Alice and the mechanical arts

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].


Update: 3/5/17:

The Federal Circuit punted on issuing an opinion in the above case and instead issued a Rule 36 Judgment.  Less than a month later, Judge Stark in the District Court of Delaware issued an opinion in American Axle & Manufacturing v. Neapco finding the following mechanical claim to be patent ineligible as “applying a law of nature to a conventional method to achieve an abstract solution to a problem”:

22.  A method for manufacturing a shaft assembly of a driveline system, the driveline system further including a first driveline component and a second driveline component, the shaft assembly being adapted to transmit torque between the first driveline component and the second driveline component, the method comprising:

providing a hollow shaft member;

tuning a mass and a stiffness o f at least one liner; and inserting the at least one liner into the shaft member;

wherein the at least one liner is a tuned resistive absorber for attenuating shell mode vibrations and wherein the at least one liner is a tuned reactive absorber for attenuating bending mode vibrations.

You can read Judge Stark’s memorandum opinion [here].


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