Fresh From the Bench: Latest Federal Circuit Court Cases
CASE OF THE WEEK
Columbia Sportswear North America, Inc. v. Seirus Innovative Accessories, Inc., Appeal Nos. 2018-1329, et al. (Fed. Cir. Nov. 13, 2019)
This week’s Case of the Week strikes close to home, tried at the district court and argued at the Federal Circuit by the co-editor of Fresh From the Bench, Nika Aldrich.
The case centers around patents concerning Columbia’s patented Omni-Heat® Reflective line of products—products that have a partial reflective coating on the inside surface. Columbia obtained both utility patents and design patents covering its inventions. The utility patents recite, generally, a piece of “body gear” with “heat reflective elements” arranged in a “discontinuous array” covering 30-70% of the innermost surface of the garment.
Koninklijke KPN N.V. v. Gemalto M2M Gmbh, Appeal Nos. 2018-1863 et al. (Fed. Cir. Nov. 15, 2019)
In this case, the Federal Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of an infringement case under 35 U.S.C. § 101, finding three dependent claims of a data transmission error detection patent not directed to patent-ineligible subject matter. The claims were directed to an improved method of generating check data for the detection of transmission errors, subjecting the data to varying permutations for different transmitted data blocks. This was to avoid a prior art problem wherein certain systematic errors would produce the same defective check data across different data blocks, masking the existence of the error. The claims recited a device configured to perform certain modifications on such permutations, and the Court rejected appellees’ assertion that because the claims failed to recite a step using the check data to perform error detection, they were not tied to a “concrete application” and were therefore abstract. Instead, the Court held that claims directed to improving the functionality of one tool that is part of an existing system need not necessarily recite how that tool is applied to the overall system. The Court further held that because the claims specified that permutations would be modified “in time,” they recited a sufficiently specific solution to avoid being directed to the abstract idea of simply achieving a desired result.