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Visual Memory LLC v. NVIDIA Corporation

Representative Claim

  1. A computer memory system connectable to a processor and having one or more programmable operational characteristics, said characteristics being defined through configuration by said computer based on the type of said processor, wherein said system is connectable to said processor by a bus, said system comprising:

a main memory connected to said bus; and

a cache connected to said bus;

wherein a programmable operational characteristic of said system determines a type of data stored by said cache.

Posture:

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Deleware in No.1:15-cv-00789-RGA, Judge Richard G. Andrews.  District court granted a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for patent ineligibility under 23 U.S.C. § 101.

Abstract Idea: No

Our analysis begins with Alice step one. . . . In this regard, we must articulate with specificity what the claims are directed to, Thales Visionix Inc. v. United States, 850 F.3d 1343, 1347 (Fed. Cir. 2017), and “ask whether the claims are directed to an improvement to computer functionality versus being directed to an abstract idea.”

As with Enfish’s self-referential table and the motion tracking system in Thales, the claims here are directed to a technological improvement: an enhanced computer memory system. The ’740 patent’s claims focus on a “specific asserted improvement in computer capabilities”—the use of programmable operational characteristics that are configurable based on the type of processor—instead of “on a process that qualifies as an ‘abstract idea’ for which computers are invoked merely as a tool.” Enfish, 822 F.3d at 1336. And like the patents at issue in Enfish and Thales, the specification discusses the advantages offered by the technological improvement. Accordingly, this is not a case where the claims merely recite the “use of an abstract mathematical formula on any general purpose computer,” “a purely conventional computer implementation of a mathematical formula,” or “generalized steps to be performed on a computer using conventional computer activity.” Enfish, 822 F.3d at 1338 (collecting cases where claims were directed to patent-ineligible subject matter).

To be sure, the concept of categorical data storage underlies the ’740 patent’s claims in that claim 1 requires a programmable operational characteristic that “determines a type of data stored by said cache.” But this is not enough to doom a claim under § 101 because the claims are not so limited, and “all inventions at some level embody, use, reflect, rest upon, or apply laws of nature, natural phenomena, or abstract ideas.” Mayo, 566 U.S. at 71; see also Alice, 134 S. Ct. at 2354 (“[A]n invention is not rendered ineligible for patent simply because it involves an abstract concept.” (emphasis added)). Nor is the ’740 patent’s use of conventional computer components, by itself, fatal to patent eligibility where the claims “are directed to an improvement in the functioning of a computer.” Enfish, 822 F.3d at 1338.

Something More: N/A

Because we conclude that the claims of the ’740 patent are not directed to an abstract idea, we need not proceed to step two of the Alice test.