Patent claims directed to encryption systems and methods, including allowing authorized users to access encrypted data, past patent-eligibility muster under 35 USC § 101, according to a court in the Eastern District of Virginia. TecSec, Inc. v. Adobe Systems Inc., Civil Action No. 1:10-cv-l 15 (E.D. Va. May 23, 2017.)
Independent claims 1 and 8 of U.S. Patent No. 5,369,702 were agreed to be representative of claims of four patents-in-suit. Claim 1 recites:
A method for providing multi-level multimedia security in a data network, comprising the steps of:
A) accessing an object-oriented key manager;
B) selecting an object to encrypt;
C) selecting a label for the object;
D) selecting an encryption algorithm;
E) encrypting the object according to the encryption algorithm:
F) labelling the encrypted object:
G) reading the object label;
H) determining access authorization based on the object label; and
I) decrypting the object if access authorization is granted.
And claim 8 recites:
A system for providing multi-level multimedia security in a data network, comprising:
A) digital logic means, the digital logic means comprising:
1) a system memory means for storing data;
2) an encryption algorithm module, comprising logic for converting unencrypted objects into encrypted objects, the encryption algorithm module being electronically connected to the system memory means for accessing data stored in the first system memory;
3) an object labelling subsystem, comprising logic means for limiting object access, subject to label conditions, the object labelling subsystem being electronically connected to the system memory means for accessing data stored in the system memory means and the object labelling subsystem being further electronically connected to the encryption algorithm module to accept inputs from the encryption algorithm module;
4) a decryption algorithm module, comprising logic for converting encrypted objects into unencrypted objects, the decryption algorithm module being electronically connected to the system memory means for accessing data stored in the system memory means; and
5) an object label identification subsystem, comprising logic for limiting object access, subject to label conditions, the object label identification subsystem being electronically connected to the system memory means for accessing data stored in the system memory means and the object label identification subsystem being further electronically connected to the decryption algorithm module to accept inputs from the decryption algorithm module;
B) the encryption algorithm module working in conjunction with the object labelling subsystem to create an encrypted object such that the object label identification subsystem limits access to an encrypted object.
In deciding the defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of patent-eligible subject matter, the court was able to rely on an extensive litigation history, including claim constructions by the Federal Circuit.
The defendant alleged that the patent claims “recite functions, such as encrypting/decrypting, labelling, embedding, and determining access authorization, along with generic computing and programming components.” As such, the defendant analogized the claims “to placing a document into different sealed envelopes in order to produce multi-level security.”
The plaintiff of course saw more detail in the claims noting that they did not preempt “the entire field of managing objects using multiple levels of encryption,” and included specific “limitations such as the use of an ‘object-oriented key manager.’”
The court rejected the defendant’s analogy, and agreed with the plaintiff “that the patents create a solution to a computer-centric problem which is not addressed by the prior art.” The Federal Circuit’s claim construction decision bolster this conclusion, because the Federal Circuit had opted for narrow claim constructions, and had found the patent specification to be very detailed.