The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court’s pleadings-stage determination that patent claims directed to an object-oriented simulation were subject matter ineligible under 35 USC § 101. Simio, LLC v. FlexSim Software Prod., Inc., Case No. 20-1171 (Fed. Cir. Dec 29, 2020) (Prost, C.J.).
Simio filed suit against FlexSim for infringement of patent claims directed to object-oriented simulations in which one instance of an object may have behaviors assigned to it without changing the generic object’s definition. FlexSim moved to dismiss the complaint under Fed. R. of Civ. P.12(b)(6), arguing that the patent was invalid under 35 USC § 101. The district court granted FlexSim’s motion to dismiss, finding that the asserted claims were directed to the ineligible abstract idea of substituting text-based coding with graphical processing and that FlexSim properly showed there was no inventive concept or alteration sufficient to make the system patent-eligible. Simio appealed.
The Federal Circuit reviewed the dismissal order and its underlying patent eligibility conclusions de novo. Under the two-step Alice/Mayo framework, the Court affirmed. Considering the first step of the Alice/Mayo framework, the Court agreed that the asserted claims were “directed to the abstract idea of using graphics instead of programming to create object-oriented simulations.” The Court rejected Simio’s argument that the “executable process to add a new behavior to an object instance” improved the functionality of the computer on which it ran, concluding that no improvement was made to the computer and that the claim limitation did not change the claim’s “character as a whole.” As to step two of the Alice/Mayo framework, whether the claim limited the abstract idea to an inventive concept, the Federal Circuit concluded that, while the claim may be directed to a new idea, it is still an abstract one lacking any inventive concept or application of the idea. The Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal.
The Federal Circuit next addressed whether the district court erred in denying Simio’s motion for leave to amend its complaint. The Court concluded that, after disregarding conclusory statements, Simio’s amended complaint just repackaged the same assertions of non-abstractness as the original complaint. Citing its holding in ShoppersChoice.com (IP Update, May 2020), the Court also rejected Simio’s argument that the district court should have conducted claim construction before determining eligibility. In ShoppersChoice.com, the Court held that pleadings-stage patent eligibility decisions may be proper when the patentee does not explain how a term’s construction could affect the analysis.
Finally, the Federal Circuit raised its own independent reasoning for denying Simio’s motion for leave to amend, explaining that it “may affirm on any grounds for which there is a record sufficient to permit conclusions of law, even grounds not relied upon by the district court.” The Court found that Simio failed to show good cause for seeking leave to amend after the scheduling order’s deadline. Namely, Simio’s amended complaint contained no facts that could not have been alleged before the deadline. Nor did Simio demonstrate any relevant change of law.