A recent Federal Circuit decision reinforces the view that patents based on improved computer networks or architecture can be patentable. They can overcome the hurdle of whether they contact patentable subject matter.
Cooperative sued Kollective for infringement of the former's patent that covered a "peer-to-peer (P2P) dynamic network for distributing large files." From the outset, one could sense how the Federal Circuit decision would end based on the Court's description of the patent.
The Court began by citing to the patent's specification which described prior art systems as distributing content "directly from the [content distribution network] CDN server originating the content." On the other hand, the patent provided content distribution "outside controlled networks and/or [CDNs]." This, according to the Court, was achieved by "dynamic P2P networks comprising 'peer nodes,' i.e., nodes consuming the same content contemporaneously, that transmit content directly to each other instead of receiving content from the CDN."
The patent claimed the use of "'content segmentation' in which a video file . . . is segmented into smaller clips and distributed piecemeal. As a result, viewers can obtain individual segments as needed, preferably from other viewers."
The Court determined that the patent claims included at least two inventive concepts. One was the dynamic network having peer nodes that consume the same content and communicate outside the CDNs. Second was the use of trace routes in content segmentation. They enabled the "balancing or managing distribution of the P2P content delivery."
Claim 1, according to the Court, specified the network "structure and function." Claim 1 was further limited by the requirement of the peer nodes being "distributed outside the controlled networks and/or CDNs." The did not rely solely on the content of the claims. It also relied on the specification, which the Court said explained the "structural limitation" and how the prior art differed. The specification also described the advantages over the prior art - "smooth playback and [avoidance of] stuttering problems or delays or buffering problems."
The Court found that claim 1 included a technical solution that was an inventive concept. It was not an "'abstract idea implemented on a generic computer.'" It reiterated that "improvements to computer networks are patentable regardless of whether the network is comprised of standard computing equipment."
Noteworthy is the fact that the Court's decision arose from the defendant's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. That meant that the Court was obliged to draw all inferences in favor of the patent holder. The Court emphasized that it was not deciding whether the patent was patent eligible under Section 101 - the patent statute that describes what is patentably subject matter.
Though the Federal Circuit was not specifically deciding whether the patent contained patent eligible subject matter, it did provide guidance as to what could be patentable subject matter. The patent claims - as well as the specification - included specific structural features of the invention, in addition to specific functions of the structure. The specification described the structure and function, and how they were an advantage over the prior art.