Monday, September 9, 2013

If I don't Know "IT" When I see "IT", then Abstract must "IT" be

Most everyone has heard of the US Supreme Court Judge who proudly admitted that he could not define a certain something but nonetheless, he knew "IT" when he saw "IT".

Now comes a new generation of jurisprudential savants
with a similar line about Information Technologies ("IT"):
'If I don't Know "IT" When I see "IT", then Abstract must "IT" be'

First let's peek at the "IT" patent they refer to:
U.S. 7,013,284 ("Component based interface to handle tasks during claim processing ")

Figure 2A of that patent shows a "client" and a "server".
The server hosts a "database".

Here is a small block taken out of the long and complex text of the specification. As can be seen, a "database" involves "records" and "searches" and result retrival issues:

Large Result Set
When retrieving records from a database, if the search criteria is too broad, the amount of data required to be retrieved from the database and passed across the network will affect user perceived performance. Windows requesting such data will be slow to paint and searches will be slow. The ... By designing the controllers that present the database queries intelligently, the queries that are presented to the database server do not return a result set that is large enough to affect user perceived performance. ... The scrolling retrieval of a large result set is the incremental retrieval of a result subset repeated as many times as the user requests or until the entire result set is obtained. Results are retrieved by the Bounded Query Approach where the first record is determined by a where clause with calculated values.

Here is what the majority understands in the subject case of ACCENTURE GLOBAL SERVICES v. GUIDEWIRE SOFTWARE

Accenture only points to system claim 1’s inclusion of an insurance claim folder, a task library database, a server component, and a task engine in attempting to show that the system claim is meaningfully different from the ’284 patent’s method claims. However, these software components are all present in the method claims, albeit without a specific reference to those components by name. ... The insurance transaction database of method claim 8 also stores insurance claims in a structured environment and decomposes them into different levels. Thus, the claim folder only provides insignificant activity that does not meaningfully differentiate the system claim from the method claim. ... the task library database is simply a formalized collection of the rules that are present and applied to the insurance transaction information in method claim 8.

Simple is as simple talks.
(Particularly when one sits on the "bench")

The majority doesn't even know how to point to the correct figure (2A):

Further, although the patent’s Figure 1 shows a schematic diagram of the invention, one that includes computer hardware, the schematic’s hardware is merely composed of generic computer components that would be present in any general purpose computer.

And finally, the coupe de grace:

Indeed, in this case “[t]he system claims are [akin] to stating the abstract idea [of the method claim] . . . and adding the words: ‘apply it’ on a computer.” CLS Bank, 717 F.3d at 1291 (plurality opinion) (citing Mayo, 132 S. Ct. at 1294). Because the system claim and method claim contain only “minor differences in terminology ... they rise or fall together.


Przemysław Lib said...

If You disagree with this ruling because that patent use some complex solution...

Well its not complex at all. I had it in one lecture from DataBases course on my Technical University of Rzeszow. Computer Science 2nd year.

Block of text You have provided described nothing else than good practice of asking for only small amount of data. Its so OBVIOUS that is strange that it was included there.

As if some Layer just asked Programmer to describe whole architecture of program without caring if anything of it will have any value for patenting.

Client/Server architecture is also OBVIOUS.

"Controllers" as entities that govern access to DataBases are also OBVIOUS.

Bounded Query Approach is also OBVIOUS. (Actually definition of language from which "where clause" was taken include such examples as use case...)

OBVIOUS - thought at my university...

I can say that "invention" was developed according to best practices in the industry... well known best practices...

Step Back said...

Prz_Lib (hope u don't mind me calling you that),
In the legal world there are different categories of "issues".

"Obviousness" (under 35 USC 103) is one such category of issues.

However, the present case (Accenture) circles about an entirely different issue; that of 35 USC 101 --otherwise known as patent eligible subject matter.

A working data base is a physical thing. It accepts queries, it parses those queries and searches its structured records for those that satisfy the query criteria and then it outputs search results.

This is all done in the physical world (yes with spinning platters of magnetically encoded data). It does not happen in an abstract ether world.

The sad thing is that many a technology-ignorant judge (them who share the "bench" with Forrest Gump) do not know that that they are tech-ignorant. Yet they pass judgment on --forgive them for they know not what they do-- things they know not about.

Nonetheless, they claim they know "IT" when they see "IT".

In this case they are saying that a physical database is an "abstract" something.

Step Back said...

Dude where is my server?

Many a patent-lawyer-hating types assume that we patent lawyers don't know the first thing about science, about computers and that we never practiced in the real world (or forgot what it was like).

Wholly untrue.

Most of us are well aware of client/network/server architectures and structured database architectures and so on.

It is the judges on the bench who don't have a clue.

That doesn't mean they are stoop8.

It means that it takes many years to learn some of this stuff. If not, why did you waste your youth going to university? ;-)

Przemysław Lib said...

@Step Back


SQL data base like MySQL would be something concrete. NoSQL data base like MongoDB would be something concrete.

Like Ford Mustang would be something concrete. Car is general and abstract.

In other words terms used in cited part of patent refer to abstract terms if we are talking about Computer Science and programming databases specifically.

Ofc. that may be because its irrelevant for invention which actual implementation of database is chosen, or because type of such database is irrelevant.

But to generalize one must put some abstraction layer...

Accenture should emphasis that its just it.

PS To get paper confirming what I learned in high school or on my own...

Step Back said...


The other day I came across a bleeding man laying by the side of the road.

"What happened?" I asked.
"I got hit by a car."
"What kind of car was it, was it a Ford Mustang?" I inquired.
"It was a hit and run. He came out of nowhere. I didn't get the exact make and model."
"Well sir," I replied "if there is no make and model then it is abstract. You didn't get struck by anything real. Stop your bleeding and whining. Get up and face reality. On your way now sir."


Anonymous said...

Your claim that happening in the physical world makes something abstract is ridiculous. The works of Shakespeare are abstract, but there are many copies of them written down. The Pythagorean theorem is abstract, but in addition to multiple copies physically existing, there were neurons in the brain of Pythagoras that stored that information. The Bilski method was written down on physical paper and existed in Bilki's mind, but it was abstract. By your definition, nothing exists that is abstract. Even a child's imagination playing out fantasies has those firing neurons.

Step Back said...

The works of Shakespeare are constituted by physical ink scribed on physical paper. When physical light reflects off that paper and causes nerves to fire in your eyeballs and visual part of your cortex, then at that point one might say you are starting to convert objectively physical expression into subjective abstraction. But before that, it's all physical and objectively real.

Pythagoras's theorem is abstract because it uses abstract lines of zero width and infinite number of points. Such things do not exist in the physical universe as we now know it.

Anonymous said...

No, your brain's conception of the words still has a physical presence. My brain doesn't exist in some ether world, although you appear to be trying to convince me yours does. The important thing to understand is that the works of Shakespeare are not tied to a specific physical instance. If you destroyed the manuscripts, the works of Shakespeare would still exist.

As for the Pythagorean theorem consisting of lines, let's instead take Einstein's good old e=mc^2. It describes the real-world relationship between energy and mass, but it is an abstract concept, despite it describing a physical phenomenon, and the theory itself existing in multiple physical instances.

Also, it seems amusing that you are dead silent on Bilski. It's the most relevant context, and has been subject to our ultimate legal scrutiny, and was specifically called an abstract idea.

Step Back said...

I don't think the word "abstract" is intended (in this context) to mean, capable of existing as multiple copies. Computer chips are capable of existing as multiple copies and yet they are not "abstract".

Incidentally, E=m*C^2 is our current "belief" as to how the universe works. Just because we believe it doesn't mean it is necessarily true and correct. Thus far none of our experiments have shown it to be incorrect; that being the way science works.

Anonymous said...

Abstract doesn't mean existing in multiple copies. Abstract means that it isn't tied to a specific physical instance. Being abstract is why patents are sometimes called 'intellectual property' instead of just 'property', and are referred to by accountants as 'intangible assets.' However, there are physical records of the patents, and I seem to recall being told by some lawyer that the physical copy is actually important for arcane reasons.

Yes, it very well may be that e=mc^2 is not completely perfect, but you are dodging the question.

Now, discuss the Bilski method. It is explicitly an abstract idea in SCOTUS's own words. It is not tied to any specific physical process, but it can be implemented in one, and ultimately depends on one, whether it be pen, paper, and brain or usage of a computer in its place.

Step Back said...

1. A method for managing the consumption risk costs of a commodity sold by a commodity provider at a fixed price comprising the steps of:

(a) initiating a series of transactions between said commodity provider and consumers of said commodity wherein said consumers purchase said commodity at a fixed rate based upon historical averages, said fixed rate corresponding to a risk position of said consumers;

(b) identifying market participants for said commodity having a counter-risk position to said consumers; and

(c) initiating a series of transactions between said commodity provider and said market participants at a second fixed rate such that said series of market participant transactions balances the risk position of said series of consumer transactions.


Step Back said...

Referring to the above:

(1) The "commodity" mentioned in the preamble is a real thing because it must be "sold". You cannot sell something that is purely a figment inside your own imagination and which other people cannot see.

(2) The "provider" mentioned in the preamble is a real thing because it must do the real world selling.

(3) The "consumers" mentioned in the paragraph (a) are real (they are onto points on the imaginary axis)

(4) The "transactions" mentioned in the paragraph (a) are real and therefore the "initiating" of those transactions is real because the "initiating" is operating on real things.

(5) ... You can fill in the rest of the repeated analysis for the italicized elements

Step Back said...

So we have a claim that recites real things, real people, and real actions operating on those real things.

If you read the Supreme Court decision your will discover that the Supremes refuse to address any of these things. They stick their heads in the sand and repeat: 'it ain't there, it ain't there'.

Anonymous said...

I believe it's you who is sticking your head in the sand., ignoring the legal realities that you don't like. You seem to think that because at some point, something happens in the real world, that the subject of the patent is not abstract. The Bilski patent never stood a chance, and the reason we were all anticipating the decision was on how exactly SCOTUS would rule on it, not whether or not Bilski's joke of an 'invention' would stand up or not.

Step Back said...

Well of course, if the Supreme Court declares that the world is flat, then the "legal reality" as you call it becomes that the world is (legally) flat.

But then again, now it is you who is ducking around the true "facts" in Bilski. Typical reality-avoidance behavior. :-)

Anonymous said...

The Bilski method was very clearly an abstract idea. If you think it was patentable subject matter, you need to have your head examined and/or retake the patent bar. You are the one avoiding the harsh truth that the law is starting to catch up with reality here.

Step Back said...

To say that Bilski was abstract because it was "clearly" abstract is to engage in useless circular logic.

You (and the Supreme Court) need to define precisely what you mean by abstract and to define a relatively bright line objective test for determining if a claim is abstract or not. Otherwise you are engaging in pure demagoguery.

The Supremes get away with it because they are "Supreme". You however fall far short of that peg on the legal wall climb.