A Computer Memory System is Not AbstractAugust 17, 2017

In a decision on August 15, 2017, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“CAFC”) reversed and remanded the district court’s decision in Visual Memory LLC v. NVIDIA Corporation. The CAFC concluded that the district court erred when it held that Visual Memory’s patent No. 5,953,740 (“‘740”) is drawn to patent-ineligible subject matter and dismissed the patent infringement complaint for failing to state a claim.

The ‘740 patent claims a memory system which efficiently operates with different types of host processors. Computer systems frequently use a tiered approach for memory hierarchy. The lowest tier is low-cost, low-speed memory for bulk storage, the next is medium-speed for main memory, and the highest tier is used for processor cache memory and is fast and expensive. Due to cost issues, the cache memory is often smaller than the main memory and typically is unable to store all data required by the processor. The memory hierarchy allows data to be transferred from the main memory to the cache during operation ensuring that the currently operating program has access to all required data. Algorithms determine which data is transferred and which is replaced to facilitate rapid access to the currently executing program. Prior art memory systems are either specifically designed for the processor used in each system, or suffer decreased performance efficiency. The ‘740 patent overcomes prior art deficiencies by creating a programmable memory system that can be customized for use with various processors without diminishing performance.

Reversing the district court, the CAFC held that the ‘740 patent is not directed at an abstract idea, but claims an improvement to computer memory systems. The Alice test for patent eligibility analysis first requires determination of whether the claims are directed to a patent-eligible concept, and if not, whether the claim’s elements, individually or combined, transform the nature of the claims into a patent eligible application. The district court found the claims to be directed to the “abstract ideas of categorized data storage” and further, that the programmable operational characteristics are not inventive but generic and conventional. The CAFC disagreed finding the ‘740 claims to be directed to an enhanced memory system that is a technological improvement in computer functionality.

For more information or if you have questions, please contact one of our MVS IP attorneys or call us at (515) 288-3667.

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