by Dennis Crouch
On February 8, 2013 (this Friday), the Federal Circuit will sit en banc and hear arguments on two important patent cases. In CLS Bank v. Alice Corp the court will focus on the patenting of inventions implemented through software. The two particular questions highlighted in the en banc order are:
a. 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?; and
b. 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?
In addition to the parties, the Federal Circuit has also granted leave for the USPTO to participate at oral arguments. The USPTO’s brief focused on practical mechanisms for the process of determining § 101 eligibility. The agency wrote “the essential question under § 101 is whether the claim, properly construed, incorporates enough meaningful limitations to ensure that it amounts to more than a claim for the abstract idea itself . . . This Court should identify a non-exhaustive list of factors for district courts and examiners to consider in resolving that essential question on a case-by-case basis.”
The second patent case (argued first on the 8th) is that of Robert Bosch v. Pylon Mfg. In Bosch, the court is focusing on the “final judgment rule” that limits a losing party’s right to appeal until the district court judgment is finalized. Particularly, 28 U.S.C. § 1292(c)(2) indicates that the Federal Circuit has jurisdiction over patent appeals once the case is “final except for an accounting. The basic question on appeal is: Define “an accounting.” The en banc order asks two particular questions:
a) Does 28 U.S.C. § 1292(c)(2) confer jurisdiction on this Court to entertain appeals from patent infringement liability determinations when a trial on damages has not yet occurred?
b) Does 28 U.S.C. § 1292(c)(2) confer jurisdiction on this Court to entertain appeals from patent infringement liability determinations when willfulness issues are outstanding and remain undecided?
In its brief of the case, the U.S. Government argued that “accounting” encompasses the damage award. As such, the Government argues that appeal is appropriate once liability is determined.
At the Supreme Court, oral argument in Bowman v. Monsanto (patent exhaustion doctrine) is scheduled for February 19; and FTC v. Watson (reverse payment settlements) is scheduled for March 25. Arguments for Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc.
have not yet been scheduled.