April 21, 2021

Federal Circuit: Method of Creating a Floral Arrangement is an Abstract Idea

Holland & Knight Section 101 Blog
Anthony J. Fuga
Section 101 Blog

In the case of In re Sturgeon, 839 F. App'x 517, 520 (Fed. Cir. 2021), the patent application claimed a method of creating a floral arrangement on an electronic display screen with the following representative claim:

A method of creating a floral arrangement on an electronic display screen, the method comprising:

selecting a flower from an image library comprising a plurality of images for the flower, the plurality of images including images of the flower from different angular positions;

placing the flower at a user-selected location in a floral arrangement that is displayed on an electronic display screen;

dynamically selecting one of the plurality of images of the flower based on the location of the flower in the floral arrangement; and

displaying the selected flower image in the floral arrangement displayed on the display screen.

The appeal made its way to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit after the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) affirmed its rejection under Section 101.

The applicant conceded that merely creating a floral arrangement using a computer is an abstract idea, but at Alice step 1, she argued that the claim is not abstract because "it adds an element of realism to the floral arrangement." The court disagreed and determined that the PTAB properly found that the claim was directed to mental processes, the abstract idea of managing personal behavior and methods of organizing human activity – in this case, arranging flowers.

At Alice step 2, the applicant argued that the claim involved an inventive concept by "specifying that an image of the flower at an appropriate angle must be selected from an image library based on the location the user has selected for placing the flower." The court again disagreed: the claim recited a method of "selecting a flower from an image library," "placing the flower at a user-selected location," "dynamically selecting" an image from the library based on the chosen location and "displaying the selected flower ... on the display screen." These steps do not differentiate the claim from an ordinary mental process or conventional computer activity. Furthermore, the elements were "described at a high level of generality and require only generic computer implementation."

Accordingly, the patent application was held to be ineligible under Section 101.

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