Cisco Systems, Inc. v. Uniloc 2017 LLC
Docket No. 2019-2048
MOORE, O’MALLEY, TARANTO
May 13, 2020
Brief Summary: DC finding of patent ineligibility under § 101 affirmed (abstract idea since claim includes “no specific asserted improvements”).
Summary: Uniloc appealed DC finding that claim 6 of US 6,980,522 relating to a radio communication system with “a plurality of stations capable of forming an ad-hoc network” ineligible under § 101. Under the Alice (US 2014) eligibility framework, the DC found “that the claims were directed to the abstract idea of ‘ranking stations based on antenna performance characteristics and selecting the station with the highest rank to act as master in a network’” and “lacked an inventive concept as ‘neither the claim nor the specification provides for implementation of the abstract idea using anything other than existing, conventional technology.’” The FC panel agreed with the DC that the claim covers an abstract idea since, e.g., “[t]he general recitation of the familiar concepts of ranking and selecting leaves the claimed method ‘untethered to any specific or concrete way of implementing it’” (Affinity Labs, FC 2016). Uniloc argued that the claimed method is directed “to an improvement in the computer network or network functionality” (citing Uniloc, FC 2020; Customedia, FC 2020; Finjan, FC 2018), but the FC panel disagreed (“Here there are no specific asserted improvements.”; citing Finjan, FC 2018 (“‘behavior-based virus scan’ provided greater computer security”); SRI, FC 2019 (“a specific technique for improving computer network security”); Data Engine, FC 2018 (“specific method for navigating through three-dimensional electronic spreadsheets”); Thales Vision, 850 F.3d 1343 (2017) (“more accurately calculate the position and orientation of an object on a moving platform”))). Uniloc also argued the DC’s dismissal was incorrect because Uniloc “presented ‘specific, plausible factual allegations’ about why the invention…was not conventional’” as it “involves dynamically analyzing relative rankings of antenna performance” and “effectuat[ing] a hand-off of the master station”. The FC panel disagreed since the disputed claim does not include these limitations and the argument are “sweeping conclusory statements” (In re Gilead, 9th Cir. 2008). Regarding Alice’s step two (“whether the additional elements ‘transform the nature of the claim’ into a patent-eligible application”), the FC panel agreed with the DC that “neither the claim nor the specification provides for implementation of the abstract idea using anything other than existing, conventional technology” which was not disputed by Uniloc. Thus, the DC decision was affirmed.