On September 11, 2014, District Judge Steven D. Merryday for the United States District Court Middle District of Florida determined that plaintiff Every Penny Count’s (EPC) patents were invalid for claiming unpatentable subject matter. The patents­at­issue are directed to methods and systems of automated saving or automated charitable donations, in which a credit purchase or bank deposit is rounded up or down, respectively, to the next whole dollar, and the remainder is deposited into a savings or charitable giving account. Wells Fargo challenged the validity of the patent by moving for summary judgment under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

The court applied the two­step analysis set forth in the recent Supreme Court decision Alice Corp. Pty. v. CLS Bank Int’l. First the court determined that the claims at issue were directed to an abstract idea, which is a patent­ ineligible concept. Next, the court considered the other elements of the claims and determined that they were not sufficient to “transform an abstract idea into a patent­eligible invention.” The court found that EPC’s inventions were merely a computerized version of a well­known technique, namely that a small saving on multiple occasions accumulates into a large saving.

Although Alice controls this decision, the court held that that Bilski v. Kappos and Mayo Collaborative Serv. v. Prometheus Lab., Inc. further support the invalidity of EPC’s patents as patent ineligible subject matter. Similar to Bilski, allowing these patents would effectively grant a monopoly over an abstract idea even though it is limited to one field of use. Unlike Mayo, which claimed a novel natural phenomenon that was still found to be invalid, EPC’s patents claim a conventional method for modifying and depositing transaction amounts. Therefore, the court granted Wells Fargo’s motion for summary judgment that EPC’s patents are invalid under Section 101.

Every Penny Counts, Inc. v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 8:11­cv­2826 (Fla. M.D. Sep. 11, 2014)