Performing Claimed Features Faster Than Humans by Using Generic Computers Is Not Sufficient as an Improvement to Computer Technology

| Hyunjin (Harry) ParkKendall Loebbaka

Trinity Info Media, L.L.C. v. Covalent INC.

Before STOLL, BRYSON, and CUNNINGHAM.  Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Summary: Patents directed to connecting users based on their polling answers are abstract because the patents simply use generic computer components without adding more to the abstract idea.

Trinity Info Media filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Covalent, alleging that Covalent infringed patents directed to methods and systems for connecting users based on their polling questions and answers.  Covalent moved to dismiss, arguing the patent claims are ineligible under 35 U.S.C. §101.  The district court granted the motion to dismiss, finding that the asserted claims are directed to the abstract idea of matching users who gave corresponding answers and, thus, the claims are ineligible under §101.  Trinity Info Media appealed.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court, holding that the asserted patents do not claim patentable subject matter under §101.  On appeal, Trinity Info Media argued that the claimed process is not an abstract idea because humans cannot perform the claimed features in nanoseconds or aggregate the high volume of polling results.  The Federal Circuit rejected Trinity Info Media’s argument.  The Federal Circuit noted that the claims at issue did not require processing in “nanoseconds.”  Moreover, claims can still be directed to an abstract idea even if the claims require operations that a human cannot perform as quickly as a computer.  Trinity Info Media further argued that the claims are directed to improvements in the functionality of a computer.  The Federal Circuit noted that the asserted claims are directed to “how to improve existing polling systems... not how to improve computer technology.”  The Federal Circuit further explained that simply using generic computers to perform processes faster than a human is not sufficient for patent eligibility.

Editor: Paul Stewart