The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has reversed a decision in a patent suit against the US government centering on the helmet-mounted display system (HMDS) in a fighter jet.
Yesterday, March 8, the Federal Circuit reversed the US Court of Federal Claims’ decision that US patent number 6,474,159 was unpatentable because of ineligible subject matter.
The ‘159 patent is owned by Thales Visionix, a developer of HMDS and motion tracking technology for defence and aerospace applications.
It relates to an “inertial tracking system for tracking the motion of an object relative to a moving reference frame”.
Thales sued the US government, alleging that the HDMS in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter infringed the patent.
Elbit Systems, the government subcontractor that produces the HMDS, joined the case as a third-party defendant.
The government and Elbit moved for judgment on the pleadings, alleging that all asserted claims disclosed patent-ineligible subject matter under 35 USC section 101 because they claim a law of nature.
The Federal Claims court agreed, granting the motion for judgment and holding that all claims were directed to patent-ineligible subject matter.
In its decision, the court found that the claims were directed to the abstract idea of using laws of nature governing motion to track two objects, and provide no inventive concept beyond the abstract idea.
Thales appealed to the Federal Circuit. The court followed Alice v CLS Bank, explaining that the US Supreme Court’s two-part Alice framework guides courts in distinguishing between patent claims that “impermissibly claim the ‘building blocks of human ingenuity’ and those that ‘integrate the building blocks into something more’”.
It held that the claims of the ‘159 patent were not directed to an abstract idea as they specify a particular configuration of inertial sensors and a particular method of using the raw data from the sensors.
“Because we find the claims are not directed to an abstract idea, we need not proceed to step two [of Alice],” said the court.
The Federal Circuit reversed the court’s determination and remanded the lawsuit.