A court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania held three patents invalid this week under the Supreme Court’s recent test for subject matter eligibility set out in Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 134 S.Ct. 2347 (2014). The patents at issue each related to “a method of automatically applying hypothesis testing to a data set.” Certain subject matter is not eligible for patent protection, including “laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas.” In Alice, the Supreme Court set out a two-part test for determining whether a patent claim is directed toward ineligible subject matter. First, look to see if the claim involves a patent ineligible concept, such as an abstract idea, and then determine whether the claims involve an “inventive concept” that makes the claim significantly more than a patent on the concept itself.
The district court found that the “method of applying hypothesis testing to a data set” in each of the patents at issue was an abstract concept, analogizing it to the patent-ineligible mathematical calculations and business processes in Parker v. Flook, 437 U.S. 584 (1978) and Bilski v. Kappos, 561 U.S. 593 (2010). The court then found that the claim language merely recited “well-known, conventional activities” such as obtaining information from a user, selecting an appropriate test to apply to a data set, applying the test, interpreting the results, and displaying a summary of the results. These activities were not sufficiently inventive to make the patent claim more than a broad claim to the concept of automatic hypothesis testing.
Minitab, Inc. v. EngineRoom, LLC, No. 4:12-cv-2170 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 3, 2015).