Addressing the issue of patent eligibility under § 101, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of a complaint on the grounds that the asserted patent, directed to web browser technology, claimed an abstraction, was not limited to a technological invention and was therefore directed to patent-ineligible subject matter. Internet Patents Corp. v. Active Networks, Inc., Case Nos. 14-1048; -1061; -1062 and -1063 (Fed. Cir., June 23, 2015) (Newman, J.).
Internet Patents Corporation (IPC) is the owner of a patent directed to a web browser that stores a user “state” representing what a user has typed into a web-based form, even if that information has not yet been submitted. If the user navigates away from and back to the web-based form, the stored state is still usable in the web-form. This way, the user does not have to re-type the information he/she previously provided. IPC asserted its patent against the defendant, Active Networks, among others. Active Networks moved to dismiss the complaint. After the district court granted the motion, finding the patent invalid for failure to meet the eligibility requirements of patentable subject matter, IPC appealed.
Applying the first step of the Supreme Court’s Alice analysis (IP Update, Vol. 17, No. 7), the Federal Circuit explained that “[t]he character of the claimed invention is an abstract idea: the idea of retaining information in the navigation of online forms.” With respect to the second step of the Alice analysis—whether the claims contain an “inventive concept” —IPC argued that various limitations, such as “maintaining said state . . .” took the claim outside the realm of a mere abstract idea and claimed an improvement over prior art. But the Federal Circuit rejected IPC’s argument, noting that the patent’s specification refers to the “browser Back and Forward button functionality” as “conventional.” The patent specification also referred to the Back and Forward functionality as “well-known” and “common.”
The Federal Circuit also explained that “[the asserted] claim . . . contains no restriction on how the result is accomplished” and “[t]he mechanism for maintaining the state is not described, although this is stated to be the essential innovation.” Therefore, “IPC’s proposed interpretation of ‘maintaining state’ describes the effect or result dissociated from any method by which maintaining the state is accomplished upon the activation of an icon.” For these reasons, the Court concluded the claims were not directed to patent-eligible subject matter.