In CosmoKey Solutions GmbH v. Duo Security LLC, the Federal Circuit reversed the district court's decision that a two-factor authentication to software application patent was ineligible under 35 USC § 101.
Claim 1 of US Patent No. 9,246,903 appears to be a broad claim, yet satisfied the Federal Circuit as eligible:
A method of authenticating a user to a transaction at a terminal, comprising the steps of:
transmitting a user identification from the terminal to a transaction partner via a first communication channel,
providing an authentication step in which an authentication device uses a second communication channel for checking an authentication function that is implemented in a mobile device of the user,
as a criterion for deciding whether the authentication to the transaction shall be granted or denied, having the authentication device check whether a predetermined time relation exists between the transmission of the user identification and a response from the second communication channel,
ensuring that the authentication function is normally inactive and is activated by the user only preliminarily for the transaction,
ensuring that said response from the second communication channel includes information that the authentication function is active, and
thereafter ensuring that the authentication function is automatically deactivated.
The Federal Circuit disagreed with the district court ruling of ineligibility, stating "the claims and written description suggest that the focus of the claimed advance is activation of the authentication function, communication of the activation within a predetermined time, and automatic deactivation of the authentication function, such that the invention provides enhanced security and low complexity with minimal user input."
The Court noted the claims "recite a specific improvement to authentication that increases security, prevents unauthorized access by a third party, is easily implemented, and can advantageously be carried out with mobile devices of low complexity." Further, invention solved a problem in computer networks with non-conventional steps as recited in claim 1.
Although the Federal Circuit has held many software patents ineligible, this decision suggests your chance of allowance and validity will increase when the invention is an improvement to computers or networks, and importantly, the claims recite a specific novel solution to a technical problem that is described in the written description.
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