Arrhythmia Research Technlogy, Inc. V. Corazonix Corp. (901422128)

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Read for 2/11/11

Reading Notes

  • Decided in the CAFC in 1992
  • Arrhythmia appealed the summary judgment of the District Court declaring the Simpson patent invalid under 101
    • CAFA reversed this decision and said it was statutory
  • Invention is directed at the analysis of ECG signals to determine characteristics of heart function
    • Sought to determine which heart attack patients are at high risk for ventricular tachycardia
    • His method of detecting and measuring the "late potentials" which lead to this is the subject of the patent
  • Description of procedure
    • Reverse time order filtering is the critical step
    • Comparison of RMS to predetermined values determines the risk
  • District court held that the claims of the patent were a mathematical algorithm and therefore not statutory
  • PTO did not question it under 101
  • Cites Gottschalk case
    • A Claim that "wholly pre-empts" a formula used in general purpose digital computers does not define statutory subject matter
  • Claims analyzed to determine if the process itself was new and useful
  • Apply F-W-A test in this case
    • Arrhythmia stresses the claims are directed to a process and apparatus for detecting and analyzing specific signals
    • Corazonix say the claims define no more than an algorithm to calculate a number
  • F-W-A analysis
    1. Accept that an algorithm is included in the claims - second stage
    2. The view that there is nothing physical about signals is incorrect (they are transformed)
    • This is statutory because

The Freeman-Walter-Abele standard is met, for the steps of Simson's claimed method comprise an otherwise statutory process whose mathematical procedures are applied to physical process steps.

  • The Simpson claims are analogous to Diehr
  • Separate process and apparatus claims
    • Apparatus require a means for converting the ECG signals from analog to digital
  • Apparatus analysis
    • Apparatus claims define "a combination of interrelated means" for performing specified functions
    • That his functions could not have been done effectively without electronic devices does not determine the patentability
    • Also that the product is numerical is not a proper criterion

Concurring Judge

  • The court applied a permutation of the Benson algorithm rule
  • The question in the case is whether the Simpson patent claims a process and apparatus within the meaning of 101
    • The language of 101 has no implication that it extends protection to some subcategories of machine or process and not others
      • Limits focus on characteristics
  • The Benson court read a limitation non found in 101 into the term "process"
  • Algorithm required both a mathematical problem and a solution procedure
    • A formula merely expresses a relationship in mathematical terms
  • The terminology of all the tests was vague
    • Two-part test for unpatentable algorithms
  • In Diehr the USSC followed the Patent Act itself
    • No legislature said that "process" excludes algorithms
    • After this only a mathematical procedure for a solution of a specified mathematical problem is suspect
  • Diehr limited Benson to the three classes of unpatentable subject matter previous listed
  • The claims of the Simpson patent don't describe a law of nature or a natural phenomenon although they do involve mathematical manipulation
  • The summary judgment by the district court is erroneous
    • The patent as a whole does not present an algorithm
    • The patent does not claim one of the three no-nos
    • Most important, the patent claims a process within the broad meaning of 101

Patentable Subject Matter

  • Algorithms are not statutory
  • A new and useful process or apparatus is statutory under 101
  • Cites exclusions from Diamond v. Diehr
    • Laws of nature
    • Physical phenomena
    • Abstract ideas
  • Mathematics may describe one of these of steps of a statutory method
  • Parker v. Flook described the criterion for the use of a mathematical formula
    • Must be directed to a new and useful process, independent of whether the algorithm required for its performance is novel
  • Mode of analysis:

In considering a claim for compliance with 35 USC 101, it must be determined whether a scientific principle, law of nature, idea, or mental process, which may be represented by a mathematical algorithm, is included in the subject matter of the claim. If it is, it must then be determined whether such principle, law, idea, or mental process is applied in an invention of a type set forth in 35 USC 101.

  • Freeman-Walter-Abele test for statutory subject matter
    • Determine whether an algorithm is recited directly or indirectly in the claim
    • If yes, determine if the invention as a whole is no more than just the algorithm
    • If yes again, then the subject is nonstatutory
  • Emphasis should be on what the method steps do rather then how they are done
  • When all else fails, consult the statute

Class Notes

  • Decided in the CAFC
    • Ruled the subject matter statutory
  • Patent for determining if a patient it at high risk based on the EKG results
    • Use a high pass filter to comb through signals to find the bad ones
  • Looking at the claims there are some method and some apparatus
  • Gottschalk said algorithms cannot be statutory
    • Claims that preempt algorithms are not statutory
  • Based on Flook, they had to decide if the application of the algorithm was new and useful independent of whether the algorithm itself was new and useful
  • Use F-W-A test which is two parts
    • Places emphasis on the process whether than the method

Patentable Subject Matter

  • Basically any process can be represented mathematically so that cannot be used as a criterion for exclusion
  • ”Question of law” – it is within the authority of the court to take all the facts of the case and apply them to the statutes to see if the lower courts were correct or incorrect
    • Easier to overrule than if it is a question of fact
  • Congress intended 101 to include “anything under the sun”
    • However there are qualifications
  • Qualifications on use of an algorithm

The law crystallized about the principle that claims directed solely to an abstract mathematical formula or equation, including the mathematical expression of scientific truth or a law of nature, whether directly or indirectly stated, are nonstatutory under section 101; whereas claims to a specific process or apparatus that is implemented in accordance with a mathematical algorithm will generally satisfy section 101.

  • Why does the court spend so much time talking about the same thing?
    • Want to make clear standards for the patent examiners, which the F-W-A test does