible under § 101 as being directed to an abstract idea. The DC held the claims to be “directed to the abstract idea of ‘additional polling in a wireless communication system,’ analogizing the claims to the data manipulation claims” held ineligible in Two-Way Media (FC 2017) and Digitech Image (FC 2014), and to “fail to recite an ‘inventive concept sufficient to save the claim[s]’.” The FC panel explained that computer-related patent eligible claims are those that, e.g., “change the normal operation of the computer network itself” (DDR Holdings, FC 2014), “improve the way computers operate and handle data” (Enfish, FC 2016), “focus on a ‘specific asserted improvement in computer capabilities” (“not…categorical data storage”) (Visual Memory, FC 2017), including “non-abstract improvement to computer security” (Ancora Techs., FC 2018), “a tool able to instantly access all parts of a complex three-dimensional electronic spreadsheets” (Data Engine, FC 2018), and “an improved use interface” (Core Wireless, FC 2018). Here, the FC panel found “the claims at issue” to be “directed to a patent-eligible improvement to computer functionality, namely the reduction of latency experienced by parked secondary stations in communication systems”, which “eliminates or reduces the delay present in conventional systems where the primary station alternates between polling an sending inquiry messages” (“like the claims in DDR, the claimed invention changes the normal operation of the communication system itself to ‘overcome a problem specifically arising in the realm of computer networks’”; “like the improvement in computer memory we held eligible in Visual Memory, enables the communication system to accommodate additional devices, such as battery-operated additional devices, without compromising performance”). Further, the FC panel explained, “[t]he claims at issue do not merely receipt generalized steps to be performed on a computer using conventional computer activity” as did the patent ineligible claims of Digitech (“gathering and combining data that does not require input from a physical device”) and Two-Way (“using ‘result-based functional language’ without the means for achieving any purported technological improvement”). Disagreeing with LG, the FC panel explained that “[c]laims need not articulate the advantage of the claimed combinations to be eligible” and that neither “[t]he claimed invention’s compatibility with conventional communication systems” nor “the fact that the improvement is not defined by reference to ‘physical’ components” renders the claims abstract. The DC decision was therefore reversed and remanded.