Addressing the scope of covered business method (CBM) patent review and clarifying the application of the “real party in interest” in joint defense groups, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB or Board) determined that a patent directed to graphical user interfaces for electronic trading does not fall within a category of patents exempted from CBM review, and refused to expand the meaning of a “real party in interest” to cover members of a joint defense group. IBFX, Inc. v. Trading Techs. Int’l, Inc., Case No. CBM2015-00181 (PTAB, Mar. 7, 2016) (Plenzler, APJ).

Trading Technologies asserted several patents in district court against various e-trading companies. After forming a joint defense group, the defendants coordinated efforts to file multiple CBM petitions for the asserted patents. In this proceeding, the challenged patent is directed to a method for displaying a graphical user interface that dynamically displays the market depth of a traded commodity and allows the user to place electronic trades more efficiently.

Trading Technologies argued that the petition was improper because none of the patent’s claims were directed to a CBM and were instead part of a category of technological inventions that were exempted from CBM review. Trading Technologies cited Senator Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) comments about the America Invents Act—namely, that CBM review was not meant to target “novel software tools and graphical user interfaces that are used by electronic trading industry workers to implement trading or asset allocation strategies,” and that, “generally speaking, it is not the understanding of Congress that such patents would be reviewed and invalidated under [the CBM review process].” The Board rejected those statements as inconsistent with the wording of the law as passed, and it reiterated its view, affirmed in Versata (IP Update, Vol. 18, No. 8), that a CBM review may be proper where at least one claim is directed to a “financial product or service,” which broadly encompasses claims that are “financial in nature, incidental to a financial activity or complementary to a financial activity.”

Trading Technologies also suggested that the petition was improper because all members of the joint defense group should have been named as “real parties in interest.” Trading Technologies described defendants’ multiple CBM filings as abusive “litigation gamesmanship” and part of a larger “scheme of coordination” among joint defense group members. The Board rejected this argument, stating that mere coordination among defendants does not make joint defense group members real parties in interest to each other’s CBM petitions, absent a showing that the would-be co-defendants exercised control over the filing of each other’s petitions.