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Solutran, Inc. v. Elavon, Inc.

Check Processing Claims Held Patent-Ineligible As Abstract

Solutran, Inc. v. Elavon, Inc., __ F.3d __, 2019 WL 3418471 (Fed. Cir. July 30, 2019) (CHEN, Hughes, Stoll) (D. Minn.: Nelson) (3 of 5 stars)

Fed Cir reverses summary judgment that Elavon (part of U.S. Bank) was liable for patent infringement to Solutran. Solutran’s patent relates to the processing of paper checks in which check data is captured and digitized at the point of sale, and the merchant’s account credited before the paper check is actually received. The district court erred in denying U.S. Bank’s motion for summary judgment of invalidity under § 101. The opinion describes how the claims were directed to “the abstract idea of a crediting a merchant’s account as early as possible while electronically processing a check.” Op. at 7. Such claims were similar to those held abstract in Content Extraction & Transmission, 776 F.3d 1343 (Fed. Cir. 2014). The opinion rejects Solutran’s argument that the claims are directed to an improvement in computer operation (as in Enfish, 822 F.3d 1327 (Fed. Cir. 2016)). It also reasons that “the physicality of the paper checks being processed and transported is not by itself enough to exempt the claims from being directed to an abstract idea.” Op. at 11. Applying Alice step two, the claims lacked an inventive concept sufficient to confer patent-eligibility. Even if the claims were novel or nonobvious, such is insufficient per Synopsys, 839 F.3d 1138 (Fed. Cir. 2016). Solutran’s claims used a scanner and computer “to perform conventional activities the way they always have,” and so was insufficient to confer patentability. Op. at 14.

KEYWORDS: SUBJECT-MATTER ELIGIBILITY; ABSTRACT IDEA