101 at the Federal Circuit
Despite the USPTO’s recent Guidelines on subject matter eligibility, no weight has been afforded to the new Guidelines by the Federal Circuit in the recent cases below.
ChargePoint, Inc. v. Semaconnect, Inc. On March 28, 2019, the Federal Circuit found all of ChargePoint’s claims as being directed to an abstract idea – namely, “the abstract idea of communicating requests to a remote server and receiving communications from that server, i.e., communication over a network.” Notably, independent claim 1 recited a transceiver and a controller, while independent claim 31 recited a charge transfer device, an electrical receptacle, an electric power line, a control device, a current measuring device, a controller, a LAN transceiver and a communication device. However, the Federal Circuit still deemed these claims as being claims for “an art or principle in the abstract,” which is the abstract idea of using generic networking capabilities with charging stations, finding that neither the claims nor the specification indicated a different method of communicating information over a network other than what is known in the art. In particular, the court opined that “the broad claim language would cover any mechanism for implementing network communication on a charging station, thus preempting the entire industry’s ability to use networked charged stations.”
Cleveland Clinic Found. v. True Health Diagnostics LLC On April 1, 2019, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s opinion that Appellant’s claims were patent ineligible for being directed to natural law and failing to recite other inventive concept. In response to Appellant’s arguments that the district court failed to afford the proper Skidmore deference to the recent USPTO guidelines on subject matter eligibility, the Federal Circuit stated simply, “we are not bound by its guidance.”
Appellant’s claims were directed to a diagnostic method for cardiovascular disease (CVD). The Federal Circuit found that the claims were directed to natural law that blood myeloperoxidase (MPO) levels correlate with atherosclerotic CVD, as the claims “only recite applying known methods to detect MPO levels in plasma, comparing them to standard MPO levels, and reaching a conclusion: that the patient’s blood MPO levels are elevated in comparison to a control group.” The court opined that “these laws of nature exist regardless of the methods used by humans to observe them.” In response to Appellant’s arguments that previous diagnostic methods based on detecting LDL were flawed in that that these were imperfect markers for CVD as they were not specific to cardiovascular inflammation. However, the court found that “[i]nadequate measures of detection do not render a natural law any less natural.”