In Simio, LLC, v. Flexsim Software Products, Inc., [2020-1171] (December 29, 2020), the Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Simio’s action for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,156,468, System and Method for Creating Intelligent Simulation Objects Using Graphical Process Descriptions, as well as the denial of Simio’s motion for leave to amend its Complaint.
The district court found that:
- the claims are directed to “the decades-old computer programming practice of substituting text[-]based coding with graphical processing,” which the court determined was an ineligible abstract idea; and
- considering the claim elements both individually and as an ordered combination, FlexSim “met its burden of showing no inventive concept or alteration of computer functionality sufficient to transform the system into a patent-eligible application.”
The Federal Circuit said that the ’468 patent showcases its key advance: using graphics instead of programming to create object-oriented simulations. However, the Federal Circuit also noted that the ’468 patent acknowledges that using graphical processes to simplify simulation building has been done since the 1980s and 1990s. The Federal Circuit said that “[s]imply applying the already-widespread practice of using graphics instead of programming to the environment of object-oriented simulations is no more than an abstract idea.” The Federal Circuit said that the claim is directed to the use of conventional or generic technology i.e., graphical processing generally in a well-known environment i.e., object-oriented simulations, without any claim that the invention reflects an inventive solution to any problem presented by combining the two.
The Federal Circuit rejected Simio’s argument that the claimed invention “improves on the functionality of prior simulation systems through the use of graphical or process modeling flowcharts with no programming code required.” The Federal Circuit said that “improving a user’s experience while using a computer application is not, without more, sufficient to render the claims directed to an improvement in computer functionality.”
Citing Customedia, the Federal Circuit added: claiming the improved speed or efficiency inherent with applying the abstract idea on a computer is insufficient to render the claims patent eligible as an improvement to computer functionality.
At Step 2 of the Alice analysis, the Federal Circuit found that a claim directed to the idea of using graphics instead of programming to create object-oriented simulations—maybe a new idea, but it was still an abstract one—and lacking any inventive concept, any meaningful application of this idea, sufficient to save the claim’s eligibility.
On the issue of whether the district court properly denied Simio leave to amend its complaint, the Federal Circuit affirmed the court’s futility-based denial. The Federal Circuit further found that nothing in the Complaint prevented resolving eligibility as a matter of law. While Simio argued that the district court erred by determining ineligibility without first conducting claim construction, Simio failed to explain how it might benefit from any particular term’s construction under an Alice § 101 analysis.
The Federal Circuit also affirmed because Simio failed to show good cause for seeking to leave to amend only after the scheduling order’s deadline.