Federal Circuit Summary

Before Taranto, Plager, and Chen. Appeal from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

Summary: A patent claim is directed to an abstract idea where it broadly recites a result without defining how the result is achieved other than through implementation of generic computer functions.

In an earlier Federal Circuit decision, the Court vacated a judgment of noninfringement on 4 asserted patent claims. On remand, the district court held that those 4 claims were directed to patent ineligible subject matter under § 101. On a second appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed. The claims were directed to an abstract idea: presenting two sets of information, in a non-overlapping way, on a display screen. The claims were result-centric. The patent did not explain how the claimed functionality was to be accomplished. The claimed instructions were recited at a high level of generality and did not impose meaningful limitations that would improve a computer as a tool.

Judge Plager concurred in the decision “given the current state of the law.” But he wrote separately to dissent from the court’s continued application of what he called an “incoherent body of doctrine” that “renders it near impossible to know with any certainty whether the invention is or is not patent eligible.”