Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Extra-record evidence and the Supreme Court

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

A couple of the Justices got a little bit exercised during the oral argument of City of Hays, Kansas v. Vogt, at the U.S. Supreme Court today.  Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Breyer had the following exchange in regard to Justice Breyer’s inquiry about extra-record evidence:

____________________________________________________________________

JUSTICE BREYER: And for that reason I looked up whether you objected, because I do not see how the magistrate running the preliminary hearing can know what to do unless somebody tells him that these statements were taken in violation of a Fifth Amendment.

One, I don’t see where you ever did tell the magistrate that.

Two, looking at the transcript of the preliminary hearing, I couldn’t find any instance where any of the compelled statements were introduced into the preliminary hearing.

So what I would like you to do is to tell me what pages to look at in the preliminary transcript, which I have here, which will show that you did object or at least that some of the compelled statements were used?

MS. CORKRAN: So none of this is in
the record and the reason it is not -¬

JUSTICE BREYER: It may not be in the record –

MS. CORKRAN: Yeah. But I -¬

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: That’s an
important point, isn’t it?

MS. CORKRAN: Yes.

JUSTICE BREYER: Of course it’s an important point.

(Laughter.)

MS. CORKRAN: But the -¬

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, before we start having an extended exchange about
material and something that’s not in the record, I — well, I guess I would just like to
point out it is not in the record. There is a reason we confine things to what’s in the record, including how do we know what this is if it is not in the record.

JUSTICE BREYER: Nor is actually mine a passing comment because Article III of the Constitution says we are to take real cases and controversies. And to decide a major matter where, in fact, going from what is in the record to an earlier stage of this and discovering if it’s true, that there was no instance about which you’re complaining, in my mind raises the question as to whether this is, in fact, an appropriate case or controversy for the Court to take.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: And we’re supposed to decide whether the cases are controversies according to law. And as far as I’m concerned coming in and saying I want to know about this thing that’s not in the record is no different from somebody else coming off of the street and saying: Hey, wait a minute, I know what happened in this case.

So go ahead and answer it.

MS. CORKRAN: Yeah.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: It’s a question you have been presented with.

JUSTICE BREYER: You don’t have to answer it.

MS. CORKRAN: No, I -¬

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: No, no, feel free. I’m just saying I will discount the
answers because it is not something that’s in the record.

____________________________________________________________________

You can listen to the audio [].

See this earlier post about whether the Federal Circuit has equitable power to consult extra-record evidence: [Link]. 

Query:  Should a Brandeis Brief be considered extra-record evidence?

Query:  Did the Supreme Court rely on extra-record evidence in its assertion of an abstract idea in Alice v. CLS?

On their face, the claims before us are drawn to the concept of intermediated settlement, i.e., the use of a third party to mitigate settlement risk. Like the risk hedging in Bilski, the concept of intermediated settlement is “`a fundamental economic practice long prevalent in our system of commerce.'” Ibid.; see, e.g.,Emery, Speculation on the Stock and Produce Exchanges of the United States, in 7 Studies in History, Economics and Public Law 283, 346-356 (1896) (discussing the use of a “clearing-house” as an intermediary to reduce settlement risk). The use of a third-party intermediary (or “clearing house”) is also a building block of the modern economy. See, e.g., Yadav, The Problematic Case of Clearinghouses in Complex Markets, 101 Geo. L.J. 387, 406-412 (2013); J. Hull, Risk Management and Financial Institutions 103-104 (3d ed. 2012). Thus, intermediated settlement, like hedging, is an “abstract idea” beyond the scope of § 101.

Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Intern., 134 S. Ct. 2347, 2356 (2014).

Listing of agencies with the most Administrative Law Judges

Monday, February 19th, 2018

The US government’s office of personnel management keeps a list of how many administrative law judges are employed by each administrative agency.  The OPM does not include the USPTO’s administrative patent judges on the list.

The top five agencies and their corresponding number of ALJ’s are:

Social Security Administration:  1655 ALJ’s

Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals: 101 ALJ’s

Department of Labor: 41 ALJ’s

National Labor Relations Board:  34 ALJ’s

Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission:  15 ALJ’s.

Source:  https://www.opm.gov/services-for-agencies/administrative-law-judges/#url=ALJs-by-Agency

Comments are still open

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

Just a reminder that the comment period for the USPTO’s subject matter eligibility guidance is still open.  If you want to submit comments on how you think the subject matter eligibility guidance should be revised — particularly in response to the recent Berkheimer v. HP precedential opinion — you can still do so.  The USPTO explains the process on its web site, part of which is reproduced below:

How to comment

We are interested in receiving public feedback on this guidance.  The comment period is open-ended, and comments will be accepted on an ongoing basis.

Anyone may submit written comments to 2014_interim_guidance@uspto.gov(link sends e-mail). Email comments submitted in plain text are preferred, but also may be submitted in ADOBE® portable document format or MICROSOFT WORD® format. Because comments will be available to the public, information that is not desired to be made public, such as an address or a phone number, should not be included in the comments.

Comments are available for public viewing here:

 

 

Utah IP Summit

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

The Utah IP Summit is next Friday.

More info available [here].

Quotes for the day

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Software can make non-abstract improvements to computer technology just as hardware improvements can, and sometimes the improvements can be accomplished through either route. We thus see no reason to conclude that all claims directed to improvements in computer-related technology, including those directed to software, are abstract and necessarily analyzed at the second step of Alice, nor do we believe that Alice so directs.

ENFISH, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., 822 F.3d 1327, 1335 (Fed. Cir. 2016)(Judge Chen writing for the court).

 

Our cases confirm that software-based innovations can make “non-abstract improvements to computer technology” and be deemed patent-eligible subject matter at step 1.

FINJAN, INC. v. BLUE COAT SYSTEMS, INC., No. 2016-2520 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 10, 2018)(slip opinion at page 7)(Judge Dyk writing for the court).

Transforming a patent eligible claim into a patent ineligible claim — by narrowing the claim

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

Somebody commented on the Patently-O blog the other day that a claim that is patent eligible under §101 can become patent ineligible simply by narrowing the claim to recite a specific function that is a purported abstract idea.  Judge Linn made a similar comment back in 2016 in the oral argument of IPLearn-Focus v. Microsoft. You can listen to that sound bite here:

 

You can view the previous post about the IPLearn-Focus v. Microsoft case [here].

Alice and the mechanical arts

Friday, February 9th, 2018

A listener/reader pointed me in the direction of the recent oral argument at the Federal Circuit in Robert Bosch v. ITC.  The case appears to concern patents of inventor/patent attorney Dr. Stephen Gass. The oral argument highlights that §101/Alice arguments are now making their way into the mechanical arts.  One of the parties was making the argument that a claim was directed to the idea of a “safety system” rather than to a particular safety system — which prompted this exchange with Judge Moore:

 

 

I suppose it is only natural that litigants are taking the Alice/§101 argument into the realm of the mechanical arts.  When a legal rule is not based on a sound test or even an articulated definition of what constitutes an abstract idea, and instead allows judges to paraphrase claim limitations and then make ipse dixit proclamations that something is an abstract idea, one should expect litigants to press the Alice argument.

Thinking back on the book The Patent Wars and its discussion of the “diaper wars,” I wonder if there are any future Alice/§101 battles to look forward to in the diaper world — now that would be a fitting forum for the Alice decision.

You can listen to the entire oral argument here: [Listen].

Aspirational claiming

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

It is always interesting when the Federal Circuit introduces a new term into the lexicon of patent law.  The court did so the other day.  Judge Stoll’s opinion for the court referred to a claim as “aspirational.”

The step-one analysis requires us to consider the claims “in their entirety to ascertain whether their character as a whole is directed to excluded subject matter.” Internet Patents Corp. v. Active Network, Inc., 790 F.3d 1343, 1346 (Fed. Cir. 2015). Claim 1 is aspirational in nature and devoid of any implementation details or technical description that would permit us to conclude that the claim as a whole is directed to some- thing other than the abstract idea identified by the dis- trict court.

Move, Inc. et al. v. Real Estate Alliance Ltd., et al., 2017-1463 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 1, 2018)(slip opinion at page 8)(emphasis added).

You can listen to the oral argument here:

 

The court has been asking about aspirational claims in oral arguments at least as far back as 2016.  For example, Judge Chen inquired about aspirational language in this oral argument sound bite back in 2016: [Listen].  And, Judge Moore asked about aspirational language back in 2017: [Listen].

If you do a search on previous Federal Circuit, CCPA, or district court cases, you will not find any that use the term “aspirational claim” or “aspirational claiming.”  So, it will be interesting to see if this term gets any traction at the Federal Circuit.

In reality, aspirational claiming is not a new concept.  The Supreme Court discussed result-oriented claiming in Corning v. Burden, 56 U.S. 252, 268 (1853) (explaining that patents are granted “for the discovery or invention of some practicable method or means of producing a beneficial result or effect . . . and not for the result or effect itself”).  Moreover, the Federal Circuit has discussed result-oriented claiming in prior cases.  See, e.g., Regents of the University of California v. Eli Lilly & Co., 119 F.3d 1559, 1568 (Fed.Cir.1997)(“The description requirement of the patent statute requires a description of an invention, not an indication of a result that one might achieve if one made that invention.”); and, Fiers v. Revel, 984 F.2d 1164 (Fed. Cir. 1993)(“Claiming all DNA’s that achieve a result without defining what means will do so is not in compliance with the description requirement; it is an attempt to preempt the future before it has arrived.”).  But, the Federal Circuit has done so in a §112 context as opposed to a §101 context.

Unfortunately, aspirational claiming may turn out to be a vehicle that some members of the court use to introduce a §112 concept into the §101 analysis.

By the way, as you contemplate aspirational claiming, consider the following claim that the Federal Circuit deemed patent eligible in Thales:

22. A method comprising determining an orientation of an object relative to a 1346*1346 moving reference frame based on signals from two inertial sensors mounted respectively on the object and on the moving reference frame.

Thales Visionix Inc. v. US, 850 F.3d 1343, 1345-46 (Fed. Cir. 2017).

Paper topic #1:  An interesting paper or student note, if somebody wanted to write it:  What principles of §§102, 103, 112, etc. have the courts imported into the §101 analysis in order to try to make sense of what constitutes an “abstract idea.”

Update 2/7/2018:

By the way, keep your eyes peeled for “patent dance.”  That will be a fun new term that we should soon be seeing in forthcoming biosimilarity cases.

 

 

Going Rogue

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

In this earlier post [link], I noted that a reader had pointed me in the direction of the pending Knowles v. Matal case at the Federal Circuit.  In the briefing of that case, the DOJ and USPTO have indicated that in rare circumstances the USPTO might choose to take a position opposite to that rendered by the PTAB, when the PTAB’s decision is appealed to the Federal Circuit.  I thought it might be of interest to post the pertinent portion of the brief below (with footnotes moved to the end and emphasis added in bolded underlines):

___________________________________________________________________

C. The USPTO’s statutory authority allows it to choose whether to intervene and, if so, what position to take

Because Article III of the Constitution “poses no bar” to the USPTO’s participation in an appeal from a USPTO decision, see Ingalls, 519 U.S. at 264, we next address the USPTO’s statutory authority to intervene and the extent of that authority. By statute, the Director of the USPTO has a right to intervene in every inter partes case arising from the USPTO. And the Director has statutory authority to take any position in those cases.

Before Congress passed the America Invents Act (AIA) in 2011, the Patent Act stated, “In an ex parte case or any reexamination case, the Director shall submit to the court in writing the grounds for the decision of the Patent and Trademark Office, addressing all the issues involved in the appeal.” 35 U.S.C. § 143 (2002) (emphasis added). Thus, before the AIA, the USPTO was, by statute, a party to every appeal from an inter partes reexamination. The AIA amended that sentence, removing “any reexamination case” from the category of appeals in which the agency was obligated to appear. 35 U.S.C. § 143 (2012).

 

Instead, Congress added a sentence addressing the agency’s authority to intervene, at its discretion, in appeals from inter partes cases, including inter partes reexaminations. The new sentence states, “The Director shall have the right to intervene in an appeal from a decision entered by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board . . . in an inter partes or post-grant review under chapter 31 or 32.” 35 U.S.C. § 143 (2012). Although that sentence does not specifically mention inter partes reexaminations, which were being phased out by the AIA, Congress explained elsewhere in the Act that “the Director’s right under the fourth sentence of section 143”—the sentence just quoted—“to intervene in an appeal from a decision entered by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board shall be deemed to extend to inter partes reexaminations.” AIA, Pub. L. No. 112-29 § 7(e)(4), 125 Stat. 284, 315 (2011); see also 157 Cong. Rec. S1377 (daily ed. Mar. 8, 2011) (statement of Sen. Kyl) (“In the effective-date provision at the end of section [7], various existing [appeal] authorities are extended so that they may continue to apply to inter partes reexaminations commenced under the old system.”); see also Joseph Matal, Legislative History of the America Invents Act: Part II of II, 21 FED. CIR. B.J. 539, 542 n.25 (2012).

Furthermore, the Director’s right to intervene in inter partes reexaminations extends to those reexaminations “that are requested . . . before the effective date” of the AIA. Pub. L. No. 112-29 § 7(e)(4), 125 Stat. 284, 315. In other words, the change in the law was made applicable to all inter partes reexaminations that were requested before the AIA came into effect. Thus, the USPTO’s participation in appeals from inter partes reexaminations went from an obligation to a right, even for inter partes reexaminations that were already pending.

The statute thus spells out the situations in which the Director has the right to intervene, which include inter partes reexaminations, inter partes reviews, and other inter partes cases in the USPTO. This Court therefore routinely asks the USPTO if it plans to intervene in inter partes cases, particularly in cases like this one where the Court would otherwise lose the benefit of the adversarial process. The statute also clearly specifies the cases in which the Director is automatically a party—ex parte cases. 35 U.S.C. § 143 (2012).

The statute does not discuss or limit the positions the Director may take in any type of case. In ex parte cases, the statute merely specifies that the Director must “address[ ] all of the issues raised in the appeal,” 35 U.S.C. § 143 (2012); in inter partes cases, even that requirement does not exist. Although the Director typically intervenes on the side of the appellee, even in that posture, the Director may take any substantive position he likes.2

 

Indeed, Ingalls directly addresses the Director’s position in these appeals, not as a representative of the Board but as a representative of the agency as a whole. When the Board—the USPTO’s adjudicator—makes a decision, the “order of the agency’s designated adjudicator is in reality an order of the agency itself.” 519 U.S. at 268. The agency “may then be free to designate its enforcer/litigator as its voice before the courts of appeals.” Id. The agency’s litigator—in this case the USPTO Solicitor—while appearing on the side of the appellee, “is free to argue on behalf of the petitioner and to challenge the decision of the Board.” Id. at 270. Thus, if the Director (or Solicitor) disagrees with the Board’s decision, he need not argue in support of affirmance. This prevents “a ‘lopsided’ scheme whereby the Director can appear only in defense of the [Board’s] decisions.” Id. (citations omitted).3

In practice, the USPTO Director typically intervenes in appeals from inter partes cases in only two particular types of situations. Recognizing that the two parties can adequately represent the adverse sides of the dispute if both are present but not when the appellee has dropped out of the case, the Director will often intervene when the appellee has dropped out to preserve the adversarial presentation of the issues and to support the agency’s decision. Other than that, the Director often intervenes when the dispute on appeal implicates broader USPTO or government interests. Those interests may involve the validity or interpretation of federal statutes, of the USPTO’s procedures, or of USPTO regulations. So, for example, if an appellant argues that a regulation that the Board followed is contrary to the Patent Act, the Director may intervene to support the regulation. Although the Director could choose to intervene, under the statute, in every inter partes case, he instead selects cases in which his participation would be most important to the agency and helpful to the Court.

The Director’s presence is not required, however, for the appeal to proceed. As discussed above, the appellant has a justiciable controversy because it stands to lose its patent. The lack of USPTO participation does not moot the appellant’s case any more than does the reexamination requester’s declining to participate, discussed above.

In the unlikely event that the government were to decline to defend the Board’s decision in a case in which no other party was defending it, the Court could simply decide to hear the patentee’s appeal without the benefit of an adverse party. Alternatively, the Court could appoint or invite an amicus to defend the Board’s decision. The Supreme Court, for example, often chooses that route when the government confesses error and declines to defend a favorable decision from a lower tribunal. See, e.g., Becker v. Montgomery, 532 U.S. 757, 762 n.1 (2001) (“Without any party to defend the Sixth Circuit’s position, we invited [attorney] Stewart A. Baker to brief and argue this case, as amicus curiae, in support of the judgment below. His able representation . . . permit[s] us to decide this case[,] satisfied that the relevant issues have been fully aired.” (citations omitted)). Or, if the government confesses error and the Court concludes that, in consequence, there is nothing substantial remaining to be decided, the Court may simply vacate and remand. See Lawrence on Behalf of Lawrence v. Chater, 516 U.S. 163, 169-73 (1996); Florida Power & Light Co. v. Lorion, 470 U.S. 729, 744 (1985) (“If the record before the agency does not support the agency action, if the agency has not considered all relevant factors, or if the reviewing court simply cannot evaluate the challenged agency action on the basis of the record before it, the proper course, except in rare circumstances, is to remand to the agency for additional investigation or explanation.”).

Regardless, because the USPTO typically intervenes to defend the Board’s decision and tries to avoid situations in which a Board decision that it disagrees with is heard on appeal, the situation rarely arises. Far more common, and preferable, is a situation like this, in which the USPTO Director chooses to intervene to support the Board’s decision.

Footnotes:

2 Because the USPTO does not have independent litigating authority, the Director seeks and obtains authorization from the Solicitor General before intervening in this Court. See generally 28 U.S.C. § 516; 28 C.F.R. § 0.20(c)

3 Practically speaking, the Solicitor would not often argue in support of reversal of a Board decision because the agency would likely handle those cases administratively. For example, the Director can ask the Board to reconsider a decision. If the decision has already been appealed and the Director then determines that it is somehow defective, the Solicitor can seek a remand for the Board to reconsider. See, e.g., In re Bursey, No. 2016-2675 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 28, 2017) (nonprecedential) (remanding appeal upon Solicitor’s request to allow Board to reconsider); In re DiStefano, 562 Fed. App’x 984 (Fed. Cir. June 4, 2014); In re Shield, No. 2013-1562 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 16, 2014); In re Motorola Mobility LLC, No. 2012-1470 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 5, 2013).

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The entire brief is available here: [Link].

Where’s the beef!

Friday, January 19th, 2018

The Patently-O blog recently reported on the new petition for writ of certiorari in R&L Carriers, Inc. v. Intermec Technologies Corp. [Cert. petition]. The question presented asks:

Do Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986) and Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986) prohibit a court from entering a summary judgment nding that an invention is ineligible for patent protection when the record contains uncontroverted, relevant evidence establishing that there is at least a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the claim is “directed to” an abstract idea?

Stated differently, where’s the factual inquiry?

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the classic Wendy’s commercial:

 

 

While the Federal Circuit has recently been fond of saying that §101 is a question of law, the court in the past has repeatedly said that factual issues can underlie the §101 analysis:

Whether a claim is directed to statutory subject matter is a question of law. Although determination of this question may require findings of underlying facts specific to the particular subject matter and its mode of claiming . . . .

Arrhythmia Research Technology v. Corazonix Corp., 958 F.2d 1053 (Fed. Cir. 1992).

It is well-established that “whether the asserted claims … are invalid for failure to claim statutory subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101, is a question of law which we review without deference.” AT & T Corp. v. Excel Commc’ns, Inc.,172 F.3d 1352, 1355 (Fed.Cir.1999). As a question of law, lack of statutory subject matter is a “ground [for affirmance] within the power of the appellate court to formulate.” Chenery, 318 U.S. at 88, 63 S.Ct. 454. While there may be cases in which the legal question as to patentable subject matter may turn on subsidiary factual issues, Comiskey has not identified any relevant fact issues that must be resolved in order to address the patentability of the subject matter of Comiskey’s application. Moreover, since we would review a Board decision on the issue of patentability without deference, see AT & T, 172 F.3d at 1355, the legal issue concerning patentability is not “a determination of policy or judgment which the agency alone is authorized to make.” Chenery, 318 U.S. at 88, 63 S.Ct. 454.

In re Comiskey, 554 F.3d 967 (Fed. Cir. 2009)(Judge Dyk writing for the court).

Moreover, in McRo v. Bandai, the Federal Circuit pointed to a lack of evidence in an abstract idea challenge:

2. Claims Directed To

Claim 1 of the ’576 patent is focused on a specific asserted improvement in computer animation, i.e., the automatic use of rules of a particular type. We disagree with Defendants’ arguments that the claims simply use a computer as a tool to automate conventional activity. While the rules are embodied in computer software that is processed by general-purpose computers, Defendants provided no evidence that the process previously used by animators is the same as the process required by the claims.

McRO v. Bandai, 837 F.3d 1299, 1314 (Fed. Cir. 2016)(emphasis added).

 

In the administrative context, the PTO’s solicitor’s office noted in its briefing of Apple v. Ameranth:

The Board’s § 101 analysis is reviewed for legal error, while its underlying factual findings are reviewed for substantial evidence. See Versata Dev. Group, Inc. v. SAP America, Inc. (“Versata II”), 793 F.3d 1306, 1336 (2015).

USPTO Brief in Apple et al. v. Ameranth at page 13 (Associate Solicitor Joe Matal signing for the Office).

 

“Finally, with respect to the claims that the Board confirmed, the petitioners failed to meet their burden of showing that these claims recite ineligible subject matter. Although the petitioners showed that the claims are directed to an abstract idea, they failed to present any evidence or analysis that the claims’ recited technologies are routine and conventional.”

USPTO Brief in Apple et al. v. Ameranth at page 20 (Associate Solicitor Joe Matal signing for the Office).

 

In Versata II, the Federal Circuit stated:

The section 101 analysis applied by the PTAB was not legally erroneous under Mayo and Alice. And its underlying fact findings and credibility determinations are supported by substantial evidence in the record. See Microsoft Corp. v. Proxyconn, Inc., Nos. 14-1542, -1543, 789 F.3d 1292, 1297, 2015 WL 3747257, at *2 (Fed.Cir. June 16, 2015)(noting that as a general matter, we review the PTAB’s findings of fact for substantial supporting evidence in the record).

Versata Dev. Group, Inc. v. SAP America, Inc. (“Versata II”), 793 F.3d 1306, 1336 (2015).

 

UPDATE 2/1/2018:

Patent eligibility under § 101 is a question of law and may involve underlying questions of fact. See Mortg. Grader, Inc. v. First Choice Loan Servs. Inc., 811 F.3d 1314, 1325 (Fed. Cir. 2016).

Move, Inc., et al. v. ReMax, Inc., et al., 2017-1463 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 1, 2018)(slip opinion at 7)(Judge Stoll writing for the court).

UPDATE 2/12/2018:

Patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 is ultimately an issue of law we review de novo. Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. Capital One Fin. Corp., 850 F.3d 1332, 1338 (Fed. Cir. 2017). The patent eligibility inquiry may contain underlying issues of fact. Mortg. Grader, Inc. v. First Choice Loan Servs. Inc., 811 F.3d 1314, 1325 (Fed. Cir. 2016).

Berkheimer v. HP INC., No. 2017-1437 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 8, 2018)(slip opinion at 6).

 

The question of whether a claim element or combination of elements is well-understood, routine and conventional to a skilled artisan in the relevant field is a question of fact. Any fact, such as this one, that is pertinent to the invalidity conclusion must be proven by clear and convincing evidence. See Microsoft Corp. v. i4i Ltd. P’ship, 564 U.S. 91, 95 (2011). Like indefiniteness, enablement, or obviousness, whether a claim recites patent eligible subject matter is a question of law which may contain underlying facts. Akzo Nobel Coatings, Inc. v. Dow Chem. Co., 811 F.3d 1334, 1343 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (“Indefiniteness is a question of law that we review de novo, [] subject to a determination of underlying facts.”); Alcon Research Ltd. v. Barr Labs., Inc., 745 F.3d 1180, 1188 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (“Whether a claim satisfies the enablement requirement of 35 U.S.C. § 112 is a question of law that we review without deference, although the determination may be based on underlying factual findings, which we review for clear error.”); Apple Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., Ltd., 839 F.3d 1034, 1047 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (en banc)(“Obviousness is a question of law based on underlying facts.”). We have previously stated that “[t]he § 101 inquiry `may contain underlying factual issues.'” Mortg. Grader, 811 F.3d at 1325 (emphasis in original) (quoting Accenture Global Servs., GmbH v. Guidewire Software, Inc., 728 F.3d 1336, 1341 (Fed. Cir. 2013)). And the Supreme Court recognized that in making the § 101 determination, the inquiry “might sometimes overlap” with other fact-intensive inquiries like novelty under § 102. Mayo, 566 U.S. at 90.

Berkheimer v. HP INC., No. 2017-1437 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 8, 2018)(slip opinion at 12).

Whether something is well-understood, routine, and conventional to a skilled artisan at the time of the patent is a factual determination. Whether a particular technology is well-understood, routine, and conventional goes beyond what was simply known in the prior art. The mere fact that something is disclosed in a piece of prior art, for example, does not mean it was well-understood, routine, and conventional.

Berkheimer v. HP INC., No. 2017-1437 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 8, 2018)(slip opinion at 14).