Federal Circuit Overturns Summary Judgment Based on §101 Ineligibility
In a new precedential decision released September 28, 2022, the Federal Circuit overturned a decision from the Northern District of California. The lower court’s decision granted summary judgement for defendant Kollective Technology, finding all claims of plaintiff-complainant Cooperative’s ‘452 patent ineligible under 35 U.S.C. §101.
Cooperative’s ‘452 Patent relates to systems and methods for structuring a peer-to-peer (P2P) dynamic network for distributing large files, namely for videos and video games. The District Court had found that the ‘452 patent failed §101 at step 1 of the Alice test, specifically that the focus of the patent was the abstract idea of “the preparation and transmission of content to peers through a computer-network.” Furthermore, the lower court ruled that the ‘452 patent failed step two of Alice because the patent was “merely implementing the abstract idea of preparing and transmitting data over a computer network with generic computer components using conventional technology.”
The Court of Appeals overturned the lower court rejection on the basis that the ‘452 patent did in fact meet part two of the Alice test on two different bases. The first issue was a matter of claim construction, Cooperative argued that the claims required trace routes to be used in content segmentation, while Kollective argued that the segmentation was optional, and therefore irrelevant for the purposes of determining eligibility. The District Court had not conducted claim construction yet and the Federal Circuit held “under these circumstances we proceed by adopting the non-moving party’s construction”. Since the construction was the only thing at issue for the trace routes, this alone was enough to overturn the dismissal under §101.
However Cooperative also claimed that the patent was inventive because the ‘452 patent required a dynamic P2P network wherein multiple peer nodes consume the same content and are configured to communicate outside the CDN’s. Kollective argued that all components used in this feature are routine and well known, and this is simply a rearrangement of existing components. Cooperative did not dispute that the components themselves were well known in the art, but rather that it was the arrangement and structure of these components that was itself inventive, and therefore patent eligible. The Federal Circuit agreed with Cooperative, “we conclude that claim 1 recites a specific technical solution … it recites a particular arrangement of peer nodes for distributing content … which did not exist in the prior art”.
The Federal Circuit therefore completely overturned the lower courts decision on both points, stating “at a minimum, the district court should have denied the motion to dismiss because Cooperative’s allegations in the complaint regarding the claims and the ‘452 patent’s written description create a plausible factual issue regarding the inventiveness of the dynamic P2P configuration of claim 1.”
This case could have larger implications on §101 policy going forward. Software patents like the one at issue in this case have been notoriously susceptible to §101 rejections, but the Federal Circuit’s decision here is a win for software patents.