Insufficient Specificity to Constitute an Improvement to Computer Functionality

In Universal Secure Registry LLC v. Apple, Inc., [2020-2044] (August 26, 2021), the Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) that U.S. Patent Nos. 8,856,539; 8,577,813; 9,100,826; and 9,530,137 asserted by Universal Secure Registry because the four asserted patents were ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

Although the patents are otherwise unrelated, they are directed to similar technology—securing electronic payment transactions.  The district found the patents ineligible under both prongs of the Alice test, explaining that the claimed invention was directed to the abstract idea of “the secure verification of a person’s identity” and that the patents do not disclose an inventive concept—including an improvement in computer functionality— that transforms the abstract idea into a patent-eligible application.

The Federal Circuit began by noting that in cases involving authentication technology, patent eligibility often turns on whether the claims provide sufficient specificity to constitute an improvement to computer functionality itself.  Analyzing the claims of the four patents separately, the Federal Circuit determined that they were directed to abstract ideas, and did not include anything more to remove the claims from the realm of abstract ideas.