Section 101 at the Federal Circuit After Bilski: These Process Claims Do Not Claim an Abstract Idea


On December 8, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued its first opinion citing to the Supreme Court case of Bilski v. Kappos, 130 S. Ct. 3218 (2010) (hereinafter Bilski). In Research Corp. Technologies v. Microsoft Corp., No. 2010-1037 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 8, 2010) (hereinafter RCT v. Microsoft), the Federal Circuit held that the asserted process claims of two patents were not directed toward an abstract idea and, thus, satisfy the patent eligible subject matter requirements of 35 U.S.C. § 101, reversing the lower court.

Research Corporation Technologies (RCT) asserted six patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 5,111,310, 5,341,228, 5,477,305, 5,543,941, 5,708,518, and 5,726,772, against Microsoft Corporation, alleging infringement related to digital image half-toning technologies. At issue in this most recent appeal to the Federal Circuit is the ruling by the U.S. District Court of Arizona that the ‘310 and ‘228 patents are not directed to patent- eligible subject matter under Section 101, in addition to effective priority date disputes regarding the ‘772 and ‘305 patents.

Although briefed and argued prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in Bilski, RCT v. Microsoft (authored by Chief Judge Randall Rader and joined by Judge Pauline Newman and Judge S. Jay Plager) presents the Federal Circuit’s first published opinion citing to Bilski and interprets the “abstract idea” exception to patent-eligible subject matter since the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year.

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