In re Alappat: A Strict Statutory Interpretation Determining Patentable Subject Matter Relating to Computer Software?


Sang Hui Michael Kim


VOL. XIII • Summer 1995 • NO. 4 (table of contents)

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13 John Marshall J. of Comp. & Info. Law 635


This article is a review of the Federal Circuit Court decision of In Re Alappat. The subject of the case is an invention by Alappat. This invention is a “rasterizer that produces illumination intensity data ‘used’ by a display means to illuminate pixels on a screen according to a calculated illumination intensity value.” In analyzing this case, the Federal Circuit Court interpreted 35 U.S.C. sec. 112, para. 6 strictly and held that a “programmed computer becomes a new machine.”

Alappat’s application is carefully followed because “it essentially undermines the basic principle of examination” by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The author believes that the court’s interpretation of the statute “could give computer software patents exclusive rights for non-statutory subject matter…by claiming the basic components of a general purpose computer and specific operations it must perform without any positive relationship recited, and imputing limitation into a claim regarding ‘interrelatedness’ and ‘relationships’ from the specification dictated by software regardless if [it] has been claimed or not.”

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