Federal Circuit to Consider When A Computer-Implemented Invention Is Patentable

CLS Bank International v. Alice Corporation, No. 2011-1301 (Fed. Cir. 2012) (Order granting en banc rehearing).

The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has granted an en banc rehearing in the CLS Bank case. As I previously discussed, the majority of a panel found CLS patents directed to using an intermediary in a financial transaction were valid and enforceable. The majority asserted that “when-after taking all the claim recitations into consideration-it is not manifestly evident that the claim is directed to a patent ineligible abstract idea, that claim must not be deemed for that reason to be inadequate under  § 101.” The dissent criticized the majority’s manifestly evident test.

The result in CLS Bank appeared to be in conflict with a prior panel’s decision in Bankcorp v. Sun Life, where a method of managing stable value protected life insurance policy was found not patent eligible.

The Federal Circuit will now rehear CLS Bank en banc, considering the following two questions:

1. What test should the court adopt to determine whether a computer-implemented invention is a patent ineligible “abstract idea”; and when, if ever, does the presence of a computer in a claim lend patent eligibility to an otherwise patent-ineligible idea?

2. In assessing patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 of a computer-implemented invention, should it matter whether the invention is claimed as a method, system, or storage medium; and should such claims at times be considered equivalent for § 101 purposes?