• Aug 23 2022
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  • Category: CAFC Updates

Killian appeals from the decision of the PTAB affirming the examiner’s rejection under 35 U.S.C. § 101 of all pending claims of U.S. Patent Application No. 14/450,042 relating systems and methods for determining eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits through a computer network by  collecting information from various sources (a Federal/State databases, and a caseworker) and understanding the meaning of that information (determining whether a person is receiving and/or eligible for SSDI benefits). The CAFC finds that the Board correctly concluded that these steps can be performed by a human, using observation, evaluation, judgment, and opinion, because they involve making determinations and identifications, which are mental tasks humans routinely do. That these steps, with the exception of the step of the caseworker obtaining additional information, are performed on a generic computer does not save the claims from being directed to an abstract idea. Killian argues that the standard promulgated in Alice and Mayo is so poorly defined that it renders all court and Board decisions finding a claim patent ineligible under the Alice/Mayo standard arbitrary and capricious.  While the CAFC may review de novo the Board’s legal determinations under § 101 for compliance with the statute and judicial precedent, and review any factual findings for substantial evidence, the CAFC observes that it may not announce that the Board acts arbitrarily and capriciously merely by applying binding judicial precedent. Even if the CAFC were persuaded by Killian’s argument that the Alice/Mayo framework is insolubly unclear, both the CAFC and the Board would still be bound to follow the Supreme Court’s § 101 jurisprudence and precedent unless and until it is overruled by the Supreme Court. In response to Killian’s argument that comparing his case to other cases in which the CAFC and the Supreme Court considered issues of patent eligibility under § 101 violates his due process rights because he had no opportunity to appear in those other cases, the CAFC notes that nothing stops Killian from identifying any important distinctions between his claimed invention and claims the courts have analyzed in prior cases. Killian next argues that the search for an “inventive concept” at the second step of the Alice/Mayo framework is improper because Congress did away with an “invention” requirement when it enacted the Patent Act of 1952, but the CAFC finds that the Supreme Court has instructed that courts are required, at step two, to look for an inventive concept, so search for an inventive concept they must. Killian also argues that the “mental steps” doctrine has no foundation in modern patent law, but the CAFC finds that they are bound by their precedential decisions holding that steps capable of performance in the human mind are, without more, patent-ineligible abstract ideas. Finally, Killian argues that whether a claimed process is well-understood, routine, and conventional is necessarily a factual inquiry requiring the finder of fact to consult all evidence in the record, yet the Patent Office adjudges everything in its § 101 decisions in an evidentiary vacuum and there is no substantial evidence on the record to support the § 101 rejection of his claims.  The CAFC finds that the Board properly found substantial evidence from Killian’s application that supports its findings. With respect to Killian’s evidence (fifty-five documents allegedly presented to the examiner and the Board), the CAFC finds that Killian forfeited any argument on appeal based on those documents by failing to present anything more than a conclusory, skeletal argument. Accordingly, the CAFC affirms the Board’s decision.

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