A Bad Day for this Patent Applicant: Travel Itinerary Applications Ineligible Under Section 101
In the case of In re Bongiorno, No. 2020-1835, 2021 WL 1997454, at *4 (Fed. Cir. May 19, 2021), patent applicant James Bongiorno appealed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board's (PTAB) finding that two of his patent applications were directed to patent-ineligible subject matter under Section 101. Each application related to "planning and executing a vacation or travel itinerary, and more particularly to software and a portable electronic unit, which may be dedicated to such planning and travel assistance at the destination."
The applications explained that travelers customarily used limited-purpose devices, like the Global Positioning System (GPS), travel websites, planners, guidebooks and multimedia players, but the claimed invention combined "all of the functionality of the books and electronic gadgets which may need to be utilized in planning and richly experiencing a vacation abroad into one elegant and practical planning/touring device, with powerful features to enhance everyone's vacation experience."
At Alice step one, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed with the PTAB when it determined that the claims were directed to "planning and executing a vacation or travel itinerary," which was effectively a method of organizing human activity – an abstract idea. Bongiorno argued that the claimers were directed to improved technology, but the Federal Circuit disagreed: the claim limitations "recited not 'inventive programming' but 'simply desired results.'"
At Alice step two, the Federal Circuit again agreed with the PTAB and found that the recited elements (e.g., a database, a viewing screen) did not amount to significantly more than the abstract idea itself: "The elements amounted simply to applying the abstract idea using generic computer components performing routine computer functions."
Accordingly, the Federal Circuit held that the patent applications were ineligible under Section 101.
A representative claim from the applications is below:
A travel itinerary device comprising:
a non-transitory computer-readable program storage medium having computer readable program code embodied therein, said computer readable code being configured for planning of a travel itinerary;
a database of travel information, relating to a destination, stored in said non-transitory computer-readable program storage medium;
a viewing screen;
a processor for executing said computer readable code, said computer readable code comprising instructions for accessing said database of information on said non-transitory computer-readable program storage medium, and for causing displaying, on said viewing screen, of one or more image screens permitting selective planning of said travel itinerary;
a plan itinerary button, an alter itinerary button, and one or more additional buttons configured, when toggled, for communicating a selection, from among a plurality of options displayed within said one or more image screens, to said processor, and for permitting selective entry of one or more characters;
wherein said selective planning comprises actuating said plan itinerary button for causing displaying of a first image screen by said instructions, said first image screen configured for selecting a first itinerary template and one or more additional itinerary templates from among a plurality of said additional templates, said first itinerary template comprising a template for entering of a number of days for said itinerary, an arrival city and a departure city, and for selecting of one of a plurality of graduated levels of a tour schedule intensity, each of said graduated levels of said tour schedule intensity comprising a range of hours for touring for each of said number of days; each of said plurality of additional itinerary templates comprising a respective list of sites relating to a category of said additional template, with a portion of said list of sites in each said selected one or more additional itinerary templates being used to form a complete travel itinerary, said complete travel itinerary comprising a sequence of sites, for each of said number of days, with said sequence of sites being optimized to include as many sites as possible in said range of touring hours, for touring at the destination;
wherein said selective planning further comprises said alter itinerary button configured for causing displaying of a customizing image screen, said customizing image screen permitting, but not requiring, customizing of said sequence of sites of said complete itinerary, using selective access to said database of travel information, for creating a customized sequence of sites for a complete customized travel itinerary; and
wherein said computer readable code is configured for retrievably storing said selective planning within said program storage medium; and
a use itinerary button, said use itinerary button configured, when actuated, for causing displaying of a guidance screen configured for communicating with a GPS receiver for providing guidance during executing of said travel itinerary at the destination, said guidance comprising providing directions to any of said sequence of sites from a current location of said travel itinerary device.
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