Our weekly SoCal IP Institute meeting on Monday, September 25, 2014 will be a discussion of several recent cases and trends related to 35 U.S.C. Section 101 patentable subject matter.  Over the past few weeks, several financial services and software-related patents have been found unpatentable under Section 101.  A good summary article may be found here.  We will discuss a few representative cases.  Brief synopses of the cases we will discuss appear below.

Tuxis Technologies, LLC v. Amazon.com, Inc., No. 13-1771-RGA (D. Del. September 3, 2014) (available here). Amazon’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on a patent on a method of “upselling” to a consumer using a computer system was found not to present patentable subject matter.  As a result, the case was dismissed on the pleadings.  The court found that the patent failed to meet the Alice criteria of providing some “inventive concept” beyond the abstract idea, in this case, of “upselling.”  The court did not find it here.

Eclipse IP LLC v. McKinley Equipment Corp., No. 14-154  (C.D. Cal. September 4, 2014) (available here). The court characterized this patent as directed to “asking someone if they are available to perform a task and then either waiting for them to complete 26 it or contacting the next person.”  The court further stated “[t]he claim recites that the method is performed ‘in connection with a computer-based notification system,’ which Eclipse argues saves the claims because ‘every asserted claim of the ‘681 patent requires a specially programmed computer system and a specially-equipped PCD to implement the invention and to achieve its benefits.'”  The two other patents relate to asking whether individuals are able to go to locations (deliver goods or pick up individuals) and, if not, seeking others to go to locations.  The court here found that these claims similarly do not provide any “inventive concept” as required by Alice. The court granted McKinley’s motion to dismiss.

Every Penny Counts, Inc. v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 11-cv-2826 (M.D. Fl. September 11, 2014) (available here). Here, the two asserted patents “claim, respectively, a method of and a system of automated saving or automated charitable giving.” For example, the dollars and cents amount of a bank customer’s credit card purchase is “rounded up” to the next whole dollar. The difference between the dollars and cents amount of the purchase and the next whole  dollar, to which the amount is “rounded up,” is withdrawn from the customer’s bank account and deposited into a recipient account for personal saving or charitable giving.  The court describes the method as follows:

The ’849 patent’s “representative” method, Alice, 134 S. Ct. at 2359, comprises (1) electronically receiving data, including the transaction amounts,6 (2) modifying the transaction amounts in accord with a formula, (3) depositing the differences between the modified and unmodified transaction amounts into one or more recipient accounts, and (4) adjusting each account balance accordingly. The function performed by the computer at each step of the method is “purely conventional.”

In sum, the ’849 patent, a method patent, is invalid under Section 101 because the patent claims an abstract idea that is implemented by “well-understood, routine, conventional activities previously known to the industry.”

Thus, Wells Fargo’s motion for summary judgment was granted.

All are invited to join us in our discussion during the SoCal IP Institute meeting on Monday, September 15, 2014 at Noon in our Westlake Village office. This activity is approved for 1 hour of MCLE credit. If you will be joining us, please RSVP to Noelle Smith by 9 am Monday morning.