Alice 101: Federal Circuit Upholds PTAB Decision Finding Crowdsourcing Claims Ineligible

Posted by Marc R. Labgold, Ph.D. | May 19, 2020 | 0 Comments

On May 8, 2020, the Federal Circuit issued a non-precedential opinion (In re Jobin, 20-1067 PDF here) affirming the decision of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“Board”) that all pending claims in U.S. Patent Appl'n Ser. No. 12/523,427 (“the ‘427 application”) were ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101.  

The Federal Circuit characterized the claims of the ‘427 application as being “drawn to methods and systems for developing ‘products, advertisements, games, and other creative realizations,' through reliance on participants who, by contributing, obtain stakes in the developed products.”

In performing Alice step 1, the Court found “[d]espite its expansive language and its recitation of servers and databases, claim 221 of Jobin's application is, at bottom, directed to the collection, organization, grouping, and storage of data using techniques such as conducting a survey or crowdsourcing.”  The Court agreed with the Board's conclusion that this nothing more than “a method of organizing human activity—a hallmark of claims directed to abstract ideas.”

In performing Alice step 2, the Court concluded that Claim 221 “does not impose any meaningful limit on the method of collection, organization, grouping, and storage of data.” Thus, the Court held: “considered individually or as an ordered combination, the additional elements in Jobin's claim 221 do not transform the claim into a patent eligible application of the abstract idea.”

In a novel but misguided argument, the Appellant argued that the Board had erred by rejecting his request to use “the simpler and shorter claim 229” as the representative. However, given the Federal Circuit precedent requiring the claims be distilled to their basic concept for the Alice step 1 analysis, it is not surprising the Court rejected this argument. 

Although the opinion is non-precedential, it is helpful in that it provides continued insight into the Federal Circuit's views on the proper analysis under § 101. 

About the Author

Marc R. Labgold, Ph.D.

Marc R. Labgold, PhD, is a registered U.S. patent attorney with nearly 30 years of experience specializing in patent litigation and international commercial arbitration.  He is an independent arbitrator listed on numerous distinguished panels ...


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