Monday, January 30, 2012

Gharsalli steam-rolls BPAI

Here kitty kittyIn Ex Parte Gharsalli et al, No. 2009-012500 (BPAI Jan 16, 2012) we saw Caterpillar Inc. appear before the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences and successfully argue a patentability rejection.  US Patent Application 10/092,333 related to a method and apparatus for controlling a parameter of at least one signal.  Work machines such as motor graders employ several control inputs to control the movement of a work tool, e.g., a grader blade, that is designed to move in multiple degrees of freedom.

Claim 1 for example read as follows:

1. A method for controlling a parameter of at least one signal, including the steps of:

receiving a desired command signal from at least one control input;

determining a potential condition for receiving an undesired command signal from at least one other control input;

adjusting a parameter of an undesired command signal received from the at least one other control input in response to the potential condition; and

delivering the desired command signal and the undesired command signal to at least one output.
The examiner had rejected this claim and dependent claims as being directed to non-statutory subject matter.

The examiner's wrong

The examiner, according to the Appellants, had said the "signal" of the claims is an abstract idea. In making this observation the examiner was asserting that a "signal" is not a physical object and that the claimed subject matter is not a practical application thereof.

No legal or factual basis was provided to support this allegation.

The Board agrees

The examiner's rejection, said the Board, provides no explanation as to why a claim that recites process steps and non-abstract physical elements (for example a control input such as a joystick or lever) is directed to non-statutory subject matter on the sole basis that the claim also recites an abstraction (for example a signal) as a portion of a claim.

In other words, it's okay to have both abstract and non-abstract elements in a claim.

Further steps

The hearing didn't go entirely in the Appellants' favour. The Board went on to uphold anticipation and obviousness rejections against many of the claims.

Photo courtesy of author aliag under Creative Commons licence.

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