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.