Slide to Unlock: Apple-Samsung, Alice, and the Need for Clarity in Assessing Patent-Eligibility Under Section 101 for Touchscreen Software Patents

– Tucker J. McKinley

Smart phones have exploded in popularity over the last decade, with touchscreen phones at the tip of the technological spear. Producers of smartphones, such as Apple and Samsung, hold valuable patents on different types of technology utilized by phones. The patent on “Slide-to-Unlock” became the focal point of a dispute between Apple and Samsung. While Apple prevailed at the time, the Supreme Court later made a ruling in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank that invalidated a software patent under the Patent Act’s subject matter requirement. This Note contends that the limits of patentable subject matter have been blurred because of the court’s rulings and proposes a simplified test for evaluating process claims under Section 101 in the touchscreen software context. Rather than taking a commonly accepted two-pronged approach, this Note reduces the analysis of touchscreen patent eligibility to one step, stripping away software language and examining the basic function to determine whether the concept falls within the machine-or-transformation test. By using the Apple-Samsung dispute as an example, this Note proposes reducing the analysis to its essence in a manner faithful to precedent

Abstract Written by Oliver S. Tumsuden, 2018