Patents protect inventions.  However, patents protect only certain inventions.  In order to be patentable, an invention must fall within one of four categories of patent-eligible subject matter: articles of manufacture, machines, processes, and compositions of matter. 35 U.S.C. §101.  There are some things that are not patentable (i.e. are patent-ineligible subject matter): laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas.

In 2014, in Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International, 573 U.S. 208, 216, 219 (2014), the Supreme Court established a two-part test to determine whether an invention is patent-eligible.  In the first step, a determination is made as to whether the claimed invention falls within one of the categories of patent-ineligible subject matter.  If it does, the second step is performed:  a determination of whether the claimed invention has an inventive concept that transforms the patent-ineligible subject matter into something patentable.


Continue Reading Once Again, Generic Computer Systems That Do Routine Functions are Not Patentable!

In Arthrex Inc. v. Smith & Nephew Inc. et al., case number 18-2140, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently considered whether the appointment of the Board’s Administrative Patent Judges (“APJs”) by the Secretary of Commerce, as currently set forth in Title 35, violates the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.  The Federal Circuit held that the statute as currently constructed makes the APJs principal officers.  To remedy the violation, the Federal Circuit concluded that severing the portion of the Patent Act restricting removal of the APJs is sufficient to render the APJs inferior officers and remedy the constitutional appointment problem.  As the final written decision on appeal issued while there was an Appointments Clause violation, the appropriate course of action was for this case to be remanded to a new panel of APJs.
Continue Reading Federal Circuit Holds Administrative Patent Judges Appointments Unconstitutional

Before 1995, the term of a U.S. utility patent was 17 years from the day the patent issued.  In 1994, the federal statutes were changed to make the patent term 20 years from the effective filing date of the patent application.  This change was part of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act and was intended to make U.S. patents comparable to foreign patents, which, in most countries, expire 20 years from their filing dates.

However, in order to address the problem of delays caused by the Patent and Trademark Office during the prosecution of a patent, Congress enacted statutes providing for the addition of specific numbers of days to a patent’s term.  See 35 U.S.C. section 154(b).
Continue Reading When Does A Patent Expire? Ask the Federal Circuit!

In Curver Luxembourg SARL v. Home Expressions Inc., case number 18-2214, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently held that the claim language of a design patent can limit its scope where the claim language supplies the only instance of an article of manufacture that appears nowhere in the figures.

Plaintiff Curver had asserted U.S. Design Patent No. D677,946 (’946 patent), entitled “Pattern for a Chair” and claiming an “ornamental design for a pattern for a chair.” Curver sued defendant Home Expressions alleging that Home Expressions made and sold baskets that incorporated Curver’s claimed
design pattern and thus infringed the ’946 patent. The design patent’s figures, however, merely illustrate the design pattern disembodied from any article of manufacture.
Continue Reading Federal Circuit Holds That Claim Language Can Limit the Scope of a Design Patent

Have you ever driven away from your home and then had that irritating doubt in your mind as to whether you remembered to close your garage door? I know I have. No matter how hard I try to search my brain’s archives, I really don’t remember whether I closed the garage door even though I close it 99.9% of the time! In that moment, you wish there was a way to check that doesn’t require turning around and going back home to see if you really left the house wide open for anyone to walk in.

Well The Chamberlain Group, Inc. (“Chamberlain”) thought it had patented an invention that could help with this type of problem—a garage door opener that wirelessly transmits information such as whether the door is open or closed. See U.S. Patent No. 7,224,275 (the “’275 Patent”). Specifically, the patent “relates to an apparatus and method for communicating information about the status of a movable barrier, for example, a garage door.”
Continue Reading Federal Circuit Invalidates Garage Door Opener Patent Because It Is an Abstract Idea