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CAFC Finds Claims to a Graphical User Interface Patent-Eligible Under 35 U.S.C. § 101

 

In a recent decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed a district court holding of subject matter eligibility for claims directed to a graphical user interface (GUI). In Trading Techs. Int’l., Inc. v. CQG, Inc., U.S. Patent Nos. 6,772,132 (the ‘132 patent) and 6,766,304 (the ‘304 patent) were under consideration.  In its opinion, the CAFC performed §101 subject matter eligibility analysis for claim 1 of the ‘304 patent, which recites:

1.    A method for displaying market information relating to and facilitating trading of a commodity being traded in an electronic exchange having an inside market with a highest bid price and a lowest ask price on a graphical user interface, the method comprising:

dynamically displaying a first indicator in one of a plurality of locations in a bid display region, each location in the bid display region corresponding to a price level along a common static price axis, the first indicator representing quantity associated with at least one order to buy the commodity at the highest bid price currently available in the market;

dynamically displaying a second indicator in one of a plurality of locations in an ask display region, each location in the ask display region corresponding to a price level along the common static price axis, the second indicator representing quantity associated with at least one order to sell the commodity at the lowest ask price currently available in the market;

displaying the bid and ask display regions in relation to fixed price levels positioned along the common static price axis such that when the inside market changes, the price levels along the common static price axis do not move and at least one of the first and second indicators moves in the bid or ask display regions relative to the common static price axis;

displaying an order entry region comprising a plurality of locations for receiving commands to send trade orders, each location corresponding to a price level along the common static price axis; and

in response to a selection of a particular location of the order entry region by a single action of a user input device, setting a plurality of parameters for a trade order relating to the commodity and sending the trade order to the electronic exchange.

 

Under step 1 of the Alice test (is the claim directed to a patent-ineligible concept, i.e., a law of nature, natural phenomenon, or abstract idea?), the CAFC agreed with the district courts finding that “rather than reciting ‘a mathematical algorithm,’ ‘a fundamental economic or longstanding commercial practice,’ or ‘a challenge in business,’ the challenged patents ‘solve problems of prior graphical user interface devices . . . in the context of computerized trading[] relating to speed, accuracy and usability.’” Trading Techs. Int’l., Inc. v. CQG, Inc., No. 2016-1616 at *6 (CAFC, January 18, 2016).  The district court had performed an Alice Step 2 analysis, although unnecessary if the answer to the inquiry of Alice Step 1 is “no.”  Regarding Alice Step 2, the CAFC stated that “district court’s rulings are in accord with precedent,” where the district court had “concluded that the specific structure and concordant functionality of the graphical user interface are removed from abstract ideas, as compared to conventional computer implementations of known procedures.” Id. at *7.

The CAFC concluded that “[f]or Section 101 purposes, the claimed subject matter is ‘directed to a specific improvement to the way computers operate,’ id., for the claimed graphical user interface method imparts a specific functionality to a trading system ‘directed to a specific implementation of a solution to a problem in the software arts.’” Id. at *9.  The CAFC decision in Trading Techs. Int’l., Inc. v. CQG, Inc. is favorable to software-related inventions that can be classified as specific improvements to the way a computer operates, e.g., increasing efficiency, accuracy, usability, etc.

 

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