On May 10, a divided Federal Circuit issued a one-paragraph per curiam decision in CLS Bank International v. Alice Corp., affirming the district court’s ruling that the claims of Alice Corp.’s patents are not directed to patent-eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. §101. The asserted patents relate to a computerized trading platform used for conducting financial transactions. The asserted claims include method claims, computer-readable media claims, and system claims. A majority of the court affirmed the district court’s holding with respect to the method and computer-readable media claims. However, only an equally divided court affirmed the district court’s holding with respect to the system claims.
There is no majority opinion supporting any portion of the decision. Instead, different groups of the judges filed six separate opinions demonstrating a deep divide on the appropriate standard for determining the patent eligibility of computer-implemented inventions. Only the Court’s one-paragraph per curiam decision has precedential effect, and none of the opinions constitutes authoritative guidance on how to determine patent eligibility of computer-implemented inventions. The approaches taken in the different opinions are significantly different in many respects, so that they collectively offer little, if any, clear or consistent insights, other than that future decisions of the Court are likely to be very panel-dependent.
The failure of the Court to reach a consensus most directly impacts computer-implemented business method inventions, as the state of the existing law is the most uncertain and conflicted involving this type of invention.
Our Special Report on the CLS Bank International v. Alice Corp. decision will be published next week.