Friday, August 19, 2011

Unpatentable Subject Matter (mental processes)

  • Mental processes are not patent-eligible subject matter because the application of only human intelligence to the solution of practical problems is no more than a claim to a fundamental principle.

  • It is clear that unpatentable mental processes are the subject matter of claim 3. All of claim 3’s method steps can be performed in the human mind, or by a human using a pen and paper. Claim 3 does not limit its scope to any particular fraud detection algorithm, and no algorithms are disclosed in the … specification.

  • Such a method that can be performed by human thought alone is merely an abstract idea and is not patent-eligible under § 101. Methods which can be performed entirely in the human mind are unpatentable not because there is anything wrong with claiming mental method steps as part of a process containing non-mental steps but rather because computational methods which can be performed entirely in the human mind are the types of methods that embody the basic tools of scientific and technological work that are free to all men and reserved exclusively to none.

  • We have never suggested that simply reciting the use of a computer to execute an algorithm that can be per-formed entirely in the human mind falls within the Alappat rule.

  • We agree with the district court that the claimed process manipulates data to organize it in a logical way such that additional fraud tests may be performed. The mere manipulation or reorganization of data, however, does not satisfy the transformation prong.

  • As we stated in Bilski, to impart patent-eligibility to an otherwise unpatentable process under the theory that the process is linked to a machine, the use of the machine must impose meaningful limits on the claim’s scope. In other words, the machine must play a significant part in permitting the claimed method to be performed. Here, the incidental use of a computer to perform the mental process of claim 3 does not impose a sufficiently meaningful limit on the claim’s scope.

  • [M]erely claiming a software implementation of a purely mental process that could otherwise be performed without the use of a computer does not satisfy the machine prong of the machine-or-transformation test.
  • To salvage an otherwise patent-ineligible process, a computer must be integral to the claimed invention, facilitating the process in a way that a person making calculations or computations could not.
  • Using a computer to accelerate an ineligible mental process does not make that process patent-eligible.