Federal Circuit Invalidates Real Estate Investment Claims Following Bilski Precedent
By Elettra Bietti – Edited by Charlie Stiernberg
Fort Props., Inc. v. Am. Master Lease LLC, No. 2009-1242 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 27, 2012)
The Federal Circuit affirmed the District Court for the Central District of California, which had granted summary judgment in favor of Fort Properties. In a pre-Bilski decision, the district court had invalidated all 41 claims in American Master Lease’s (“AML”) real estate investment patent for failing to meet the subject matter eligibility requirements of 35 U.S.C. § 101 by applying the machine-or-transformation test.
Judge Prost, writing for the court, held that claims 1–31, which describe a real estate investment tool “tied to the physical world,” disclose an unpatentably abstract concept. Slip op. at 10. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Bilski, Judge Prost held that an “abstract concept cannot be transformed into patentable subject matter merely because of connections to the physical world through deeds, contracts, and real property.” Id. at 10 (citing Bilski v. Kappos, 130 S.Ct. 3218 (2010)). Claims 32–41 contain the same ties, with an additional limitation requiring a computer to “generate a plurality of deedshares.” Id. at 11. Nevertheless, the court held that the added computer limitation did not save claims covering an abstract concept from invalidity, where such a limitation “is simply insignificant post-solution activity.” Id. at 13.
Bloomberg BNA provides a summary of the case and notes that the court identified “intricate and complex computer programming” as a distinguishing characteristic for patent eligibility. Patently-O criticizes the court for not defining “unpatentably abstract” and relying excessively on the similarities between AML’s patent and the invention in Bilski to reach its conclusion. (more…)