Business method patents on software have had a tough time in the courts in recent years. But a recent ruling may now provide some hope for patent holders. The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Trading Technologies Int’l, Inc. v. CQG, Inc. marks a rare example of the court finding software to be patent-eligible. The ruling provides valuable guidance on just what it takes for these patents to withstand judicial scrutiny.
When the inventors of a new design process admitted that they had mentally performed the patented steps themselves, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals took them at their word. The patent holders in Synopsys, Inc. v. Mentor Graphics Corp. ultimately failed the two-step abstract ideas test.
The decision in Apple, Inc. v. Ameranth, Inc. probably wasn’t what the patent-holder ordered. Late last year, both the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals (which hears all appeals in patent cases) reviewed Ameranth Inc.’s patents for a computerized restaurant menu system, ultimately sending Ameranth back to the kitchen.
Courts in infringement cases construe terms in patent claims by their plain and ordinary meaning — usually. As the patentee in Poly-America, L.P. v. API Industries, Inc., learned the hard way, the Federal Circuit doesn’t take that approach when the disavowal of claim scope applies.
Cases regarding the patent eligibility of abstract ideas continue to pile up at the Federal Circuit, which hears all patent-related appeals. In its recent ruling in Affinity Labs of Texas, LLC, v. DIRECTV LLC, the court found that two patented inventions failed both parts of the patent eligibility test.