“Alligator arms”

 

I have been trying to think of an expression that captures the situation when the Federal Circuit fails to give full meaning or exposition to a claim limitation.  For example, this might occur in patent eligibility determinations when a method claim is distilled down to just a recitation of unrestricted verbs.

I think “alligator arms” would be a useful descriptor.  Football fans will recognize that phrase as describing a pass receiver running a passing route across mid-field who in the interest of self-preservation pulls back his extended arms to protect his ribcage just before being hit hard by a defender — and thus misses the catch. “He really alligator armed that catch,” the announcer might say.  This is sometimes referred to as short-arming the catch or having T-rex arms, as well.

Some might say that a classic example of alligator arms was the Federal Circuit decision in Electric Power Group, LLC v. ALSTOM SA, 830 F.3d 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2016), where the court distilled claim 12 from this:

12. A method of detecting events on an interconnected electric power grid in real time over a wide area and automatically analyzing the events on the interconnected electric power grid, the method comprising:

receiving a plurality of data streams, each of the data streams comprising sub-second, time stamped synchronized phasor measurements wherein the measurements in each stream are collected in real time at geographically distinct points over the wide area of the interconnected electric power grid, the wide area comprising at least two elements from among control areas, transmission companies, utilities, regional reliability coordinators, and reliability jurisdictions;

receiving data from other power system data sources, the other power system data sources comprising at least one of transmission maps, power plant locations, EMS/SCADA systems;

receiving data from a plurality of non-grid data sources;

1352*1352 detecting and analyzing events in realtime from the plurality of data streams from the wide area based on at least one of limits, sensitivities and rates of change for one or more measurements from the data streams and dynamic stability metrics derived from analysis of the measurements from the data streams including at least one of frequency instability, voltages, power flows, phase angles, damping, and oscillation modes, derived from the phasor measurements and the other power system data sources in which the metrics are indicative of events, grid stress, and/or grid instability, over the wide area;

displaying the event analysis results and diagnoses of events and associated ones of the metrics from different categories of data and the derived metrics in visuals, tables, charts, or combinations thereof, the data comprising at least one of monitoring data, tracking data, historical data, prediction data, and summary data;

displaying concurrent visualization of measurements from the data streams and the dynamic stability metrics directed to the wide area of the interconnected electric power grid;

accumulating and updating the measurements from the data streams and the dynamic stability metrics, grid data, and non-grid data in real time as to wide area and local area portions of the interconnected electric power grid; and

deriving a composite indicator of reliability that is an indicator of power grid vulnerability and is derived from a combination of one or more real time measurements or computations of measurements from the data streams and the dynamic stability metrics covering the wide area as well as non-power grid data received from the non-grid data source

into this:

The focus of the asserted claims, as illustrated by claim 12 quoted above, is on collecting information, analyzing it, and displaying certain results of the collection and analysis.

Electric Power Group, LLC v. ALSTOM SA, 830 F.3d at 1353.

 

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