Federal Circuit, August 26, 2014, 2013-1633
Planet Bingo filed an infringement action against VKGS alleging that VKGS infringed US Patent Nos. 6,398,646 and 6,656,045 directed to computer-aided methods and systems for managing bingo games. The claims at issue are directed to a system for managing a game of Bingo comprising "a computer with a central processing unit (CPU), a memory and a printer," "an input and output terminal," and "a program" enabling multiple functions. The district court granted summary judgment of invalidity on the ground that the patents do not claim patentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. 101. In a nonprecedential ruling, the Federal Court affirmed the district court ruling by applying the two-part framework for identifying patent-eligible subject matter in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int'l, 134 S. Ct 2347 (2014).
Regarding the first prong of the Alice framework, the Federal Court determined that the claims at issue were drawn to a patent-ineligible abstract idea on the grounds that the underlying idea of managing a bingo game consists solely of mental steps which can be carried out by a human using a pen and a paper and such idea is similar to the risk hedging during consumer transactions at issue in Bilski v. Kappos, 130 S. Ct. 2347 (2010) and the kind of “organizing human activity” at issue in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank decision. Then, as to the second prong of the Alice framework, the Federal Circuit determined that the claims do not contain an ‘inventive concept’ sufficient to ‘transform’ the claimed abstract idea into a patent-eligible application because the claims recite a generic computer implementation of the covered abstract idea and the function performed by the computer at each step of the process is purely conventional.
The Federal Circuit confirmed that a system claim reciting a computer parts such as CPU/memory/printer will not be patent eligible subject matter if the underlying idea is an abstract idea and the computer does not provide "something significantly more than" the abstract idea itself.