U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a victory for Shook, Hardy & Bacon clients Alstom SA and its subsidiaries Alstom Grid, LLC and Psymetrix Limited against Electric Power Group, who had alleged the Alstom defendants infringed three of Electric Power Group’s patents relating to real-time, wide-area performance monitoring of an electric power grid.
Electric Power Group filed suit against the Alstom defendants in 2012. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted summary judgment in Alstom’s favor in May of 2015, finding Electric Power Group’s patents invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 for lack of patent-eligible subject matter under the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int'l.
The appeals court upheld the lower court's ruling, finding the patents in question cover only the abstract idea of gathering and analyzing information and displaying the results. Although the claims were “lengthy and numerous,” the court noted that “limiting the claims to the particular technological environment of power grid monitoring is, without more, insufficient to transform them into patent-eligible applications of the abstract idea at their core.” The appeals court praised the district court for recognizing the “critical difference between patenting a particular solution to a problem and attempting to patent the abstract idea to the problem in general.” As the appeals court noted, “the essentially result-focused, functional character of claim language has been a frequent feature of claims held ineligible under § 101.”
The Federal Circuit also denied Electric Power Group’s petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc.
Electric Power Group LLC v. Alstom SA, No. 2015-1778 (Fed. Cir. 2016).