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Aatrix Software, Inc. v. Green Shades Software, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

February 14, 2018

AATRIX SOFTWARE, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
GREEN SHADES SOFTWARE, INC., Defendant-Appellee

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida in No. 3:15-cv-00164-HES-MCR, Senior Judge Harvey E. Schlesinger.

          John Bentley Lunseth, II, Briggs & Morgan, PA, Minneapolis, MN, argued for plaintiff-appellant.

          Joseph W. Bain, Shutts & Bowen LLP, West Palm Beach, FL, argued for defendant-appellee. Also represented by Harold Timothy Gillis, Jacksonville, FL.

          Before Moore, Reyna, and Taranto, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          Moore, Circuit Judge

         Aatrix Software, Inc. ("Aatrix") appeals the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida's dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), in which the district court held claims 1, 2, and 22 of U.S. Patent No. 7, 171, 615 ("'615 patent") and claims 1, 13, and 17 of U.S. Patent No. 8, 984, 393 ("'393 patent") invalid as directed to ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Aatrix also appeals the district court's denial of its motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. We vacate the district court's grant of the motion to dismiss, reverse its denial of Aatrix's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint, and remand for further proceedings.

         Background

         The '615 and the '393 patents have essentially the same specification and are directed to systems and methods for designing, creating, and importing data into a viewable form on a computer so that a user can manipulate the form data and create viewable forms and reports. '615 patent at Abstract. The preferred embodiment in the specification describes a data processing system, which has three main components: a form file, a data file, and a viewer. Id. at 3:4-31, Fig. 1. The form file is created using in-house form development tools and is designed to model the physical characteristics of an existing form, including the calculations and rule conditions required to fill in the form. Id. at 3:5-14. The data file, referred to as the Aatrix Universal File ("AUF"), allows data from third-party applications to be "seamlessly imported" into the form file program to populate the form fields. Id. at 3:14- 22. The viewer generates a report by merging the data in the AUF file with the fields in the form file, performing calculations on the data, and allowing the user to review and change the field values. Id. at 3:24-31. Claim 1 of the '615 patent is representative (emphases added):

1. A data processing system for designing, creating, and importing data into, a viewable form viewable by the user of the data processing system, comprising:
(a) a form file that models the physical representation of an original paper form and establishes the calculations and rule conditions required to fill in the viewable form;
(b) a form file creation program that imports a background image from an original form, allows a user to adjust and test-print the background image and compare the alignment of the original form to the background test-print, and creates the form file;
(c) a data file containing data from a user application for populating the viewable form; and
(d) a form viewer program operating on the form file and the data file, to perform calculations, allow the user of the data processing system to review and change the data, and create viewable forms and reports.

         Aatrix sued Green Shades Software, Inc. ("Green Shades") for infringement of the '615 and '393 patents. Green Shades moved to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). It argued all claims in the asserted patents were ineligible under § 101. Aatrix argued the motion should be denied "to permit claim construction to go forward and for the [district court] to acquaint itself with the actual inventions." J.A. 198; see also J.A. 5, 204. Aatrix also filed declarations discussing the claimed invention, which the district court did not consider in its analysis.

         The district court granted Green Shades' motion and held every claim ineligible under § 101. J.A. 33 (holding "the '615 and '393 Patents to be drawn to ineligible subject matter"). Though not argued by the parties, the district court concluded claim 1 is not directed to any tangible embodiment and therefore not directed to eligible subject matter under § 101. The district court applied the Alice/Mayo two-step analysis to the remaining claims at issue. The court held that '615 patent claim 2 is directed to the abstract idea of "collecting, organizing, and performing calculations on data to fill out forms: a fundamental human activity that can be performed using a pen and paper." J.A. 23. It found that the claim elements do not supply an inventive concept. It concluded '615 patent claim 22 and '393 patent claims 1, 13, and 17 are substan-tively the same as '615 patent claim 2 and similarly directed to abstract ideas without inventive concepts.

         Aatrix moved to modify and vacate the judgment, for reconsideration, and for leave to amend the complaint. It sought reconsideration of the district court's tangible embodiment analysis and leave to file a second amended complaint that it argued supplied additional allegations and evidence that would have precluded a dismissal under § 101 at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage. The district court denied these motions, stating that "[u]pon consideration of the filings and the relevant case law, the ...


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