PTAB Finds Business Method Claims Reciting "Generic Computer Technology" Unpatentable

By: Young Chon

In CRS Advanced Technologies, Inc. v. Frontline Technologies, Inc. (CBM2012-00005, Paper No. 66, entered January 21, 2014), a transitional covered business method (CBM) review, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) held all instituted claims 3, 6, 7, 16, 24 and 33 of U.S. Patent No. 6,675,151 C1 (“the ‘151 patent”) unpatentable under § 101.  Id. at 3.

The ‘151 Patent is directed to a method of effectively finding and placing substitute work-force using a central database accessed over the Internet by the “one or more computers.”

In its analysis, the PTAB noted that there is a line of Federal Circuit cases holding that claims are directed to patent-eligible subject matter when computing technology was integral to the claimed process.   Specifically, the PTAB cited SiRF, in which the claims recite a "GPS receiver", and Ultramercial, in which the claims recite an "extensive computer interface" with "eleven separate specific steps", as examples of cases in which the claims are directed to patent eligible subject matter.  Id. at 10 and 11.  Also, the PTAB noted another line of Federal Circuit cases holding that claims are not directed to patent-eligible subject matter where the computing technology did not limit the scope of the claims meaningfully.  Here, the PTAB cited Bancorp, Dealertrack ("computer-aided"), and Accenture ("transaction database") as examples of cases which show examples of claims directed to patent ineligible subject matter.  Id. at 11 and 12.

In comparing the challenged claims of the ‘151 Patent with the two lines of the cases described above, the PTAB determined that the challenged claims are unpatentable because the claims are “more akin to” the "generic computer technology" claims in Bancorp, Dealertrack, and Accenture.  That is, “the claims are directed to concepts for taking the preexisting process of substitute fulfillment and implementing it in a networked computing environment.”  Id. at 13.  In particular, the PTAB indicated that merely adding the terms “one or more computers,” “website,” and “communication link” does not create "meaningful limits on the challenged claims’ scope."  Id. at 14.  Rather, these items only create "more efficient communication and data storage—basic functions of those components."  Id. at 14.  The Board has yet to find the claims of a challenged business method patent valid.