In Uniloc USA, Inc. v. LG Electronics USA, Appeal No. 19-1835 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 30, 2020), the Federal Circuit reaffirmed that software inventions are patentable in the U.S. with a bright-line statement: “Our precedent is clear that software can make patent-eligible improvements to computer technology, and related claims are eligible as long as they are directed to non-abstract improvements to the functionality of a computer or network platform itself.”
The relevant claims involved Bluetooth communications and, importantly, were directed to an improvement in network communications, which the Federal Circuit described as demonstrating patent eligibility: “[W]e hold the claims at issue are directed to a patent-eligible improvement to computer functionality, namely the reduction of latency experienced by parked secondary stations in communication systems.”
The Federal Circuit provided other useful statements concerning the patentability of software-related inventions:
- “The claimed invention’s compatibility with conventional communication systems does not render it abstract.”
- The inventiveness or improvement of a software-related invention need not relate to “physical” components; instead it can reside in the software elements (“To hold otherwise risks resurrecting a bright-line machine-or-transformation test, or creating a categorical ban on software patents.”).
Because of the bright-line statements, we can expect that Uniloc USA will become routinely cited during litigation and AIA proceedings involving 35 U.S.C. § 101 challenges raised against software-related inventions.