The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that the claimed method requiring “displaying” a plurality of bid and offer indicators along a “scaled axis of prices,” “receiving market information,” displaying that information along the axis, and “displaying” information pertaining to a user’s order essentially described a method for receiving information, which the specification admits was already available to “market makers, and displaying that information. This display presentation was an abstract idea and did no define patent eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. section 101. Trading Technologies Int’l, Inc. v. IBG, LLC, et al., Case No. 2017-2257 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 18, 2019) (Full Opinion Available Here).
Trading Technologies International, Inc., (“TT”) is the owner of several patents which relate generally to a graphical user interface (“GUI”) for electronic trading. One patent discloses “a display and trading method to ensure fast and accurate execution of trades by displaying market depth on a vertical or horizontal plane, which fluctuates logically up or down, left or right across the plane as the market prices fluctuate.”
These TT patents were reviewed by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) under a Covered Business Method Patents (“CBM review”). Leahy-Smith Am. Invents Act, Pub. L. No. 112-29, § 18(a) 125 Stat. 284, 329–31 (2011) (“AIA”). A CBM patent is “a patent that claims a method or corresponding apparatus for performing data processing or other operations used in the practice, administration, or management of a financial product or service, except that the term does not include patents for technological inventions.” Id. § 18(d)(1).
Claim 1 states: A computer based method for facilitating the placement of an order for an item and for displaying transactional information to a user regarding the buying and selling of items in a system where orders comprise a bid type or an offer type, and an order is generated for a quantity of the item at a specific value, the method comprising: [a] displaying a plurality of bid indicators, each corresponding to at least one bid for a quantity of the item, each bid indicator at a location along a first scaled axis of prices corresponding to a price associated with the at least one bid; [b] displaying a plurality of offer indicators, each corresponding to at least one offer for a quantity of the item, each offer indicator at a location along the first scaled axis of prices corresponding to a price associated with the at least one offer; [c] receiving market information representing a new order to buy a quantity of the item for a specified price, and in response to the received market information, generating a bid indicator that corresponds to the quantity of the item bid for and placing the bid indicator along the first scaled axis of prices corresponding to the specified price of the bid; [d] receiving market information representing a new order to sell a quantity of the item for a specified price, and in response to the received market information, generating an offer indicator that corresponds to the Quantity of the item for which the offer is made and placing the offer indicator along the first scaled axis of prices corresponding to the specified price of the offer; [e] displaying an order icon associated with an order by the user for a particular quantity of the item; [f] electing the order icon and moving the order icon with a pointer of a user input device to a location associated with a price along the first scaled axis of prices; and [g] sending an order associated with the order icon to an electronic trading exchange, wherein the order is of a bid type or an offer type and the order has a plurality of order parameters comprising the particular quantity of the item and the price corresponding to the location at which the order icon was moved.
TT argued that the inventions addressed technical problems in the way prior art GUI tools were constructed and operated. It claims one patent addresses problems related to speed, efficiency, and usability, and another patent addresses problems related to intuitiveness, visualization, and efficiency. “We agree with the Board that the patents relate to the practice of a financial product, not a technological invention.”
At Alice step one, the Court must “determine whether the claims at issue are directed to a patent-ineligible concept.” Alice, 573 U.S. at 218. Under this inquiry, the Court evaluates “the focus of the claimed advance over the prior art” to determine if the character of the claim as a whole, considered in light of the specification, is directed to excluded subject matter. Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. Capital One Fin. Corp., 850 F.3d 1332, 1338 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (quoting Affinity Labs of Tex., LLC v. DIRECTV, LLC, 838 F.3d 1253, 1257 (Fed. Cir. 2016)).
The PTAB determined claim 1 (above) is directed to “the abstract idea of graphing (or displaying) bids and offers to assist a trader to make an order.” The Court agreed. “The claim’s preamble states that it is a computer based method for facilitating the placement of an order for an item and for displaying transactional information to a user regarding the buying and selling of items. The method steps require displaying a plurality of bid and offer indicators along a scaled axis of prices, receiving market information, displaying that information along the axis, and displaying information pertaining to a user’s order. This essentially describes receiving information, which the specification admits was already available to market makers, and displaying that information. “[W]e have treated collecting information, including when limited to particular content (which does not change its character as information), as within the realm of abstract ideas.” Electric Power Grp.,
LLC v. Alstom S.A., 830 F.3d 1350, 1353 (Fed. Cir. 2016).
The PTAB held that the claims do not contain an inventive concept and determined that receiving market information is simply routine data gathering, and displaying information as indicators along a scaled price axis is well understood, routine, conventional activity that does not add something significantly more to the abstract idea. It likewise determined that selecting and moving an icon is well-understood, routine, conventional activity. It considered the elements both individually and as an ordered combination and concluded they did not transform the claim into a patent eligible application of the abstract idea. The Court agreed.