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Ancora Techs. v. HTC Am.

Representative Claim

1. A method of restricting software operation within a license for use with a computer including an erasable, non-volatile memory area of a BIOS of the computer, and a volatile memory area; the method comprising the steps of:

selecting a program residing in the volatile memory,

using an agent to set up a verification structure in the erasable, non-volatile memory of the BIOS, the verification structure accommodating data that includes at least one license record,

verifying the program using at least the verification structure from the erasable non-volatile memory of the BIOS, and

acting on the program according to the verification.

Posture:

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington in No. 2:16-cv-01919-RAJ, Judge Richard A. Jones.

Abstract Idea: No

The Federal Circuit reiterated its holding in Enfish, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., 822 F.3d 1327 (Fed. Cir. 2016), that a claimed advance for a computer improvement is not always an abstract idea.  Specifically, “improving security—here, against a computer’s unauthorized use of a program—can be a non-abstract computer-functionality improvement if done by a specific technique that departs from earlier approaches to solve a specific computer problem.”  The Federal Circuit found that the claim addressed a technological problem with computers: vulnerability of license-authorization software to hacking, by relying on specific and unique characteristics of certain aspects of the BIOS that the patent asserted.  The prosecution history reinforced what the patent itself indicated about the change in previous verification techniques for computer security.  The claim was therefore not directed to an abstract idea.

The Federal Circuit noted that there was some overlap between step one and step two considerations, and its conclusion that the specific improvement in this case passed muster at step one was indirectly reinforced by some of its holdings in prior cases under step two (e.g., BASCOM Global Internet Services v. AT&T Mobility, 827 F.3d 1341, 1350, 1352 (Fed. Cir. 2016)).