CAFCThis Friday, February 8, an en banc United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will hear oral arguments in CLS Bank Int’l v. Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. (No. 2011-1301), the latest Federal Circuit case to deal with the patentability of software-related patents and so-called business methods.  Given that the technologies claimed in many standard-essential patents are often implemented in standards-compliant products via software, the Federal Circuit’s holding in this case may have resounding consequences for the world of SEPs and SEP-related litigation.

UPDATE: The Federal Circuit issued an en banc decision holding the claims invalid.  Please see our May 13, 2013 post for more details.

History of the Case

The patents at issue in this case are directed to a computer-implemented trading platform for reducing settlement risks when exchanging stocks or currency.  The district court invalidated the asserted claims on summary judgment, finding that they were not patent-eligible under Section 101 because they recite an abstract idea of transforming or manipulating risk.  A divided panel of the Federal Circuit reversed, finding that if “it is not manifestly evident that a claim is directed to a patent ineligible abstract idea,” it is inappropriate to hold that the claim is directed to a patent ineligible abstract idea under Section 101.  However, the court later granted CLS Bank’s petition for re-hearing en banc and vacated the panel decision.

(For more information about the Federal Circuit’s earliest decisions in this dispute, including annotated copies of its rulings, please visit our prior posts on the court’s panel decision and its subsequent grant of the petition for en banc rehearing.)

The Issues for the En Banc Rehearing

The Federal Circuit asked the parties to address two issues for the en banc rehearing:

  1. What test should the court adopt to determine whether a computer-implemented invention is a patent ineligible “abstract idea”; and when, if ever, does the presence of a computer in a claim lend patent eligibility to an otherwise patent-ineligible idea?
  2. In assessing patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 of a computer-implemented invention, should it matter whether the invention is claimed as a method, system, or storage medium; and should such claims at times be considered equivalent for Section 101 purposes?

For those interested, here are the parties’ briefs:

[CLS Bank principal en banc brief]

[Alice Corp. response en banc brief]

Some Useful Links:

Due to the potential importance of Federal Circuit’s opinion and the attention (positive and negative) that software patents have been getting for years, this case has been receiving widespread coverage from the blogosphere and elsewhere.  Many, many amicus briefs have been filed in the case as well, with some supporting a stronger Section 101 patentability requirement, and others supporting a weaker requirement.  The sites linked to below provide some good summaries of the issues, as well as access many of the myriad amicus briefs: