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Stanford’s Computer Models – Inventive for Parents, but Not for Patents

| Ryan W. McBrideChristie Matthaei

IN RE: BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE LELAND STANFORD JUNIOR UNIVERSITY

Before Prost, Lourie, and Reyna.  Appeal from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.

Summary: The specific combination of purely mathematical steps in a claim are not inventive enough to transform patent ineligible mathematical algorithms and mental processes.

Stanford University filed a patent for a computerized statistical model for determining Haplotype phases, which can help predict which parent gave a child a certain gene. The examiner rejected the claims on the grounds that they involve patent ineligible subject matter.  Stanford appealed to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) arguing that their use of a particular statistical tool as well as the specific ordered combination of steps in the claims, improves on existing statistical models. Stanford argued these improvements transform the claim into patent eligible material. The PTAB disagreed and found that the claims consisted entirely of patent ineligible mathematical algorithms and mental processes under an Alice analysis. The PTAB also held that the claims do not introduce additional limitations that provide an inventive concept under Alice, and affirmed the rejection of the Claim.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s decision. The Federal Circuit analyzed Stanford’s argument that the ordered combination of the steps is important to the improved efficiency and accuracy of the model, but found that the claims were merely abstract mental processes under Alice that did not require computer functionality. Thus, because the claims were found to be directed entirely to mathematical concepts, and the ordered combination did not introduce additional limitations, all claims were patent ineligible under Alice.

Editor: Paul Stewart