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Alice in Patent-Land? Comcast Wins Streaming Patent Appeal

In a recent case out of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeal applying the Alice v. CLS standard, the appellant unsuccessfully sought to overturn a district court's dismissal. The case, Two-Way Media LTD. v. Comcast Cable Communications, was dismissed as the district court found the patent claims ineligible for protection under section 101.

In short, the court relied on the rational in Alice to determine that Two-Way Media's patent claims were directed at abstract ideas and did not contain the necessary additional elements required to transform the nature of the claims into ones that are patent eligible.

What's This Case About?

The nitty-gritty of this case boils down to a series of patents called "multicasting method and apparatus." Though it sounds like the newest gambling machine designed for off-track-betting, it actually deals with streaming audio visual data over the internet or other systems. In today's day and age, streaming technology is a big business, with a near endless supply of investors looking to capitalize on the next wave of streaming media technology.

This case centers on Two-Way Media's claim that Comcast violated their patents, however, the case never reached those merits. Instead, on Comcast's motion, the court applied the Alice two part test to find that Two-Way's patents were not eligible under section 101, specifically finding that the patents described abstract concepts and used ordinary functions, which were not eligible for protection, as they did nothing new or inventive.

The Alice Two Part Test

Under the Alice test, courts generally are concerned with whether a software patent covers an abstract idea or concept, and if so, whether that concept or idea is transformative enough, or inventive enough, to be patentable. For example, changing the size of a wheel (and we will pretend the wheel is software) may not be a patentable distinction on the original, but changing the shape and/or the way it rolls as well, could potentially make your new wheel patentable.

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