Business method art units have been a scary place for patent applications. In Alice v. CLS Bank, a vocal minority of the Supreme Court would have categorically excluded business method patents from eligibility. So it comes as no surprise that many Examiners have raised the bar of patent-eligibility of business method inventions to unprecedented levels. So much so that applicants now try and avoid any claim language that hints at business methods. But business method patents are not per se doomed, as shown in the recently decided Ex parte Breiter, dated September 29, 2017.
In Ex parte Breiter, there was no hiding the fact that the claims recited a business method because it was integral to the invention. The claim recites “a processor configured to initiate executable operations of a business process using a standard business process engine.” Indeed, that was the technological problem that the applicant sought to overcome, improving business process modelling (BPM) from a software engineering perspective.
In its decision, the Board acknowledged that the claims were directed to an abstract idea under step 1 of the Alice/Mayo framework. But in its analysis of step 2, the Board found Enfish analogous in holding that the claims are directed to an improvement of computer functionality. Citing Enfish, the Board found that in the claim, the computer implemented method is focused on “the specific asserted improvement in computer capabilities” and not “merely used as a tool.” Specifically, the claims at issue recited injecting operations that advantageously allow interchanging data with a predefined data structure instance without having the specified corresponding tasks in the business process definition in advance.
Subject matter eligibility of business method inventions is difficult, but not impossible–especially when the claims recite specific technological improvements in computer capabilities.
Stay updated on all decisions at the PTAB by signing up for our recap email service. You can even filter the alerts to update you only on the issues or outcomes that are important to you. Right now, you can even give it a try for free for 14 days.