Over the years, patents have issued on numerous games, including iconic favorites such as Monopoly® (1935), Battleship® (1935), Rubik’s Cube® (1983), Rock'em Sock'em Robots® (1966), Twister® (1969), and Simon® (1979). Although there is no per se rule under current U.S. patent law against the patenting of games, it may be more challenging today to obtain patents on certain games due to the patent eligibility requirements of 35 U.S.C. § 101.
Defendants in patent litigation frequently mount an invalidity defense under 35 U.S.C. § 101 by arguing that asserted claims are directed to abstract ideas, which are not eligible for patent protection under the first step of the Alice test. Often, these defendants fail to account for significant aspects of the asserted claims, resulting in an oversimplification that doesn’t accurately articulate what the claims are actually directed to. This was precisely the government’s error in Thales Visionix Inc. v. United States (Fed. Cir. 2017), where the Federal Circuit found, contrary to the government’s characterization of the claims (which the Claims Court adopted), the asserted claims were not directed to an abstract idea.
In Zircore, LLC v. Straumann Manufacturing, Inc. (E.D. Tex. 2017), as in many patent litigations since Mayo, Myriad, and Alice, the defendant moved to dismiss the infringement allegations contending that the patents in suit are ineligible subject matter under 35 USC § 101. Here, despite Straumann’s assertion that Zircore’s U.S. Patent No. 7,967,606 was invalid under § 101 as directed to an abstract idea, the court found that the claims were patent eligible under § 101 as directed to a method of manufacturing a physical object.
The Federal Circuit this month issued another decision finding claims to a computer-implemented invention to be patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. In Amdocs (Israel) Ltd. v. Openet Telecom, Inc. (Fed. Cir. Nov. 1, 2016), the Federal Circuit held that claims directed to a distributed architecture for collecting and processing computer network data close to its source met the requirements of the Alice/Mayo framework, and therefore recited patent-eligible subject matter.
As discussed in the latest memorandum, the Federal Circuit in McRO held that the claims at issue are patent eligible under 35 USC § 101 because they are not directed to an abstract idea under the first prong of the two-part Alice test. Under Alice, all claims having an abstract idea are analyzed in two steps:
The Federal Circuit last week handed down the latest in a series of decisions finding computer-implemented inventions to be patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. In McRO, Inc. v. Bandai Namco Games America, Inc. et al. (Fed. Cir. Sept. 13, 2016), the Federal Circuit held that claims directed to software for automatically animating lip synchronization and facial expressions of animated characters were not directed to an abstract idea under the first prong of the Alice test, and therefore recited patent-eligible subject matter. McRO joins a growing list of Federal Circuit cases that find computer-implemented inventions to be non-abstract, including DDR Holdings, Enfish, and BASCOM.
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