By Robert B. Barnett Jr., J.D.
Following Covered Business Method (CBM) review, the PTAB has properly held that three patents held by Trading Technologies for a graphical user interface for electronic trading were patent-ineligible because they merely recited abstract ideas.
The Federal Circuit has upheld a Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s ruling that three patents by Trading Technologies International involving a graphical user interface for electronic trading are ineligible for patent protection because they merely recite abstract ideas, do not improve the functioning of a computer, and merely process information more quickly. Receiving market information is routine data gathering, the court said, and displaying that information is a routine, conventional activity that does not add something significant to an abstract idea (Trading Technologies International, Inc. v IBG LLC, Interactive Brokers, LLC, April 18, 2019, Moore, K.).
Trading Technologies (TT) owned three patents relating to a graphical user interface (GUI) for electronic trading. Two of them are for a user interface that allows a trader to view trends in the orders for an item, and it provides trading information in a purportedly easy-to-see format. The third patent is for a trading method that ensures fast and accurate execution of trades by displaying market depth on a vertical or horizontal plane, which fluctuates as market prices fluctuate. Two entities, IBG LLC and Interactive Brokers LLC, filed a petition challenging the patents under the Transitional Program for Covered Business Method (CBM) Patents. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board ruled that all three patents were ineligible under 35 U.S.C. §101. TT appealed that decision to the Federal Circuit.
CRM eligibility. The Federal Circuit first looked at the question of whether the patents qualified for review as CBM patents. A CBM patent is one that claims a method for performing data processing or similar operations involving financial products or services. The term specifically does not include patents for technological inventions. A "technological invention" is one that provides a feature that is novel and unobvious over what currently exists. TT argued that the CBM review should not have occurred because its patents were for technological inventions. The Federal Circuit agreed with the Appeal Board that CBM review was appropriate. The Federal Circuit found no technological invention in this software method for trading. The patented methods did not solve a technical problem using a technical solution. The problems that TT identified were related to speed, efficiency, and usability for the two patents, and intuitiveness, visualization, and efficiency for the third one. These problems, however, the court said, involve the practice of a financial product rather than a technological invention. They simply display information to allow a trader to process information more quickly. Yes, the court said, the user interface made the trades faster and more efficient, but it never provided a technical solution to a technical problem. Review of the patents under CBM, therefore, was appropriate.
Patent eligibility. The Federal Circuit applied the Supreme Court’s two-step analysis for distinguishing patents that claim abstract ideas from those that claim patent-eligible applications of those ideas (Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 573 U.S. 208 (2014)). The first step is determining whether the claims are to a patent-ineligible concept. If so, the second step is determining whether the concepts offered transform the nature of the claim into a patent-eligible application. The Federal Circuit agreed with the Appeal Board that the first patent claim was directed to the abstract idea of graphing bids and offers to help a trade make an order. Collecting information without changing the character of that information is an abstract idea. Furthermore, the court said, the fact that it is a computer-based method does not change the abstract nature. The patented method does not improve computer functionality, make it operate more efficiently, or solve any technical problem. Instead, it merely arranges generic information to allow traders to act more quickly. Thus, it was patent-ineligible. Moving to step two, the Federal Circuit looked more closely at whether the method identified an inventive concept. The Federal Circuit once again agreed with the Board that no such inventive concept existed. Receiving market information and displaying it was a conventional activity, well understood in the industry. As for the second patent, the Federal Circuit reached the same conclusion for the same reasons. Improvements over prior GUI tools was not an improvement to computer functionality, as TT had alleged. While the third patent might have been different from the other two, in the sense that it displays information along an axis, TT’s arguments were the same. Once again, the Federal Circuit rejected TT’s argument that improvements over prior interfaces improved the functioning of a computer. No inventive concept existed, the court concluded. As a result, the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s decision finding that the three patents were not eligible for patent protection.
This case is No. 2017-2257.
Attorneys: Leif R. Sigmond, Jr. (Baker & Hostetler LLP) for Trading Technologies International, Inc. Robert Evan Sokohl (Sterne Kessler Goldstein & Fox, PLLC) for IBG LLC and Interactive Brokers, LLC.
Companies: Trading Technologies International, Inc.; IBG LLC; Interactive Brokers, LLC
MainStory: TopStory Patent FedCirNews
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