Federal Circuit Conflicted over Whether Alice Changed the Law

The Federal Circuit’s decision in Voter Verified, Inc. v. Election Systems Software, LLC __ F.3d __ (Fed.Cir. 2018) seems to be in conflict with the Federal Circuit’s earlier decision in INVENTOR HOLDINGS, LLC v. BED BATH & BEYOND, INC., __ F.3d __ (Fed. Cir. 2017).  In Voter Verified, Inc., the court proposes that Alice “did not alter the governing law under §101.”  In contrast, in Inventor Holdings, LLC, the court states that Alice created a “significant change in the law.”  Moreover, the Voter Verified, Inc. decision fails to even mention the court’s earlier decision in Inventor Holdings, LLC.

Reproduced below are portions of the two opinions:

Second, we find that Alice was a significant change in the law as applied to the facts of this particular case. Prior to Alice, the state of the law for computerimplemented business transaction inventions was less than clear, given this court’s divided en banc opinion in CLS Bank International v. Alice Corp., 717 F.3d 1269, 1273 (Fed. Cir. 2013). As we later explained, post-Alice, in Mortgage Grader, Inc. v. First Choice Loan Services Inc., “a § 101 defense previously lacking in merit may be meritorious after Alice. This scenario is most likely to occur with respect to patent claims that involve implementations of economic arrangements using generic computer technology, as the claims do here.” 811 F.3d 1314, 1322 (Fed. Cir. 2016). Like the claims at issue in Mortgage Grader, the ‘582 patent’s claims are directed to an “economic arrangement” implemented using “generic computer technology.” These issues were significant, if not determinative, of the Court’s holding in Alice.

INVENTOR HOLDINGS, LLC v. BED BATH & BEYOND, INC., __ F.3d __ (Fed. Cir. 2017)(slip op. at page 12)(Judges Wallach, Chen (Author), Stoll).

Turning to the first condition, we conclude that Alice, which was decided after the first litigation ended, did not alter the governing law of § 101. In Alice, the Court applied the same two-step framework it created in Mayo in its § 101 analysis. Alice, 134 S. Ct. at 2355 (citing Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc., 566 U.S. 66, 77–79 (2012)). The Court stated, “[f]irst, we determine whether the claims at issue are directed to one of those patent-ineligible concepts.” Id. (citing Mayo, 566 U.S. at 77–78). If so, it stated, one must then determine “what else is there in the claims before us?” Id. (quoting Mayo, 566 U.S. at 78). Just as it did in Mayo, the Court characterized the second inquiry “as a search for an inventive concept,” id. at 2355 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), that is “sufficient to transform the claimed abstract idea into a patent-eligible application,” id. at 2357 (internal quotation marks and citation omit- ted). It is thus evident from the Court’s reliance on Mayo that it was merely applying the same test as it set out in Mayo, and did not materially change it. See id. at 2355, 2357 (citing Mayo for the rule of law). We therefore hold that Alice did not alter the governing law under § 101.

Voter Verified, Inc. v. Election Systems Software, LLC __ F.3d __ (Fed.Cir. 2018)(slip op. at page 7)(Judges Newman, Lourie (Author), Reyna).


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