McRO v. Bandai: The Return of Preemption after Alice

Recently, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) issued its decision in McRO, Inc. v. Bandai Namco Games America, Inc., an opinion that re-emphasized the use of “preemption” in considering whether a patent claim recites eligible subject matter under 35 USC § 101, specifically under “step one” of the two-prong eligibility test set forth in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories and Alice v. CLS Bank.

Historically, the concept of preemption was paramount to patent eligibility. In the seminal case of O’Reilly v. Morse, the focus was on whether a claim is confined “to the machinery or parts of machinery” (making it eligible) or if it represented “a monopoly in [an invention’s] use, however developed” (making it ineligible). 

This underlying rationale was later adopted in the well-known triumvirate of the BensonFlook, and Diehr cases.

In Mayo and Alice, the Supreme Court seemingly confirmed the role of preemption in the abstract idea inquiry. In Mayo, the Court reiterated the warning “against upholding patents that claim processes that too broadly preempt the use of a natural law.” 

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