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MCRO, Inc. v. Bandai Namco Games America Inc., et. al.

Representative Claim

  1. A method for automatically animating lip synchronization and facial expression of three-dimensional characters comprising:

obtaining a first set of rules that define output morph weight set stream as a function of phoneme sequence and time of said phoneme sequence;

obtaining a timed data file of phonemes having a plurality of sub-sequences;

generating an intermediate stream of output morph weight sets and a plurality of transition parameters between two adjacent morph weight sets by evaluating said plurality of sub-sequences against said first set of rules;

generating a final stream of output morph weight sets at a desired frame rate from said intermediate stream of output morph weight sets and said plurality of transition parameters; and

applying said final stream of output morph weight sets to a sequence of animated characters to produce lip synchronization and facial expression control of said animated characters.

Posture:

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. District court granted a judgement on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) for patent ineligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

Abstract Idea: No

The district court determined that claim 1 of the ’567 patent is “drawn to the [abstract] idea of automated rules-based use of morph targets and delta sets for lip-synchronized three-dimensional animation.” Patentability Op., 55 F. Supp. 3d at 1226. We disagree. We have previously cautioned that courts “must be careful to avoid oversimplifying the claims” by looking at them generally and failing to account for the specific requirements of the claims. TLI Commc’ns, 823 F.3d at 611; see also Diehr, 450 U.S. at 189 n.12. Here, the claims are limited to rules with specific characteristics. . . .

Claim 1 of the ’576 patent is focused on a specific asserted improvement in computer animation, i.e., the automatic use of rules of a particular type. We disagree with Defendants’ arguments that the claims simply use a computer as a tool to automate conventional activity. . . .

Further, the automation goes beyond merely “organizing [existing] information into a new form” or carrying out a fundamental economic practice. Digitech, 758 F.3d at 1351; see also Alice, 134 S. Ct. at 2356. The claimed process uses a combined order of specific rules that renders information into a specific format that is then used and applied to create desired results: a sequence of synchronized, animated characters. While the result may not be tangible, there is nothing that requires a method “be tied to a machine or transform an article” to be patentable. Bilski, 561 U.S. at 603 (discussing 35 U.S.C. § 100(b)). The concern underlying the exceptions to § 101 is not tangibility, but preemption. Mayo, 132 S. Ct. at 1301. . . .

Here, the structure of the limited rules reflects a specific implementation not demonstrated as that which “any [animator] engaged in the search for [an automation process] would likely have utilized.” Myriad, 133 S. Ct. at 2119–20 (quotation marks omitted). . . . Claim 1 of the ’576 patent, therefore, is not directed to an abstract idea.

Something More: N/A

Because we find that claim 1 is not directed to ineligible subject matter, we do not reach Alice step two. Enfish, 822 F.3d at 1339.