By Robert R. Sachs
Last year I christened the post-Alice impact on patents #Alicestorm, riffing on the hashtag #hellastorm used to refer to the Pineapple Express storms the drenched the Bay Area in December 2014. This year we have El Niño bringing day after day of rain, and so too we have Alice decisions coming down in sheets. Here is a comparison of number of decisions per month since Alice.
On average, we’re seeing about eleven Section 101 decisions per month in the federal courts. The overall success rate has been holding in the low 70% range, currently 72.1% (down from 73% in October). Similarly, motions on the pleadings continue with an equally strong success rate of 71.7% (down from 71.9%):
The number of patents invalidated has increased dramatically from 354 as of October 2015 to over 400, while the number of invalidated claims is now over 12,000. The courts routinely invalidate all of the claims of a patent based on a single “representative” claim, including all dependent claims regardless of their level of specificity. This seems entirely contrary to the notion that dependent claims necessarily narrow the broad and presumably abstract independent claims, and likely provide at least some features that are “significantly more” then than the abstract idea, as well as recitations that are non-generic technology that provides some “improvement” over the art. Is it really possible that so many thousands of dependent claims had no merit? If dependent claims are hedges against invalidity under Section 103, why do they have so little bearing under Section 101?
PTAB continues to be the points leader on the board, with the institution rate on Section 101 based Covered Business Method petitions climbing to 84.8% (up from 83.7%) and an unbroken string of 38 final decisions on Section 101 finding the challenged patent ineligible.
The motion analysis remains consistent with what we’ve seen before:
The most active courts and judges, by number of Section 101 decisions, are in Delaware with 35 decisions (Andrews, Robinson, Stark, Sleet, Burke) and Texas with 29 (Gilstrap, Payne, Mitchell, Schroeder).
The number of new patent cases filed climbed in 2015, including a large filing spike at the end of November, 2015 due to the elimination of Form 18, which required only the basic allegation that the plaintiff owned the patent and that the defendant infringed, without any substantive allegations. As a result, we expect to see the continued stream of Section 101 motions and ineligibility outcomes.