Patentable Software Update: Federal Circuit Finds Another Software Invention Patentable

Core Wireless Licensing V. LG Elecs., Inc.Core Wireless Licensing V. LG Elecs., Inc.

Core Wireless Licensing v. Lg Elecs., Inc. serves as yet another example of how display interfaces and structures may be patent eligible. In Core Wireless the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of summary judgment that the patented software technology’s claims were patent ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and held that the patents’ claims are patent eligible.

The patents at issue in Core Wireless were U.S. Patent No. 8,713,476 (“‘476 patent”) and U.S. Patent No. 8,434,020 (“‘020 patent”) (collectively, “patents-in-suit”), which disclose improved display interfaces and menu structures (“GUIs”).  The GUIs were particularly for electronic devices with small screens like mobile telephones.  The GUIs allow a user to more quickly access desired data stored in, and functions of, applications included in the electronic devices.

The GUIs employ an application summary window that display “a limited list of common functions and commonly accessed stored data which itself can be reached directly from the main menu listing some or all applications.”  The patents-in-suit explain that the disclosed application summary window “is far faster and easier than conventional navigation approaches,” particularly for devices with small screens.

In the underlying case, Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. (“Core Wireless”) sued LG Electronics Mobilecomm U.S.A., Inc. (“LG”), alleging LG infringed dependent claims 8 and 9 of the ‘476 patent and dependent claims 11 and 13 of the ‘020 patent. Claims 8 and 9 of the ‘476 patent depend from claim 1, which recites (emphases added):

  1. A computing device comprising a display screen, the computing device being configured to display on the screen a menu listing one or more applications, and additionally being configured to display on the screen an application summary that can be reached directly from the menu, wherein the application summary displays a limited list of data offered within the one or more applications, each of the data in the list being selectable to launch the respective application and enable the selected data to be seen within the respective application, and wherein the application summary is displayed while the one or more applications are in an un-launched state.

Claims 11 and 13 of the ‘020 patent depend from claim 1, which recites (emphases added):

  1. A computing device comprising a display screen, the computing device being configured to display on the screen a main menu listing at least a first application, and additionally being configured to display on the screen an application summary window that can be reached directly from the main menu, wherein the application summary window displays a limited list of at least one function offered within the first application, each function in the list being selectable to launch the first application and initiate the selected function, and wherein the application summary window is displayed while the application is in an un-launched state.

Below are the figures from the ‘476 patent illustrating screenshots implementing the claimed embodiments.


LG moved for summary judgment of invalidity of the asserted claims under 35 U.S.C. § 101, which the district court denied. The district court found claim 1 of the ‘476 patent representative for the purposes of evaluating patent eligibility. The district court refused to find an abstract idea, under Alice Step 1 – characterizing the claim as directed to “displaying an application summary window while the application is in an unlaunched state.” In the alternative, the district court also held that key innovations of the patent would render the claims eligible under Alice Step 2. In particular, the district court noted the key innovation of “directly” accessing the application summary from the menu while the application is yet “unlaunched.”

On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision finding that the asserted claims are directed to an improved user interface for computing devices, not to the abstract idea of an index. The Federal Circuit found the claims are directed to a particular manner of summarizing and presenting information in electronic devices.  The Federal Circuit, noted that like the improved systems claimed in Enfish, Thales, Visual Memory and Finjan, the claims recite specific improvements over prior systems resulting in an improved user interface for electronic devices.

The technology at issue in Core Wireless is yet another example of patent eligible software.  The § 101 landscape related for software inventions continues to evolve post-Alice and will continue to come into focus as decisions are issued.  Software is critical in creating new and innovative improvements over existing technology and patent protection remains an integral component in protecting the resources spent developing software. To learn more about the author of this article, Derek Fahey, click HERE.

 

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