"The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced."Ex Parte Godwin, Appeal 2008-0130, November 13, 2008
- Frank Zappa (1940 - 1993)
This opinion issued from a Request for Rehearing that was filed before the Bilski decision, and the opinion followed after (side note: the original Notice of Appeal was filed June 6, 2006). It is not clear if this is one of those "bad" cases, but there are a number of troubling positions taken by the BPAI.
One of the claims rejected under 35 U.S.C. 101 follows:
The BPAI, acknowledging Bilski, stated that the claim did not recite patentable subject matter, as it was "directed to purely software components."
7. A portal server system comprising:
a portal coupled to a plurality of portlets, each of said portlets having associated portlet rendering logic;
a portlet aggregator communicatively linked to said portlet rendering logic; and,
a visual service extension to said portlet aggregator programmed to process said portlet rendering logic to transform visual style attributes in said portlet rendering logic into markup language tags which can be rendered for display in a specified type of pervasive agent.
What is, well, weird about the decision is the BPAI's reasoning for upholding the 101 rejection. Apparently, the BPAI believes that, given the broadest reasonable interpretation, a claim may be rejected if non-statutory matter can be injected into the claim. Additionally, one of the issues considered by the Board is "[h]ave Appellants shown that the claimed invention recited in claims 7 and 12 is not directed to software per se? " (Freeman-Walter-Abele anyone ?)
From the opinion:
While Appellants’ position is that the "broadest reasonable interpretation of the terms ‘portal server’ and ‘portal server system’ yields a claim construction that includes a hardware device which is statutory subject matter," (Request 8), we find paragraph  of the Specification contravenes appellants’ contention ("The present invention can be realized in hardware, software, or a combination of hardware and software."). A hardware device (i.e., computer) is not positively recited . . . Claims 7 and 12 do not sufficiently invoke a machine or a transformation of subject matter, and are therefore unpatentable under 35 U.S.C. § 101.And get ready for more weirdness. The Appellants submitted that the proper question to be asked is whether the claimed subject matter encompasses statutory subject matter, and not whether the claimed subject matter includes non-statutory subject matter. Here is how the BPAI responded, in its entirety:
[A]s per our discussion above, in the context of a software embodiment, we maintain that a server is broadly but reasonably interpreted as a provider of services. Therefore, we are not persuaded by Appellants’ argument that the scope of independent claims 7 and 12 requires hardware (i.e., a machine) in addition to the recited software components. We also note that software components can be communicatively linked in the abstract sense.
[W]e note that our reviewing court has clearly stated that "[t]he four categories [of § 101] together describe the exclusive reach of patentable subject matter. If a claim covers material not found in any of the four statutory categories, that claim falls outside the plainly expressed scope of § 101 even if the subject matter is otherwise new and useful." In re Nuijten, 500 F.3d 1346, 1354 (Fed. Cir. 2007).
Read the decision on Request for Rehearing here.
Read the original BPAI decision here.