February 2, 2018

Another 101 Bites The Dust

In DCT Move, Inc. v. Real Estate Alliance, the CAFC affirmed the district court’s holding of invalidity of claims under 101. Here is the representative claim.

  1. A method using a computer for locating available real estate properties comprising the steps of:

a) creating a database of the available real estate properties;

b) displaying a map of a desired geographic area;

c) selecting a first area having boundaries within the geographic area;

d) zooming in on the first area of the displayed map to about the boundaries of the first area to display a higher level of detail than the displayed map;

e) displaying the zoomed first area;

f) selecting a second area having boundaries within the zoomed first area;

g) displaying the second area and a plurality of points within the second area, each point representing the appropriate geographic location of an available real estate property; and

h) identifying available real estate properties within the database which are located within the second area.

Abstract idea

The CAFC analogized the above claim with the claims held to be directed to an abstract idea in Electric Power Group, Intellectual Ventures I, and Content Extraction & Transmission and said that the claim is simply directed to the use of a computer to serve a conventional business purpose. The CAFC did, however, provide one quote that may be helpful to overcome the summary type 101 rejections over Electric Power Group that we have all likely seen — “we do not suggest that every claim involving the collection, organization, manipulation, or display of data is necessarily directed to an abstract idea …”

Inventive concept

The CAFC said “Claim 1 recites only generic computer components and features: a ‘computer’ and the creation of a ‘database.’” To support the conclusion of “generic computer components,” the CAFC pointed to the specification which states “the present invention may be implemented on an IBM or compatible personal computer system.” The CAFC also found it fatal that the specification didn’t provide any implementation details for how to performed the allegedly inventive zoom feature.

There are a few points to take away that may help patent drafters to better position a patent application to survive 101.  First, include as much detail as possible as to how the claim limitations are actually performed.  Second, avoid characterizing “the invention” and avoid using phrases like “the invention may be implemented on an IBM or compatible personal computer system.”

Owners of patents directed to computer-related inventions should take care to assess whether their patents will survive 101 challenges.