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18 March 2019Americas

Federal Circuit rules ‘treatment claims’ are patent eligible

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has warned against implementing “too broad” an interpretation of the Alice test as it ruled that “treatment claims” were eligible for patenting.

The Alice test is a two-step formulation for determining whether a claim is patent eligible. It states that if a patent claim is directed towards an ineligible concept, such as a natural phenomenon, it must have a transformative inventive step. It was outlined in the Supreme Court's 2016 Alice v CLS Bank International decision.

The  ruling, issued on Friday, March 15, overturned an earlier decision of the US District Court for the Southern District of California in Natural Alternatives International v Creative Compounds.

Supplements company Natural Alternatives appealed against a decision from the district court which ruled that its patents were directed towards patent-ineligible subject matter.

The company sued Creative Compounds, another nutritional supplements manufacturer, for infringing its patents, which cover the use of the beta-alanine compound for muscle development.

The district court had ruled that the patents were directed towards natural concepts, and lacked an “inventive step”.

In its ruling, however, the Federal Circuit found that the patents covered “treatment claims” which are eligible for patent protection.

The Federal Circuit noted that administering certain quantities of beta-alanine” alters a human subject’s natural state.

“The claims not only embody this discovery, they require that an infringer actually administer the dosage form claimed in the manner claimed, altering the athlete’s physiology to provide the described benefits”, the ruling said.

According to the Federal Circuit, “we live in the natural world, and all inventions are constrained by the laws of nature”.

“As the Supreme Court has warned, we must be careful not to overly abstract claims when performing the Alice analysis”, the ruling said.

The Federal Circuit remanded the case for further proceedings.

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