By Memorandum Opinion entered by The Honorable Leonard P. Stark in American Axle & Mfg., Inc. v. Neapco Holdings LLC et al., Civil Action No. 15-1168-LPS (D.Del. February 27, 2018), the Court granted Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment of Invalidity of U.S. Patent No. 7,774,911 (“the ‘911 patent”) after finding that it was directed to patent ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. §101.
The ‘911 patent relates generally to shaft assemblies for transmitting rotary power in a driveline and more specifically to a method for attenuating driveline vibrations transmitted through a shaft assembly. Id. at *1-2. Many of the prior art liners attenuated the shell mode vibrations but did not also attenuate bending or torsion mode vibrations. Id. at *2. “The ‘911 patent purports to provide ‘an improved method for damping various types of vibrations in a hollow shaft,’ which facilitates the damping of shell mode vibration as well as bending mode vibration and/or torsion mode vibration.” Id.
In applying the two-part framework of the Alice test to the ’911 patent, the Court agreed with Defendants that (1) the claimed methods are simply the application of laws of nature, Hooke’s law, with the result of friction damping; and (2) the claims do not contain an inventive concept. Id. at *9-16. Thus, the Court found that the asserted claims of the ‘911 patent are not patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. §101. Id. at *15.
A copy of the Memorandum Opinion is attached.
The takeaway is that drafters of patents for processes claiming patent ineligible subject matter – laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas – should be mindful that their patent claims contain some additional features or inventive concept that provide practical assurances that the process is more than a drafting effort designed to monopolize the law of nature itself. Parties sued for infringement of patents that arguably involve laws of nature, physical phenomena and/or abstract ideas should carefully evaluate those patents to determine whether they meet the Alice test.