Academic journal article Marquette Intellectual Property Law Review

Questionable Patent-Eligibility of Iot Technology

Academic journal article Marquette Intellectual Property Law Review

Questionable Patent-Eligibility of Iot Technology

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT INTRODUCTION   I. FEDERAL CIRCUIT CASES CONCERNING IOT-LIKE TECHNOLOGY       A. Content Extraction & Transmission LLC v. Wells Fargo Bank,      National      B. Vehicle Intelligence & Safety LLC v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC      C. Electric Power Group, LLC v. Alstom S.A.      D. TDE Petroleum Data Solutions, Inc., v. AKM Enterprise, Inc.  II. IOT TECHNOLOGY AND STEP ONE ANALYSIS OF THE ALICE STANDARD III. IOT TECHNOLOGY AND STEP TWO ANALYSIS OF THE ALICE STANDARD      A. Unconventional System with Details      B. Unconventional System without Details      C. Conventional Use of Existing Devices CONCLUSION 


The Internet of Things ("IoT") is technology connecting any objects that are capable of transmitting data through the Internet. (2) Those objects include a built-in sensor (e.g., a health and fitness sensor, automobile sensor, home and electricity sensor, employee sensor, and smartphone sensor), which can generate data. (3) IoT technology is beyond the Internet. (4) One machine can communicate with another machine without human intervention. (5) IoT technology enables people to monitor or control their homes through their cell phones. (6) IoT is the foundation of a smart world in the future. (7)

There is an architectural aspect of IoT technology. (8) The IoT architecture comprises four layers: applications, common services, network services, and devices. (9) The application layer is the top level programming that implements business applications or operational logic applications. (10) The common service layer provides functions, such as storage and processing, necessary to facilitate IoT applications. (11) The network service layer provides data transport, connectivity, and other service functions. (12) The device layer means devices that upload information and receive commands through the network layer or other gateways. (13)

Although IoT technology may cover "sensing, communications, networking, computing, information processing, and intelligent control technologies," (14) it is still based on Internet technology. (15) Therefore, the patent-eligibility of IoT technology is questionable under Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank International, (16) a decision from the Supreme Court in 2014. (17)

Under Alice, the standard for patent-eligibility is a two-step test. (18) The first step asks "whether the claims at issue are directed to one of those patent-ineligible concepts." (19) If so, then the second step "considers] the elements of each claim both individually and 'as an ordered combination' to determine whether the additional elements 'transform the nature of the claim' into a patent-eligible application." (20) Specifically, the second step searches "for an 'inventive concept'--i.e., an element or combination of elements that is 'sufficient to ensure that the patent in practice amounts to significantly more than a patent upon the [ineligible concept] itself.'" (21)

In addition, Alice has clarified that "[t]he introduction of a computer into the claims does not alter the analysis at [the second step]." (22) That is, "the mere recitation of a generic computer cannot transform a patent-ineligible abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention." (23) It is not enough to make patent-eligible a claim of an abstract idea by "adding the words 'apply it.'" (24) Even if "the use of an abstract idea" in a claim is limited "to a particular technological environment," patent-eligibility cannot be satisfied. (25) Thus, "adding the words 'apply it with a computer'" cannot support patent-eligibility. (26) If the "recitation of a computer amounts to a mere instruction to 'implement]' [sic] an abstract idea 'on ... a computer,'" such recitation cannot work either. (27)

The Alice standard demands a case-by-case approach. (28) Neither the Supreme Court nor the Federal Circuit has defined a "patent-ineligible concept." (29) However, the Federal Circuit has recognized "mathematical algorithms, including those executed on a generic computer" and "fundamental economic and conventional business practices" as abstract ideas. …

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