【PTAB、米国特許庁、eligibility、特許適格性、Alice、101条、撮像画像、分類、表示、Ex parte Hiroyuki Itagaki】
” Claims 1—11 and 13—15 are rejected under 35 U.S.C. § 101 as being directed to judicially-excepted subject matter.
Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International, 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014) identifies a two-step framework for determining whether claimed subject matter is judicially-excepted from patent eligibility under § 101.
According to Alice step one, “[w]e must first determine whether the claims at issue are directed to a patent-ineligible concept,” such as an abstract idea. Alice, 134 S. Ct. at 2355.
Taking claim 1 as representative of the claims on appeal, the claimed subject matter is directed to classification. Classification is a building block of human ingenuity. As such the classification concept is an abstract idea.
Step two is “a search for an ‘inventive concept’—i.e., an element or combination of elements that is ‘sufficient to ensure that the patent in practice amounts to significantly more than a patent upon the [ineligible concept] itself.’” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289, 1294 (2012)).
We see nothing in the subject matter claimed that transforms the abstract idea of classification into an inventive concept.
The classification as claimed is more particularly image classification. But applying the concept of classification to images in particular does not make the classification concept any less abstract. At best it provides a practical application for the classification concept in the image domain. But a recitation of practical application for an abstract idea is insufficient to transform an abstract idea into an inventive concept. Cf CyberSource Corp. v. Retail Decisions, Inc., 654 F.3d 1366, 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2011) (“The Court [Parker v. Flook, 437 U.S. 584 (1978)] rejected the notion that the recitation of a practical application for the calculation could alone make the invention patentable.”).
Claim 1 describes a multi-station MRI, comprising an image acquisition unit, a display control unit, a classification processing unit. Each unit is “configured” to perform certain functions. Notwithstanding, that no “unit” claimed is structurally limited, e.g., there is no requirement that the multi-station MRI as a whole or any “unit” of it be computer-implemented, the multi-station MRI as claimed is generic. Claim 1 apparatus is a typical multi-station MRI. Any multi-station MRI available at the time the application was filed would have satisfied this. The Specification supportsthat view. See Spec, para 2(“Among magnetic resonance imaging apparatuses (hereinafter referred to as MRI apparatuses), there is a kind comprising the multi-station imaging method which performs imaging ... .”). See Spec., para. 12. In effect, the classification abstract idea to which claim 1 is directed to is applied to the images a generic multi-station MRI necessarily produces. But merely reciting a generic multi-station MRI so as to apply the classification abstract idea to its images is insufficient to transform the classification abstract idea into an inventive concept. Cf.Alice, 134 S. Ct. at 2358. “[T]he mere recitation of a generic computer cannot transform a patent-ineligible abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention. Stating an abstract idea “while adding the words ‘apply if” is not enough for patent eligibility.”
Arguably, the claim 1 apparatus differs from the typical generic multi-station MRI by including a classification processing unit; that is, “a classification processing unit configured to classify the plurality of images by image types and station position, based on imaging condition including imaging parameters.” But the “unit” as claimed is described in general functional terms, i.e., to classify images a generic multi-station MRI necessarily produces, that does no more than place the classification abstract idea in a particular context. Further classifying said images by “image types and station position, based on imaging condition including imaging parameters” does little to patentably transform the classification abstract idea. The “unit” as claimed performs a classification that, apart from the particular context within which it is placed, could be performed mentally or manually. Nothing about the unit as claimed, or the apparatus claimed as awhole, suggests claim 1 provides a solution that is necessarily rooted in multi-station MRIs in order to overcome a problem specifically arising in the realm of multi-station MRIs. Cf. DDR Holdings, LLC v. Hotels.com, L.P., 773 F.3d 1245, 1257 (Fed. Cir. 2014)(“[a] claimed solution [that] is necessarily rooted in computer technology in order to overcome a problem specifically arising in the realm of computer networks.”) The multi-station MRI as claimed does not operate in an unconventional manner to achieve an improvement in its functionality. See Amdocs (Israel) Limited v. Openet Telecom, Inc, No. 2015-1180, 2016 WL 6440387, *10 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 1, 2016). It merely recites the performance of some long-known practice of classifying images with the requirement to perform said classification to images from a typical generic multi-station MRI. Classifying images is not transformed into an inventive concept by simply applying it to the images a typical multi-station MRI necessarily produces.
For the foregoing reasons, we find that claim 1 covers claimed subject matter that is judicially-excepted from patent eligibility under § 101. The other independent claim — method claim 11 parallels claim 1 — similarly covers claimed subject matter that is judicially-excepted from patent eligibility under § 101. The dependent claims describe various classification schemes which do little to patentably transform the abstract idea.”
（2017.1.4. 弁理士 鈴木学）