In McRO, Inc. v. Bandai Namco Games America, Appeal Nos. 2015-1080, -1081, -1082, -1083, -1084, -1085, -1086, -1087, -1088, -1089, -1090, -1092, -1093, -1094, -1095, -1096, -1097, -1098, -1099, -1100, -1101, the Federal Circuit reversed the district court’s finding that claims directed to the automation of lip synchronization and facial expression in three-dimensional animated characters were invalid under §101.
Plaintiff McRO, Inc. sued multiple defendants for infringement of two patents claiming methods for automatically animating the lip synchronizing and facial expressions of three-dimensional characters. The defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings and the district court found the asserted claims invalid as being directed to patent-ineligible subject matter under §101.
On appeal, the Federal Circuit reversed, holding that the claimed methods were not directed to an abstract idea. Contrary to the defendants’ argument, the claims were not so broad as to encompass the entire concept of automating lip synchronization for animated characters. While the claims broadly encompass using an unspecified set of rules to define the output for the facial expression of a character, the failure to claim a specific set of rules did not make the claims abstract. The Federal Circuit explained that the claimed rules included certain limitations, such as having to be rendered in a certain way, making them more akin to a genus claim which is not necessarily unpatentable. Accordingly, the claims were held to be patent eligible and the Federal Circuit did not address step two of the Alice test.