Software Patent Claims Get Post-Alice Clarity

Federal Circuit decision gives software patent holders more room to dodge the ‘abstract concept’ bullet

By Doug Chartier

LAW WEEK COLORADO

Patent holders might have a little more confidence in their software patent claims after a major appellate reversal last month.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Sept. 13 held that a 3-D animation software process was patent-eligible and not an abstract concept. It passed the threshold for contributing specific improvements in computer technology. For the patent law community well as for companies managing technological patent portfolios, the case provides much-needed clarity on when a patent claim might not be dismissed for being considered abstract. The facts of McRO v. Bandai involve a 3-D animation program, but the case’s implications could go beyond even the patent eligibility of software in general.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 landmark patent opinion in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank, it has been more difficult for computer-based patents to be considered patent-eligible under Title 35 of the U.S. Code Section 101.

Courts have since applied a two-step framework that asks whether a patent claim is directed to, among other disqualifying categories, an abstract idea, which has been a difficult hurdle for computer-based claims to clear.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the October 3, 2016 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.