According to the Court, if, after taking all of the claim recitations into consideration, it is not “manifestly evident” that a claim is directed to a patent ineligible abstract idea, that claim must not be deemed for that reason to be inadequate under Section 101.
Judge Prost dissented, writing that the majority failed to follow the Supreme Court’s Prometheus ruling by not inquiring whether the claims include an “inventive concept” and by devising its own patentable subject matter test.
The “abstract ideas” test for patent eligibility has become a serious problem because of its “abstractness,” Judge Linn observed. He noted that several Supreme Court decisions have discussed the concept of “preemption” to elucidate the “abstract idea” exception to patent eligibility.
However, he added that Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 188 (1981), addressed claims containing a mathematical equation, and held that they only foreclosed the general use of the equation in conjunction with all of the other steps in the claimed process. Thus, the essential concern, according to the Court, is not preemption per se, but the extent to which preemption results in the foreclosure of innovation.
However, Judge Linn wrote that a machine limitation can render a method patent eligible where the machine imposes a meaningful limit on the scope of the claim and where it plays a significant part in permitting the claimed method to be performed, citing SiRF Tech., Inc. v. Int’l Trade Comm’n, 601 F.3d 1319 (Fed. Cir. 2010). A machine is insufficient, he added, if it functions solely as an obvious mechanism for permitting a solution to be achieved more quickly, i.e., through the utilization of a computer for performing calculations. A claim that is drawn to a specific way of doing something with a computer is likely to be patent eligible, Judge Linn explained, whereas a claim to nothing more than the idea of doing that thing on a computer may not. He added the following:
While the use of a machine in these limitations is less substantial or limiting than the industrial uses examined in Diehr (curing rubber) or Alappat (a rasterizer), the presence of these limitations prevents us from finding it manifestly evident that the claims are patent ineligible under § 101. … In such circumstances, we must leave the question of validity to the other provisions of Title 35.