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Claims to Graphical User Interface Found Patent Eligible

On January 18, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“CAFC”) issued a non-precedential opinion that explained why certain claims to a graphical user interface (GUI) were patent eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. See Trading Tech. Int’l, Inc. v. CQG, Inc. (case no. 2016-1616).

Trading Technologies International charged CQG with infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,772,132 (“the ’132 patent”) and U.S. Patent No. 6,766,304 (“the ’304 patent”). The CAFC reviews the determination of patentability de novo. The abstract of the two patents (having the same specification or body of the patent) described the purpose of the patents as “reducing the time it takes for a trader to place a trade when electronically trading on an exchange, thus increasing the likelihood that the trader will have orders filled at desirable prices and quantities.”

The CAFC took claim 1 of the ‘304 patent as illustrative:

1. A method for displaying market information relating to and facilitating trading of a commodity being traded in an electronic exchange having an inside market with a highest bid price and a lowest ask price on a graphical user interface, the method comprising;

dynamically displaying a first indicator in one of a plurality of locations in a bid display region, each location in the bid display region corresponding to a price level along a common static price axis, the first indicator representing quantity associated with at least one order to buy the commodity at the highest bid price currently available in the market;

dynamically displaying a second indicator in one of a plurality of locations in an ask display region, each location in the ask display region corresponding to a price level along the common static price axis, the second indicator representing quantity associated with at least one order to sell the commodity at the lowest ask price currently available in the market;

displaying the bid and ask display regions in relation to fixed price levels positioned along the common static price axis such that when the inside market changes, the price levels along the common static price axis do not move and at least one of the first and second indicators moves in the bid or ask display regions relative to the common static price axis;

displaying an order entry region comprising a plurality of locations for receiving commands to send trade orders, each location corresponding to a price level along the common static price axis; and

in response to a selection of a particular location of the order entry region by a single action of a user input device, setting a plurality of parameters for a trade order relating to the commodity and sending the trade order to the electronic exchange.

Note that this claim did not try to preempt all versions of an idea. The district court stated that these two patents “solve problems of prior graphical user interface devices . . . in the context of computerized trading[] relating to speed, accuracy and usability.” Dist. Ct. op. at *4.

The district court explained in its decision that the patents did not merely claim displaying information on a graphical user interface, but rather required a specific structured interface in order to address and resolve a specifically identified problem. Thus, the district court found that the claims were patent eligible without need to go on to the second of two steps of the Alice inquiry. The CAFC completely agreed with the district court’s analysis and stated the graphical user interface does not represent a long known idea, which is a threshold criterion of abstract idea ineligibility.

The CAFC cited to a recent decision, BASCOM Global Internet Services v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 827 F.3d 1341 (Fed. Cir. 2016), and noted that claim elements are considered in combination for evaluation under Alice Step 1, and then individually when Alice Step 2 is reached. See opinion at p. 9.