Bingo!... Is Not Patentable Just Because You Put It On The Internet

from the b-i-n-no-go dept

Another day, another story of stupid software patents getting stomped out of existence thanks to the Supreme Court's Alice v. CLS Bank ruling. As we've been noting, this ruling is looking like it's going to invalidate a ton of software patents (and that's a good thing). The latest one dumped was an attempt to patent bingo online. Yes, bingo. The lower court had already rejected the patent using previous Supreme Court rulings against patenting "abstract ideas." Now, with the Alice ruling in hand, the Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) completed the stomping out of the bingo patent. They didn't waste much time on it either, pushing out a compact 7-page ruling. It makes short work of Planet Bingo (yes, that's the patent holder's name) and its claim that the patent actually is inventive and new:
“[I]f a patent’s recitation of a computer amounts to a mere instruction to ‘implemen[t]’ an abstract idea ‘on . . . a computer,’ . . . that addition cannot impart patent eligibility.” Alice, 134 S. Ct. at 2358 (quoting Mayo, 132 S. Ct. at 1301). In this case, the claims recite a generic computer implementation of the covered abstract idea.

Planet Bingo argues that the patents recite "significantly more" than an abstract idea because the invention includes “complex computer code with three distinct subparts.” ... We disagree. The ’646 and ’045 patents do not claim the “accounting program,” “ticket program,” and “verification program” that Planet Bingo identifies in its briefs. Instead, the claims recite a program that is used for the generic functions of storing, retrieving, and verifying a chosen set of bingo numbers against a winning set of bingo numbers. And, as was the case in Alice, “the function performed by the computer at each step of the process is ‘[p]urely conventional.’”
Planet Bingo really pushed hard on the ridiculous idea that because lots of numbers were involved, this was patentable subject matter. CAFC didn't buy it.
Planet Bingo argues that “in real world use, literally thousands, if not millions of preselected Bingo numbers are handled by the claimed computer program,” making it impossible for the invention to be carried out manually.... But the claimed inventions not require as much. At most, the claims require “two sets of Bingo numbers,” “a player,” and “a manager.” ... We need not, and do not, address whether a claimed invention requiring many transactions might tip the scales of patent eligibility, as the claims fall far short of capturing an invention that necessarily handles "thousands, if not millions” of bingo numbers or players.
It's a new era for software patents, and it looks like many of them are invalid. It's also a new era for CAFC, which both has new leadership... and (finally) some pretty clear instructions from the Supreme Court to dump these broadly written software patents. It may take a few years for the system to clear out, but this is going to be tremendously helpful for companies that actually innovate, rather than those that just try to shove tollbooths in the innovative process.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Vidiot (profile), Aug 27th, 2014 @ 3:07pm

    That was his name-o, I think

    Quick... before the heirs of that 50's/60's game board manufacturer catch on -- somebody file an application for playing bingo using auto license plates instead of numbers... while driving in a car!

    Transformative! (Oh... wait... that's copyright...)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Whatever (profile), Aug 27th, 2014 @ 6:49pm

    This one is sort of obvious, a true extreme example. They didn't add anything, they didn't bring anything new to the table except to make it "on the internet". It doesn't really say anything for software patents one way or the other.

    They could have done the same and make it "on paper", would that suddenly make all patents printed on paper unsupportable?

    A bad patent attempt is a bad patent attempt, no matter what.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    DogBreath, Aug 27th, 2014 @ 7:49pm


    They could have done the same and make it "on paper", would that suddenly make all patents printed on paper unsupportable?

    Oh no, not anything printed on paper! Because we all know that anything printed on would be sacrosanct!

    Now, if it was printed on animal hide, papyrus or cuneiform tablets... lets just say, there would be questions. Lots and lots of... questions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2014 @ 10:01pm


    But the law is the law is the law, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Ninja (profile), Aug 28th, 2014 @ 3:09am


    Glad you recognize that much ;)

    However while this seems to be some sort of black or white case there are those patents that are more nuanced but equally invalid. You know, shades of gray. (cue the inevitable jokes)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Bt Garner (profile), Aug 28th, 2014 @ 5:11am

    Re: That was his name-o, I think

    Can I use an automated license plate reader to assist me?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Bt Garner (profile), Aug 28th, 2014 @ 5:12am

    So, does this mean that all those online sales and auction patents are now going to be re-evaluated, you know, since sales and auctions have existed for at least a few years before the internet was around?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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