Today, Mon., Feb. 27, 2012, in Fort Properties v. American Master Lease, No. 2009-1242, the Federal Circuit (Prost, Schall and Moore) affirmed summary judgment invalidating as unpatentable subject matter claims directed to a real property investment tool. This case provides a good summary of the current state of the law on patentable subject matter, particular for computer implemented business methods.
The patent method claims, which were similar to the Bilski commodity investment claims, were directed to “creating a real estate investment instrument adapted for performing tax-deferred exchanges.” The claims covered the general steps of forming a real property portfolio that is divided into deedshares governed by a master agreement that required the deedshares to be reaggregated later. The Court held that the claims were not patentable because they claimed “an abstract real estate investment tool” and “this abstract concept cannot be transformed into patentable subject matter merely because of connections to the physical world through deeds, contracts, and real property.”
Some claims further required a computer to generate the deedshares. But those claims also were not patentable, because “the computer limitation is simply insignificant post-solution activity” that did not “impose meaningful limits on the claim’s scope.”