Claims to Printed Matter Are Patent-Ineligible Only if They Lack an Inventive Concept
Before Reyna, Schall, and Stoll. Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Delaware.
Summary: Claims that recited printed matter but arguably included an inventive concept beyond the printed matter itself were not patent-ineligible.
C R Bard Inc. (“Bard”) sued AngioDynamics, Inc. (“AngioDynamics”) for patent infringement. The asserted patent claims recited assemblies and systems for identifying a vascular access port. Access ports are “devices implanted underneath a patient’s skin that allow medical providers to inject fluid into the patient’s veins.” The claims required an access port with a radiographic marker that is visible in x-ray images and that identifies the port as suitable for power injections (i.e., injections at a high pressure and flow rate). AngioDynamics moved for summary judgement of ineligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101, arguing that the identifying information on the radiographic marker was non-functional printed matter, which is not entitled to patentable weight. The district court agreed, and Bard appealed.
The Federal Circuit explained that under the printed matter doctrine, information that is claimed for the content it communicates is entitled to no patentable weight unless it is “functionally related” to its “substrate” (i.e., the structural elements of the claimed invention). Here, the identifying information on the radiographic marker lacked the requisite functional relationship, so the Federal Circuit gave it no patentable weight. The Federal Circuit further explained that a patent may be ineligible under § 101 if it is directed solely to non-functional printed matter and contains no additional inventive concept. But here, even if the printed matter was the focus of Bard’s claims, AngioDynamic failed to show that the claims’ use of a radiographic marker to verify suitability for power injections was not an inventive concept. Thus, the Federal Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment of ineligibility under § 101.
Editor: Paul Stewart