Judge Richard G. Andrews recently dismissed a plaintiff’s complaint after finding the asserted patent claims invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Visual Memory LLC v. Nvidia Corp., C.A. No. 15-789-RGA (D. Del. May 27, 2016). The patent at issue described “a computer system that uses a three-tiered memory hierarchy: (1) slow, low-cost memory for ‘bulk storage of data,’ (2) medium speed memory for the ‘system’s main memory,’ and (3) expensive, high-speed ‘processor cache memory.’” The asserted claims, the Court found, “are directed to the abstract idea of categorical data storage. Humans have categorized data for many years. For instance, a library may have an easily-accessible section for popular novels, while maintaining less accessible storage for less-requested materials. This is an indisputably well-known practice that humans have always performed.” Id. at 8 (internal quotation marks omitted).
Judge Andrews rejected the plaintiff’s argument that its patent claims should survive the § 101 inquiry in light of the Federal Circuit’s recent Enfish decision, explaining: “Enfish is . . . best understood as a case which cautions against oversimplification during step one of Mayo/Alice, rather than a case which exempts from § 101 scrutiny all patents which purport to improve the functioning of a computer.” Id. at 9. In Enfish, the Court explained, the patent claims were directed to “a specific type of data structure designed to improve the way a computer stores and retrieves data in memory.” Id. Here, on the other hand, there was no “specific type of data structure” analog – instead, the patent claims were directed to the “broad concept” of “categorical data storage” on a computer. Id. at 10. Turning to the second Alice prong, Judge Andrews explained that “[t]he claims here are ‘recited too broadly and generically to be considered sufficiently specific and meaningful applications of their underlying abstract ideas.’” Id. at 14. While the patent claims described “the idea of categorical data storage as implemented on a computer, the claimed computer functionality can only be described as generic or conventional.” Id.