On August 26, 2014, the Federal Circuit invalidated two Planet Bingo patents directed to computer implemented methods for managing bingo games, ruling that the patents cover patent ineligible subject matter under the Supreme Court’s opinion in Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank International, 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014).
Planet Bingo filed a patent infringement lawsuit against VKGS in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, alleging infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,398,646 and 6,656,045. The district court granted VSGS’s motion for summary judgment of non-infringement on the ground that the asserted claims are invalid for lack of patentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101.
In a unanimous decision authored by Judge Hughes, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling that the Planet Bingo patents are invalid because they preempt the abstract idea of playing bingo using a general purpose computer. The patents cover computerized method of storing bingo numbers, comparing them to the numbers selected by players and verifying winning numbers. The Federal Circuit found that the patents cover nothing more than an abstract idea because “managing the game of bingo consists of mental steps which can be carried out by a human using pen and paper.” The Federal Circuit noted that abstract ideas can be patent-eligible if the patent involves an “inventive concept” under Alice Corporation, but the Federal Circuit declined to find that Planet Bingo’s patents met this standard.
In rejecting Planet Bingo’s argument that its computerized system is not abstract because it can store “literally thousands, if not millions” of bingo numbers that a human could not remember, the Federal Circuit noted that the patents do not teach anything about storing millions of numbers, and only mention comparing one set of stored numbers with numbers selected by a player. Because “the claims fall short of capturing an invention that necessarily handles ‘thousands, if not millions’ of bingo numbers or players,” the Federal Circuit declined to address whether a claimed invention requiring that many transactions “might tip the scales of patent eligibility.”
Planet Bingo, LLC v. VKGS LLC, No. 2013-1663 (Fed. Cir. 2014).