In Simio, LLC, v. FlexSim Software Products, Inc., No. 2020-1171 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 29, 2020), the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court's (i) determination that the claims of the asserted patent were patent ineligible under § 101, and (ii) consequent dismissal of the complaint for failure to state a claim.
Simio sued FlexSim for allegedly infringing its patent for object-oriented simulations (e.g., people, vehicles, or machines). The patent's asserted innovation is that it makes object-oriented simulation easier and more accessible by letting users build simulations with graphics instead of programming. FlexSim moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing it failed to state a claim for relief because the asserted claims are patent ineligible under § 101. In a "thoughtful opinion," the district court concluded (i) the claims were merely directed to the "decades old computer practice of substituting text[-]based coding with graphical processing," and (ii) Simio failed to show an inventive concept or "alteration of computer functionality" that was sufficient to transform its system into a patent eligible application.
The Federal Circuit affirmed on appeal. The Court first noted the invention's purported improvement—"using graphical processes to simplify simulation building"—has been around since the 1980s. In the Court's view, applying this known practice to the field of object-oriented simulations is no more than an abstract idea. The Court then rejected Simio's argument that the claim "improves the functionality of prior simulation systems through the use of graphical or process modeling flowcharts with no programming code required." In the Court's view, this failed to "explain how the computer's functionality is improved beyond the inherent improvement of the experience of a user who cannot (or maybe, would rather not) use programming."
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