An Invention That Changes the Normal Operation of a System Is Not Abstract Under § 101

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Knobbe Martens

UNILOC USA, INC. v. LG ELECTRONICS USA, INC.

Before Moore, Reyna, and Taranto. On appeal from the District Court for the Northern District of California.

Summary: A claim is not abstract where it is directed to an improved communication system that changes the normal operation of a system.

Uniloc sued LG, asserting patent claims directed to a communication system including a primary station and at least one secondary station (e.g., a computer mouse or keyboard). In conventional systems, primary stations alternate between sending “inquiry” messages to identify new secondary stations and “polling” secondary stations already connected to determine whether they have information to transmit. The claimed system incorporates a polling data field into the inquiry message, thereby decreasing response latency. The district court granted LG’s motion to dismiss, holding that the asserted claims are directed to the abstract idea of “additional polling in a wireless communication system.”

The Federal Circuit reversed and remanded. The claims are not abstract because they are directed to a specific improvement to computer functionality, namely the reduction of response time by peripheral devices. The Court emphasized the claimed invention “changes the normal operation of the communication system itself” to address a specific problem rooted in computer technology.

Editor: Paul Stewart

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