Software Patent Examples: US Court approved

Software patent examples approved by the US courts are instructive of what types of software are patentable in the US.

I’ve prepared a list of US court decisions which have found valid at least one software patent, or at least a patent for a technology that involves software. The decisions are all after the US Supreme Court decision Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International, which shook the software patent landscape by introducing the “abstract idea” test.

Many of the software patent examples relate to networking technologies.  The listed patents are instructive for those working in the fields of Internet connectable devices and the Internet-of-Things, for example. You can also find a technology breakdown list further below.

You can make the list longer with the “show entries” control. You can click the most cited decisions for a case note with links to the relevant US patent.

A list of software patent examples approved by US Courts

CaseTechnologyVenueCitationCited by
DDR Holdings, LLC v. Hotels. Com, LPUser, web interfaceUS C. of A.773 F. 3d 1245 - Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, 2014 - Google Scholar325
ENFISH, LLC v. Microsoft CorporationDatabaseUS C. of A.Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, 2016 - Google Scholar72
CALIFORNIA INS. OF TECH. v. HUGHES COMMUNICATIONS INC.Error correctionUS Dist. C.59 F. Supp. 3d 974 - Dist. Court, CD California, 2014 - Google Scholar44
INTELLECTUAL VENTURES I LLC v. Symantec Corp.Virus detectionUS Dist. C.100 F. Supp. 3d 371 - Dist. Court, D. Delaware, 2015 - Google Scholar16
BASCOM GLOBAL INTERNET SERVICES, INC. v. AT&T MOBILITY LLCContent filteringUS C. of A.Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, 2016 - Google Scholar13
THE CHAMBERLAIN GROUP, INC. v. LINEAR LLCMachine control, interfaceUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, ND Illinois, 2015 - Google Scholar10
INTELLECTUAL VENTURES I v. MFRS. AND TRADERS TRUSTUser interfaceUS Dist. C.76 F. Supp. 3d 536 - Dist. Court, D. Delaware, 2014 - Google Scholar8
DDR HOLDINGS, LLC v. Hotels. com, LPUser interface, web interfaceUS Dist. C.954 F. Supp. 2d 509 - Dist. Court, ED Texas, 2013 - Google Scholar5
ContentGUARD HOLDINGS, INC. v. Amazon. com, Inc.Digital rights managementUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, ED Texas, 2015 - Google Scholar2
"2-WAY COMPUTING, INC. v. GRANDSTREAM NETWORKS, INC."Networks, networkingUS Dist. C."Dist. Court, D. Nevada, 2016 - Google Scholar"0
"AMDOCS (ISRAEL) LIMITED v. OPENET TELECOM, INC."Networks, networkingUS C. of A."Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, 2016 - Google Scholar"0
AUTOFORM ENGINEERING GmbH, v. ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY ASSOCIATES, INC.Design using computersUS Dist. C.Case No. 10-141410
AVAGO TECHNOLOGIES GENERAL IP (SINGAPORE) PTE LTD. v. Asustek Computer, Inc.Video compressionUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, ND California, 2016 - Google Scholar0
BAXTER INTERNATIONAL, INC. v. CareFUSION CORPORATIONMachine control, interfaceUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, ND Illinois, 2016 - Google Scholar0
CARD VERIFICATION SOLUTIONS, LLC v. CITIGROUP INC.FinancialUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, ND Illinois, 2014 - Google Scholar0
"CG TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT, LLC v. BIG FISH GAMES, INC."GamingUS Dist. C."Dist. Court, D. Nevada, 2016 - Google Scholar"0
ContourMED INC. v. AMERICAN BREAST CARE LPDesign using computersUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, SD Texas, 2016 - Google Scholar0
"CONVERGENT MEDIA SOLUTIONS, LLC v. AT&T SERVICES, INC."Media playback device setsUS Dist. C."Dist. Court, ND Texas, 2016 - Google Scholar"0
CORE WIRELESS LICENSING SARL v. LG Electronics, Inc.User interfaceUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, ED Texas, 2016 - Google Scholar0
"EVOLVED WIRELESS, LLC v. APPLE INC."Mobile phonesUS Dist. C."Dist. Court, D. Delaware, 2016 - Google Scholar"0
EXERGEN CORPORATION v. KAZ USA, INC.US Dist. C.Dist. Court, D. Massachusetts, 2015 - Google Scholar0
FAIRFIELD INDUSTRIES, INC. v. WIRELESS SEISMIC, INC.NetworksUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, SD Texas, 2014 - Google Scholar0
HELIOS SOFTWARE, LLC v. SPECTORSOFT CORPORATIONNetworks, networkingUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, D. Delaware, 2014 - Google Scholar0
"HUAWEI TECHNOLOGIES, CO, LTD. v. SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS CO, LTD."Networks, networkingUS Dist. C."Dist. Court, ND California, 2016 - Google Scholar"0
IMPROVED SEARCH LLC v. AOL INC.Internet searchingUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, D. Delaware, 2016 - Google Scholar0
INTELLECTUAL VENTURES I LLC v. RICOH AMERICAS CORPORATIONMachine controlUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, D. Delaware, 2016 - Google Scholar0
INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORPORATION v. PRICELINE GROUP INC.Networks, networkingUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, D. Delaware, 2016 - Google Scholar0
IRON GATE SECURITY, INC. v. LOWE'S COMPANIES, INC.DatabaseUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, SD New York, 2016 - Google Scholar0
JDS TECHNOLOGIES, INC. v. EXACQ TECHNOLOGIESUser, web interfaceUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, ED Michigan, 2016 - Google Scholar0
"JDS TECHNOLOGIES, INC. v. EXACQ TECHNOLOGIES"Video surveillanceUS Dist. C."Dist. Court, ED Michigan, 2016 - Google Scholar"0
MAZ ENCRYPTION TECHNOLOGIES LLC v. BLACKBERRY CORPORATIONEncryptionUS Dist. C."Dist. Court, D. Delaware, 2016 - Google Scholar"0
"MCRO, INC. v. BANDAI NAMCO GAMES AMERICA INC."AnimationUS C. of A."Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, 2016 - Google Scholar"0
MESSAGING GATEWAY SOLUTIONS, LLC v. AMDOCS, INC.NetworksUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, D. Delaware, 2015 - Google Scholar0
MOBILE TELECOMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGIES, LLC v. LEAP WIRELESS INTERNATIONAL, INC.Signal transmissionUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, ED Texas, 2015 - Google Scholar0
MODERN TELECOM SYSTEMS LLC, Plaintiff, v. EARTHLINK, INC.Networks, networkingUS Dist. C.Case No. SA CV 14-0347-DOC (ANx).0
NETWORK CONGESTION SOLUTIONS, LLC v. US CELLULAR CORPORATIONNetworksUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, D. Delaware, 2016 - Google Scholar0
Paone v. Broadcom CorporationEncryptionUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, ED New York, 2015 - Google Scholar0
POWERBAHN, LLC v. FOUNDATION FITNESS LLCSimulatorUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, D. Nevada, 2016 - Google Scholar0
"POWERBAHN, LLC v. FOUNDATION FITNESS LLC"Exercise equipmentUS Dist. C."Dist. Court, D. Nevada, 2016 - Google Scholar"0
"PROTO LABS, INC. v. ICO PRODUCTS, LLC"Design using computersUS Dist. C."Dist. Court, Minnesota, 2016 - Google Scholar"0
RONALD A. KATZ TECHNOLOGY LICENSING, LP v. FedEX CORPORATIONMachine control, interfaceUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, WD Tennessee, 2016 - Google Scholar0
SOPHOS INC. v. RPOST HOLDINGS, INC.Electronic messagingUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, D. Massachusetts, 2016 - Google Scholar0
SRI INTERNATIONAL, INC. v. Cisco Systems, Inc.Networks, networkingUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, D. Delaware, 2016 - Google Scholar0
TRADING TECHNOLOGIES INTERNATIONAL, INC. v. CQG, INC.User interfaceUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, ND Illinois, 2015 - Google Scholar0
TREEHOUSE AVATAR LLC v. VALVE CORPORATIONAdvertising and or marketingUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, D. Delaware, 2016 - Google Scholar0
"VEHICLE IP, LLC v. AT&T MOBILITY LLC"Vehicle dispatchUS Dist. C."Dist. Court, D. Delaware, 2016 - Google Scholar"0
VERACODE, INC. v. APPTHORITY, INC.Software analysisUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, D. Massachusetts, 2015 - Google Scholar0
WETRO LAN LLC v. PHOENIX CONTACT USA INC.Networks, networkingUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, ED Texas, 2016 - Google Scholar0
YODLEE, INC. v. PLAID TECHNOLOGIES INC.Internet searchingUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, D. Delaware, 2016 - Google Scholar0
"Zak v. FACEBOOK, INC."User, web interfaceUS Dist. C."Dist. Court, ED Michigan, 2016 - Google Scholar"0
Zimmers v. EATON CORPORATIONMessagingUS Dist. C.Dist. Court, SD Ohio, 2016 - Google Scholar0

The most influential cases, by far, are DDR Holdings (325 citations), ENFISH (72) and California Institute of Technology (44 citations). Other listed US Court of Appeal cases (BASCOM, AMDOCS, MCRO INC.,) may well be highly cited in the future.

What types of software patents are approved by US Courts

I’ve also prepared a technology breakdown list of the software patent examples considered by the courts.  Here it is:

TechnologyNumber of CasesPercentage
Networks, networking816
Design using computers36
Machine control, interface36
Networks36
User interface36
User, web interface36
Database24
Encryption24
Internet searching24
Advertising and or marketing12
Animation12
Content filtering12
Digital rights management12
Electronic messaging12
Error correction12
Exercise equipment12
Financial12
Gaming12
Machine control12
Media playback device sets12
Messaging12
Mobile phones12
Signal transmission12
Simulator12
Software analysis12
User interface, web interface12
Vehicle dispatch12
Video compression12
Video surveillance12
Virus detection12

Software patent examplesThe software patents approved by the US courts have a technological bent – that’s notable.  If you have software that is strongly related to a technology area – for example networks and networking, design using computers, user interfaces and machine control user interfaces – the chances that you can protect your software greatly improves. These technology areas are those most favoured.

The software patent examples do, however, include patents for “abstract” algorithms, including for databases, internet searching, encryption, and error correction.  I use the word abstract with reservation because it has taken on a special legal meaning, however the point I make is that you don’t necessarily need a special piece of hardware running the software to have a patentable invention.

Business methods are not represented in the tables, but that’s not to say that there are no business method patent examples, and technological ways of solving business problems are represented (e.g. AMDOCS, which relates to solving an accounting and billing problem faced by network service providers). Uber, for example, has a software patent for their ‘surge pricing’ method, but it is harder to obtain a software patent covering a software implementation of a business method.

Looking at the most cited cases, I’ve infered features that the US courts are looking for when determining if a piece of software is patent eligible.

Broadly, what is considered favourable is a software invention rooted in (computer) technology in order to solve a problem specifically arising in (computer) technology.  It is favourable to have narrow, targeted claims that are for a software invention that is clearly “inventive”, even if the algorithm is quite “abstract” (There’s that word again).

In Network Congestion, her Honour expressed this more formally, stating that in her opinion a patent for “software” is valid if (1) it discloses a problem “necessarily rooted in computer technology,” and (2) claims a solution that (a) not only departs from the “routine and conventional” use of the technology, but (b) is sufficiently specific so as to negate the risk of pre-emption [That is, the claims are not too broad – Ed.].  In the confusing world of software patent eligibility, her Honours guiding words are very valuable.

The features for a valid software patent are only a guide. There is a legal test for software patentability using the legal concept of an “abstract idea,” but I leave that for another article.  I’m not sure that test is very helpful.  I have found it more useful to look at the listed cases.

Email me to discuss how I may assist with software patents in Australia and globally.

Justin Blows