Alice comes to the mechanical arts

In the post-Mayo/Alice era, patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 has been decidedly more challenging for internet applications, medical diagnostic methods, and other inventions deemed to be laws of nature, natural phenomenon or abstract ideas.  Mechanical inventions were largely immune to Mayo/Alice challenges – until now.  In American Axle & Manufacturing, Inc. v. Neapco Holdings LLC, the Federal Circuit affirmed ineligibility under § 101 in invalidating claims directed to manufacturing a drive shaft.  The court indicated that “the patent claims do not describe a specific method for applying Hooke’s law [and] simply state that the [driveshaft] liner should be tuned to dampen certain vibrations” and thus amount to simply stating a law of nature.  Judge Moore voiced her concerns in a dissent accusing the majority of ignoring the second step of the Alice/Mayo test, stating that “[t[he majority’s validity goulash is troubling and inconsistent with the patent statute and precedent.”

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