Fallout from Alice: Digitech Image v. Electronics for Imaging
We are beginning to see the absurd results from Alice in the case Digitech Image Technologies, LLC v. Electronics For Imaging, Inc., Case No. 13-1600 (Fed. Cir. July 14, 2014), the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court decision invalidating all claims of Digitech’s patent (U.S. Patent No. 6,128,415). The invention tags digital images with particular information about the camera and its color/spatial image qualities in a form that is device-independent. The patent includes claims directed to both a “device profile” and a “method of generating a device profile.” The Court found the claims invalid under 35 USC 101. Independent Claim 1 states:
1. A device profile for describing properties of a device in a digital image reproduction system to capture, transform or render an image, said device profile comprising:
first data for describing a device dependent transformation of color information content of the image to a device independent color space; and
second data for describing a device dependent transformation of spatial information content of the image in said device independent color space.
According to Patently O:
At the Federal Circuit, the patentee argued that one of skill in the art would understand that the claims required hardware or software within a digital image processing system. However, in an implicit claim construction, the appellate panel rejected that argument – finding that the claims are not so limited. “The claims encompass all embodiments of the information contained in the device profile, regardless of the process through which this information is obtained or the physical medium in which it is stored.” The underlying problem with this analysis is the reality that data is always stored in a physical form lest it disappear.
The court disagreed and found the patent was directed to an Abstract Idea, a term that the Supreme Court has refused to define. Logically all inventions are directed to an abstract idea, in that they abstract the invention from the particular or specifics. The only logical definition of Abstract Idea is a thought or conception that is separate from concrete existence or not applied to the practical. Here the invention is clearly drawn to the practical and is being widely used.
You can argue that patentee wrote the claims incorrectly, but the Supremes would then counter than cleaver draftmanship will not save you from 101. Of course the Supremes then look to the claims to determine 101 eligibility. This is circular reasoning on the part of the Supremes.
Claims are supposed to define the invention, they are not the invention. A definition should not have extraneous information that does not add meaning. Here the physical structure would not have added anything to the definition. This is why I have been arguing that 101 should really be about the specification. Here the patentee clearly describes an invention. Patent law is devolving back to the 1940s and now we are all talking about how many angels can dance on a pinhead.
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