CLS Bank v. Alice Corp. Further Muddies §101 Patent Eligibility

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On May 10, 2013, the Federal Circuit issued deeply divided opinions on the standards to be applied to determine patent eligibility of software and business method patents, further opening the door to challenges of such patents under 35 U.S.C. § 101. CLS Bank Int’l v. Alice Corp., No. 2011-1301 (Fed. Cir. May 10, 2013). In a short per curiam opinion, the Court reversed the earlier panel opinion and affirmed by a majority that the method and computer-readable media claims are not directed to patent-eligible subject matter under § 101 and affirmed, by an equally divided Court, that corresponding systems claims were likewise not directed to patent-eligible subject matter.

The Court, however, could not reach a consensus on the standard for analyzing the abstract idea exception to patent eligibility for computer-implemented method claims and systems claims. In short, patent applicants and litigants are left with little concrete guidance regarding the determination of patent-eligible subject matter.

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