Federal Circuit

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Federal Circuit Rules PTAB's Definition of CBM Patent Is Too Broad

Patent attorneys may be wondering where to go after a federal appeals court upended a decision involving location services on mobile devices.

In a unanimous decision, the appeals court ruled that a patent review board had overstepped its authority in denying the patent as a "covered business method." Judge Jimmie Reyna said the board used an overbroad definition that would have allowed the board to consider challenges to virtually any device that could be used in commerce. He said, in essence, that it is not a covered business method just because it could result in a sale.

"Take, for example, a patent for an apparatus for digging ditches," he wrote in the decision for Unwired Planet, LLC. "Does the sale of the dirt that results from use of the ditch digger render the patent a CBM patent? No ..."

In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that certain software patents were "abstract ideas," ineligible for patent protection, despite requiring the use of a computer for implementation. In the subsequent years, that decision, Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank, and the two-part test it established, has been used to invalidate a host of software patents. Yet, in a handful of decisions, the Federal Circuit has taken a more permissive approach, reversing lower court invalidations and holding that the abstract idea test did not render specific software patents ineligible.

The Federal Circuit did so again this Tuesday, reversing the invalidation of patents that were "parts of a system designed to solve an accounting and billing problem faced by network service providers," and exposing a growing rift between the Federal Circuit judges.

It was a good Monday for Apple. The tech giant won two appeals in the Federal Circuit this week, as that appellate court upheld two decisions rejecting claims by patent licensing companies that Apple had infringed on others' patents.

In one case, a licensing company accused Apple of infringing on its patents for data communications -- in pagers. Apple had accused the company of being a patent troll and described the lawsuit as extortion.

'On Sale' Gets Clarification by Fed Cir. Applying Basic Common Law

Welcome clarification sprang from the Federal Circuit on the issue of what constitutes a good on sale under the 35 U.S.C. sec. 102(b) et seq. Specifically, the court addressed when the "on sale" bar would or would not get triggered on those patents that were filed before the passage of the America Invents Act (AIA).

The legal issue before the courts in this case were not fundamentally about intellectual property, but basic contract law.

Facebook Beats Indacon in Claim Construction Game

Facebook has squeezed out of lower court ruling that the company infringed on a Texas-based software developer's database patent, inelegantly named the "Database system and method for data acquisition and perusal."

Software company Indacon sued Facebook in 2010 alleging that the social media company infringed on patent no. 6,834,276, which it claimed was violated when Facebook integrated linking and searching features into the Facebook interface.

Churrascos are delicious grilled meats found throughout Latin America, as skirt steaks in Puerto Rico, barbecue in Brazil, or slathered in chimichurri in Nicaragua. Churrascos is also a small chain of restaurants which sell, of course, South American grilled meats, along with other dishes. Cordua Restaurants Inc., the owner of the Churrascos chain, sought to register a stylized trademark of that name -- and was denied.

The Federal Circuit upheld that denial recently, finding that the term was too generic to be entitled to trademark protection.

Two summers ago, a unanimous Supreme Court struck down patent protection for a computerized method of reducing "settlement risk" in financial transactions. Since that case, Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, IP attorneys and courts alike have struggled with how to treat software, computerized business methods.

But, the Federal Circuit's recent Enfish ruling may provide some guidance, opening the door to broader patent eligibility for inventions that might otherwise have been rejected for being abstract.

Federal Circuit's Decision Could Invalidate 13,500 Patents

The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals stands poised with its finger potentially over the big red button that would potentially invalidate some 13,500 continuation patents filed with the USPTO -- with 13,500 being a conservative number. If the court rules in favor of defendant HTC, right or wrong, it could spell a tidal wave of litigation over continued patents whose applications were filed the same day as the original parent application.

Thinking About Cutting Hair Isn't Patentable, Federal Cir. Rules

More and more it seems that the limitations of what can be patented are defined only by the USPTO's ability to craft walls around petitioner's dance steps -- which are likely patentable. In this piece, we look at the non-precedential case of In re Brown.

So, can you patent a haircutting selection technique? Most likely not, especially if you characterize it the way the Patent Trial and Appeals Board did.

Coleman's Armband Flotation Patent Suit Decided by Federal Circuit

The Federal Circuit dealt recently with one of its more nuanced patent infringement stipulations. In Sports Dimension, Inc. v. Coleman Company, Inc., the circuit court determined that the slight tapering angle and inclusion of flotation armbands were "functional" and not primarily ornamental in nature.

A declaratory judgment of non-infringement in favor of rival petitioner was vacated. It verifies something that patent lawyers already understand: nothing is entirely functional or ornamental on a finished consumer product.