Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l: General Purpose Computers Cannot Save Claims Directed to Abstract Ideas

In the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, the Court affirmed the invalidity of Alice’s patents for computer implemented methods of reducing settlement risk. This case reached the high court after a severely split Federal Circuit could not agree whether language of the claims met the patent-eligibility requirements of 35 U.S.C. § 101. At the heart of this case was the Federal Circuit’s confusion over the impact of the Court’s 2012 decision, Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. In Mayo, Justice Breyer set forth a two-part test for determining whether a claim is directed to a patent-ineligible “abstract idea” and, if so, whether the claim also contains enough substance to amount to “significantly more than [the ineligible concept] itself.”

This test, however, resulted in muddle in the lower courts – it appeared to combine the patenteligibility analysis of § 101 with the novelty and non-obviousness analyses of §§ 102 and 103 in a way that contradicted the Court’s prohibition against doing so in Diamond v. Diehr. Further, Mayo was unclear on the extent to which physical components could be tied to an otherwise abstract claim in order to render the claim patent-eligible.

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