Advantage over Prior Methods Inadequate to Confer Patent Eligibility without Technological Improvement
In a short, two-page opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana's ruling that a method of using peer-to-peer networking to verify employment history in the truck driving industry was directed to patent-ineligible subject matter under Section 101.
Tenstreet argued that the asserted patent claims were eligible because they provided three advantages over conventional processes for employment verification: 1) a single channel for routing transmissions, 2) the ability for job applicants to monitor the verification process and 3) database storage of employment history.
The Federal Circuit disagreed that these three advantages constituted eligible subject matter, stating that the "test for patent-eligible subject matter is not whether the claims are advantageous over the previous method." Even if the patent "provides advantages over manual collection of data, the patent claims no technological improvement beyond the use of a generic computer network."
For this reason, the Federal Circuit affirmed that the patent claims were directed to ineligible subject matter, specifically the abstract idea of collecting, organizing and storing data on a conventional computer network, and included no elements that transformed the claims into patent-eligible applications.
Claim 1 is the only independent claim of the asserted patent and reads:
A method for peer-to-peer sharing of job applicant verification data over a network, the network comprising; a computerized exchange being in communication with one or more requesters, providers, and job applicants; the exchange managing one or more interactions of each requester, provider, and job applicant with the exchange; each requester being an entity seeking verification data about one or more job applicants, each provider being an entity in possession of the verification data of one or more job applicants and providing the verification data in response to a request for the verification data, the verification data disclosing a status of the job applicant during a period of time; said method comprising the steps of:
allowing one or more communication channels to interface with the exchange;
assigning an attribute to each requester, provider, and job applicant, the attribute defining the communication channel accessible to each requester, provider, and job applicant in transmitting data to the exchange and receiving data from the exchange;
receiving a verification request from a requester through the communication channel of the requester;
comparing, by the computerized exchange, the verification request with requirements;
routing the verification request to a provider through the communication channel of the provider;
receiving verification data provided by the provider in response to the verification request through the communication channel of the provider; and
routing the received verification data through the communication channel of the requester;
wherein at least one requester is also a provider for a second requester and at least one provider is also a requester for a second provider, the at least one requester providing verification data to the exchange for a period of time in which a respective job applicant was employed by the at least one requester and the second provider providing verification data to the exchange for a period a time in which the same or a different respective job applicant was employed by the second provider
The case is Tenstreet LLC v. DriverReach LLC, Case No. 2020-1101 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 19, 2020).
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