2016年8月4日 星期四

取代人工的電腦監測系統並未超越抽象概念? - Electric Power Group, LLC v. Alstom S.A. (CAFC 2016)

Electric Power Group, LLC v. Alstom S.A. (CAFC 2016) 案件資訊:
專利權人、原告、上訴人:ELECTRIC POWER GROUP, LLC
被告、被上訴人:ALSTOM S.A., ALSTOM GRID, INC., PSYMETRIX, LTD., ALSTOM LIMITED
系爭專利:US7,233,843; US8,060,259; US8,401,710(家族專利)

緣起,專利權人Electric Power Group對Alstom S.A., Alstom Grid等被告提出侵權告訴(加州地院),地院同意被告提出簡易判決(summary judgment)認定系爭專利並未能通過可專利性測試(TWO-STEP TEST),為不可專利標的。

上訴CAFC後,CAFC法官同樣認為系爭專利在其相關領域中一般的技術,應用在電腦系統中,並未超越一般電腦與網路科技,不符美國專利法第101條規定

討論:
US7,233,843關於一種針對輸電網路(electric power grid)提出的即時效能監測與管理系統,輸電網路包括設於多個位置的多個發電網格單元,監測系統即用以監測這些發電單元的運作,進而取得各發電單元的運作效能,並可以據此作出預判、模擬,並能即時採取必要措施。


Claim 1界定輸電網路的即時效能監視系統,有監視電腦、資料庫、顯示器等,可以讓操作員遠端監視。
1. A real-time performance monitoring system for monitoring an electric power grid, comprising:
a monitor computer for monitoring at least one of reliability metrics, power grid operations metrics, generation metrics, transmission metrics, suppliers metrics, grid infrastructure security metrics or markets metrics over a plurality of control areas of the electric power grid operated on a plurality of different platforms by a plurality of different business systems or companies;
a database for storing the metrics being monitored by the monitor computer; and
at least one display computer in at least one of said plurality of control areas of the electric power grid, the at least one display computer having a monitor for displaying a visualization of the metrics being monitored by the monitor computer,
said at least one display computer in one of said plurality of control areas being adapted to enable an operator located in and responsible for monitoring the one of said plurality of control areas to monitor one or more of said plurality of control areas that are different from the control area in which the operator is located.
US8,060,259
Claim 1界定為了監視與評估輸電網路的動態穩定性的廣域即時效能監視系統。
1. A wide-area real-time performance monitoring system for monitoring and assessing dynamic stability of an electric power grid, the system comprising:
a monitor computer including an interface for receiving a plurality of data streams, each data stream comprising sub-second, time stamped synchronized phasor measurements wherein the measurements in each stream are collected at geographically distinct points over a wide area of the grid;
wherein the monitor computer monitors metrics including at least one of reliability metrics, power grid operations metrics, generation metrics, transmission metrics, suppliers metrics, grid infrastructure security metrics or market metrics over a wide area of the electric power grid, wherein the wide area comprises at least two distinct entities selected from the group consisting of transmission companies, utilities, and regional reliability coordinators;
wherein the monitor computer derives in real-time from the plurality of data streams from the at least two distinct entities selected from the group consisting of transmission companies, utilities, and regional reliability coordinators, one or more dynamic stability metrics including phase angles, damping, oscillation modes, and sensitivities for dynamics monitoring using phasor measurements in which the stability metrics are indicative of grid stress and/or instability, over the wide area; and
wherein the monitor computer is configured to supply at least two different categories of data concern the metrics to a graphical user interface coupled to the monitor computer for concurrently displaying the at least two different categories of data concerning the metrics,
wherein the categories of data include monitoring data, tracking data, historical data, prediction data, and summary data,
wherein the graphical user interface provides concurrent visualization of a plurality of metrics directed to a wide geographic area of the grid covering at least two distinct entities selected from the group consisting of transmission companies, utilities, and regional reliability coordinators, and
wherein the computer accumulates and updates wide area dynamic performance metrics in real time as to wide area and local area portions of the grid.
US8,401,710
Claim 12是個方法範圍,界定即時偵測相互連線的輸電網路事件的方法,方法步驟如:接收來自各發電單元的資料流、顯示、累計事件分析結果與產生指示等。
12. A method of detecting events on an interconnected electric power grid in real time over a wide area and automatically analyzing the events on the interconnected electric power grid, the method comprising:
receiving a plurality of data streams, each of the data streams comprising sub-second, time stamped synchronized phasor measurements wherein the measurements in each stream are collected in real time at geographically distinct points over the wide area of the interconnected electric power grid, the wide area comprising at least two elements from among control areas, transmission companies, utilities, regional reliability coordinators, and reliability jurisdictions;
receiving data from other power system data sources, the other power system data sources comprising at least one of transmission maps, power plant locations, EMS/SCADA systems;
receiving data from a plurality of non-grid data sources;
detecting and analyzing events in real-time from the plurality of data streams from the wide area based on at least one of limits, sensitivities and rates of change for one or more measurements from the data streams and dynamic stability metrics derived from analysis of the measurements from the data streams including at least one of frequency instability, voltages, power flows, phase angles, damping, and oscillation modes, derived from the phasor measurements and the other power system data sources in which the metrics are indicative of events, grid stress, and/or grid instability, over the wide area;
displaying the event analysis results and diagnoses of events and associated ones of the metrics from different categories of data and the derived metrics in visuals, tables, charts, or combinations thereof, the data comprising at least one of monitoring data, tracking data, historical data, prediction data, and summary data;
displaying concurrent visualization of measurements from the data streams and the dynamic stability metrics directed to the wide area of the interconnected electric power grid;
accumulating and updating the measurements from the data streams and the dynamic stability metrics, grid data, and non-grid data in real time as to wide area and local area portions of the interconnected electric power grid; and
deriving a composite indicator of reliability that is an indicator of power grid vulnerability and is derived from a combination of one or more real time measurements or computations of measurements from the data streams and the dynamic stability metrics covering the wide area as well as non-power grid data received from the non-grid data source.
為求「客觀」判決,法院依循眾多前例來評估可專利性(可參考以下"my two cents"下方的過去報導),法院認為首要找到前述幾個專利範圍中的"技術特點"在整體技術中的角色,再看看是否"實質超越"抽象概念。

明顯地,系爭專利範圍都在處理「輸電網路」中的資訊,取得監視得到的資訊後,顯示並分析,最後產生監視結果,可以用來評估系統效能,如此請求項發明被認為僅是收集資料與分析資料的抽象概念程序的組合。

法院確認系爭專利範圍不同於對電腦技術為正面案例的Enfish,而轉而以Alice判例下衍生的兩階段可專利性測試,摘錄判決段落如下:





法官意見是,僅以資料的選擇與操作提供給人可以理解的資訊的技術本身不能轉換抽象資訊取得程序為具體有意義的標的,更遑論請求項發明更未自新的來源或資訊形式或技術來分析這些資訊。

"They do not invoke any assertedly inventive programming. Merely requiring the selection and manipulation of information—to provide a “humanly comprehensible” amount of information useful for users, Reply Br. at 6; Electric Power Group Br. at 14–15—by itself does not transform the otherwise-abstract processes of information collection and analysis."

"The claims at issue do not require any nonconventional computer, network, or display components, or even a “non-conventional and non-generic arrangement of known, conventional pieces,” but merely call for performance of the claimed information collection, analysis, and display functions “on a set of generic computer components” and display devices."

但為何對一個發電系統提供監測技術不能稱為可專利的發明?因為發電系統有這個需求,法院這樣回:

可能是範圍過廣,讓法官教訓人了,說到,取得一特定具體的解決方案的專利,與要取得解決一般問題的抽象概念的專利是不同的,如本次Electric Power Group的本次系爭專利範圍的功能性描述會涵蓋而壟斷每一種監視相關發電系統的解決方案,而不是刺激相關技術的創新又阻礙發展。(這可能是所有電腦相關技術實現的發明因為過於抽象產生的問題)

系爭專利請求項發明並未轉換抽象的資訊處理到可專利的應用上,並未用到非傳統的電腦技術,更未能產生,CAFC判決確認法院作出的裁決:系爭專利(US7,233,843; US8,060,259; US8,401,710)不具可專利性。

my two cents:
本篇判決會讓人覺得是不是所有取代人工的電腦技術都不具可專利性?從專利範圍來看,僅界定了電腦、資料庫、顯示器等基本電腦元件,執行一般遠端監視工作,確實不容易讓人有可專利的地方(這也可能是後見之明),這裡涉及幾個「經典前例」,如:

涉及Enfish, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., 822 F.3d 1327, 1334 (Fed. Cir. 2016)Enfish是指電腦技術本身,如果已有改良,為可專利性的發明,不同於本篇的議題
涉及DDR Holdings, LLC v. Hotels.com, L.P., 773 F.3d 1245, 1257 (Fed. Cir. 2014),看來不如DDR案提出的網頁技術上的"超越";
涉及TLI Communications v. AV Automotive (Fed. Cir. 2016),本篇案例就是如TLI案:若發明涉及使用習知電腦活動執行通常步驟,此為抽象概念
涉及Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 134 S. Ct. 2347, 2354 (2014),涉及用電腦技術實施原本人為/人工步驟的技術是否僅是抽象概念?這樣看來,本篇涉及Alice案例衍生的Two-Step Test,本篇判決系爭專利範圍就是無法通過這個可專利性測試。

原則上,應該不是所有取代人工的電腦技術都是不可專利的發明,而是技術是否有"超越了一般電腦技術"?或是是否產生"實質超越(significantly more)的技術"?

我認為,轉到電腦系統中的步驟一定要找出解決了"人工步驟"無法解決的問題,但不能僅是簡單可以觸及的好處如:"遠端監視"、"大量數據處理"、"降低人工"、"節省成本"...,隨著電腦技術與時俱進,以上幾種典型優點都已經不容易通過101檢驗,反而是要找到發明相關領域中的「特殊性」,需要更有說服力的"特點"

參考過去報導:


參考資料:
http://patentlyo.com/patent/2016/08/distinctions-section-analysis.html

判決文:
http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions-orders/15-1778.Opinion.7-28-2016.1.PDF
(備份:https://app.box.com/s/sedkur45qsi8mkymdu0ch7fuum6ywb8y

Ron

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