In Koninklijke KPN v. Gemalto, the Federal Circuit reversed a court's dismissal of claims as patent ineligible.
KPN sued Gemalto for infringement of US Patent No. 6,212,662 (the '662 patent). Gemalto moved for judgment on the pleadings under FRCP Rule 12(c) asserting claims 1-4 were patent ineligible under 35 USC 101. The district court granted the motion concluding that claims 1-4 recited no more than mere abstract data manipulation operations ineligible under Alice v. CLS Bank and subsequent court decisions.
On appeal, KPN only challenged the district court's ineligibility decision with respect to dependent claims 2-4, which recited:
1. A device for producing error checking based on original data provided in blocks with each block having plural bits in a particular ordered sequence, comprising:
a generating device configured to generate check data; and
a varying device configured to vary original data prior to supplying said original data to the generating device as varied data;
wherein said varying device includes a per-mutating device configured to perform a permutation of bit position relative to said particular ordered sequence for at least some of the bits in each of said blocks making up said original data without reordering any blocks of original data.
2. The device according to claim 1, wherein the varying device is further configured to modify the permutation in time.
3. The device according to claim 2, wherein the varying is further configured to modify the per-mutation based on the original data.
4. The device according to claim 3, wherein the permutating device includes a table in which subsequent permutations are stored.
As to the appealed claims 2-4, the Federal Circuit reversed, stating:
"Rather than being merely
directed to the abstract idea of data manipulation, these
claims are directed to an improved check data generating
device that enables a data transmission error detection system to detect a specific type of error that prior art systems
In data transmission systems, it is common to generate something called “check data” to check whether data was accurately transmitted over a communications channel. Check data is generated based on the original data and thus serves as a shorthand representation of a particular block of data. By comparing the check data generated at both ends of the communication channel, error detection systems may be able to infer whether errors occurred during transmission. For example, if the check data from both ends match, the system infers that the content of the received data block is the same as what was transmitted and thus concludes that no errors occurred during transport.
But, as the ’662 patent recognizes, matching check data is not always a reliable indicator of accurate data transmissions. According to the patent, certain generating functions coincidentally produce the same check data for a corrupted data block and an uncorrupted data block. When this happens, the check data is functionally defective, because the system will mistakenly believe that there were no errors in the data transmission. The problem of defective check data is aggravated for a particular type of persistent error, i.e., “systematic error,” that repeats across data blocks in the same way.
According to the ’662 patent, prior art error detection systems were unable to reliably detect systematic errors. Once the prior art system generated defective check data for an initial data block with a given systematic error, the system would continue to generate defective check data for subsequent data blocks with the same systematic error, thus allowing these types of errors to persist in the system.
The ’662 patent solves this problem by varying the way check data is generated by varying the permutation applied to different data blocks. Varying the permutation for each data block reduces the chances that the same systematic error will produce the same defective check data across different data blocks. Claims 2–4 thus replace the prior art check data generator with an improved, dynamic check data generator that enables increased detection of systematic errors that recur across a series of transmitted data blocks.
As with other claims we have found to be patent eligible in prior cases, the appealed claims represent a nonabstract improvement in the functionality of an existing technological process and not simply an abstract idea of manipulating data. Accordingly, we reverse the district court’s grant of Appellees’ Rule 12(c) motion that claims 2–4 are ineligible on the pleadings."
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