Is the State of Section 101 in “Complete Disarray?”

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September 20, 2019

That’s what Trading Technologies International, Inc. contends in its recent Petition for Certiorari to the Supreme Court. Well, Trading Technologies technically argues that the Federal Circuit’s jurisprudence on patent eligibility is in “complete disarray,” stating that “[w]hile one line of Federal Circuit decisions holds computer-implemented inventions to be ineligible if they do not make hardware-like improvements to computers’ basic functions, another line holds the opposite.”

The patents at issue in this case (US7904374, US7212999 and US7533056) generally relate to the graphical user interfaces (GUIs) used by professional stock market traders – interfaces that allegedly improve the accuracy and speed of communicating offers and bids in a complex stock market environment. There is no allegation that the interfaces of these patents make “hardware-like improvements” to the computer – e.g., they do not cause the computer to operate faster or more efficiently. Rather, the inventions are focused on user interaction, thereby improving the "user-directed functionality."

The two questions presented are thus:

1. Whether computer-implemented inventions that provide useful user functionality but do not improve the basic functions of the computer itself are categorically ineligible for patent protection.

2. Whether the Court should overrule its precedents recognizing the “abstract idea” exception to patent eligibility under the Patent Act of 1952.

We will continue to monitor this case and provide updates as they become available.