Core Wireless Licensing’s GUI Claims Found Patent-Eligible by the Federal Circuit
The Federal Circuit has confirmed that the subject matter of Core Wireless Licensing’s claims to a graphical user interface (GUI) is patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101 in Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. v. LG Elecs., Inc., No. 2016-2684, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 1931 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 25, 2018). The asserted claims required that the GUI display a list of applications that presents a summary of data offered within the application while the application is in an unlaunched state. When particular data are selected, the application launches to display the selected data. The specification described the display technique as being especially useful for small screens, like mobile phones, reducing user inputs when requesting frequently accessed data and performing common actions. LG Electronics argued that the claims were too abstract to merit patent protection. It urged the Court to find that the claims were directed to the abstract idea of an index implemented on conventional computer hardware.
The Court conceded that the claims only required conventional hardware to implement the display technique, but disagreed that the claims were merely directed to an index. It emphasized that the claims specified a particular way of accessing data: directly from the menu. The Court noted that the summarized data was limited to a specific type of data accessible in a specified way: data to launch and be seen within an application. The claims also limited the state that the applications were required to be in when displaying the list of data, which was “unlaunched.”
The Federal Circuit concluded that the claims were similar to other software claims it had previously found patent-eligible. Like the claims in Enfish, the challenged claims purported to improve the way a computer stores and retrieves data, even though they only required a general-purpose computer. It also compared the claims to those in Thales Visionix, which required a particular configuration of conventional sensors and used a particular mathematical method to eliminate complications from conventional methods of tracking an object relative to a moving reference frame. As a result, the Court stated that the claims were clearly directed to an improvement in the way computers function, especially those with small screens, not an unpatentable abstract idea.
The Court had previously found claims to a GUI that dynamically displayed prices for buying and selling commodities relative to fixed prices that would update with an order entry region when the dynamically displayed prices crossed the fixed prices. When a user selected the order entry region, the computer would automatically select parameters for a trade order and send the trade order to an electronic exchange. Like the claims in Core Wireless, the claims in Trading Techs. Int’l, Inc. v. CQG, Inc., 675 Fed. Appx. 1001 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (nonprecedential), specified what type of data was displayed, when and how the display changed in response to user input, and how the display represented an improvement in the way users interact with computers.
Now that the Court has given precedential weight to a decision involving a GUI, patent applicants may consider revising strategies for software inventions to more clearly impose timing and device-state restrictions on their patent claims. When coupled with supporting description in the specification that the display techniques represent an improvement in the way that users interact with technology, patent claims covering the way GUIs work may have an increased chance of surviving a subject-matter eligibility challenge.
James C. Watson, Registered Patent Attorney
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