Beta-Testing the “Particular Machine”: The Machine-or-Transformation Test in Peril and Its Impact on Cloud Computing

By: Richard M. Lee

This Issue Brief examines recent cases addressing the patent eligibility of computer-implemented method claims and their implications for the development of cloud computing technologies. Despite the Supreme Court’s refusal to endorse the machine-or-transformation test as the exclusive patent eligibility inquiry, lower courts have continued to invalidate method claims using a stringent “particular machine” requirement alongside the requisite abstract ideas analysis. This Issue Brief argues that 1) post-Bilski v. Kappos cases have failed to elucidate what constitutes a particular machine for computer-implemented methods; 2) in light of substantial variance among Federal Circuit judges’ Section 101 jurisprudence, the application of the particular machine requirement has become subject to a high degree of panel-dependency, such that its relevance for analyzing software method claims has come under question; 3) notwithstanding the unease expressed by practitioners and scholars for the future of cloud computing patents, the courts’ hardening stance toward computer-implemented method claims will do little to deter patenting in the cloud computing context. Instead, clouds delivering platform and software services will remain capable of satisfying the particular machine requirement and supporting patent eligibility, especially given the possible dilution of the particular machine requirement itself.

Cite: 11 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 175

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