Those who practice patent law in the computer arts before the USPTO are well aware of dealing with 35 U.S.C. § 101 rejections of claims due to alleged lack of patentable subject matter when claiming so-called “abstract ideas.” Such recent rejections have been euphemistically referred to as “Alice” rejections due to the Supreme Court case Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, 573 U.S. __, 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014). As to what constitutes an actual abstract idea, one could go round and round about legal definitions. This very round and round is playing out at various levels in various federal courts of law.
In a new recent round, DataTern, Inc. v. MicroStrategy, Inc., is a patent infringement lawsuit on remand from the Federal Circuit, where the District Court has now denied a motion for summary judgment based upon the patent being asserted as directed to merely an abstract idea. Specifically, “[t]he Federal Circuit has described the [patent-in-suit] as . . . ‘directed to interfacing an object-oriented software application to access data stored in a relational database. . . creating ‘interface objects’ that act as intermediaries between the object oriented application and the relational database.’ . . . [W]hen read as a whole, the patent here does not recite a computer as a post-solution limitation or a specific application of a more generic abstract idea. Rather, the [patent] is directed at solving a problem that specifically arises in the realm of computing; indeed, object-oriented programs exist only in the realm of computers, and relational databases are utilized primarily, if not exclusively, on computers.”
A take-away here then is that patent claims directed to solving a specific problem are seen more and more as patent-eligible subject matter capable of escaping the gravity of the black hole known as Alice.