The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit for lack of subject matter eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 based on an Alice two-step analysis, with Judge Newman filing a sharp dissent focused on “the current law of § 101.” Realtime Data LLC v. Array Networks Inc., Case No. 2021-2251 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 2, 2023) (non-precedential) (Reyna, Taranto, JJ.) (Newman, J., dissenting).
From November 2017 through December 2018, Realtime brought suits against multiple defendant corporations asserting infringement of multiple Realtime patents related to methods and systems for digital data compression. In 2019, some defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim, arguing that the asserted patent claims were patent ineligible under § 101. In an oral ruling from the bench, the district court granted the motion to dismiss. On appeal, the Federal Circuit found that the district court had provided too cursory a ruling to allow for meaningful appellate review, and therefore vacated and remanded for the district court to provide a more detailed § 101 analysis.
On remand in 2021, the district court issued a written opinion working through the two-step analysis laid down by the Supreme Court in Alice. Step 1 evaluates whether the asserted claims are directed to a patent-ineligible concept, such as an abstract idea, and Step 2 searches for an “inventive concept” by considering the claims to determine whether any elements “transform the nature of the claim” from ineligible subject matter into a patent-eligible application, which must amount to more than “well-understood, routine, or conventional activities.” The district court found the patents invalid under § 101 and granted the motions to dismiss Realtime’s complaints but gave Realtime the opportunity to file amended complaints. After Realtime did so, the defendants renewed their motions to dismiss. The district court again dismissed Realtime’s complaints based on § 101. In ruling so, the district court first found that there were no material differences between Realtime’s prior and amended complaints with respect to the § 101 analysis. Next, the court incorporated by reference its prior ruling’s legal analysis, reaffirmed its finding that the claims were invalid under § 101 and granted dismissal, this time without granting Realtime leave to file amended complaints. Realtime appealed.
This time the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. In affirming, the Federal Circuit worked through the Alice two-step inquiry and agreed with the district court on each step. At Step 1, the Court agreed that “none of the claims at issue specifies any particular technique to carry out the compression of data” but instead were all “data manipulation claims that are recited at a high level of result-oriented generality and that lack sufficient recitation of how the purported inventions accomplish the results” (quoting Koninklijke). At Step 2, the Court agreed that the asserted patents “simply apply an abstract idea on generic computers with generic techniques,” thus failing to cross over into eligible subject matter. Accordingly, the Court held that the claims were directed to patent-ineligible subject matter and affirmed dismissal under § 101.