On December 6, 2013, the Supreme Court issued a writ of certiorari in Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International, Docket No. 13-298. Petitioner Alice presented the following question to the Court: “Whether claims to computer-implemented inventions – including claims to systems and machines, processes, and items of manufacture – are directed to patent-eligible subject matter within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. § 101 as interpreted by this Court.” 

Review by the Supreme Court follows a decision from the Federal Circuit, sitting en banc, that invalidated the claims of Alice’s asserted patents. The asserted patents included computer-implemented methods for reducing risk in financial transactions. Previous Federal Circuit case law had created conflicting standards for assessing the patent eligibility of computer-implemented inventions. To clarify the case law, the Federal Circuit decided to hear Alice’s appeal from a district court decision en banc and determine the correct standard for the patent eligibility of computer-implemented inventions. 

In its decision, the Federal Circuit held that the claims at issue were not directed to patent-eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. But a majority of Federal Circuit judges could not agree on a standard for determining the patent eligibility of computer-implemented inventions. 

By granting Alice’s petition, the Supreme Court appears interested in resolving the Federal Circuit’s impasse and clarifying the recent case law surrounding patent-eligible subject matter as it relates to computer-implemented inventions. In recent years, the Supreme Court has opined on a number of cases dealing with patent-eligible subject matter under § 101 of the Patent Act, such as the patent eligibility of isolated genes inAssociation for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics and the patent eligibility of business methods in Bilski v. Kappos