USPTO's Section 101 Examples for Subject Matter Eligibility

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The patent and trademark office has provided a total of 46 examples that can be used to understand how Section 101 should be applied in particular fact situations. Because these examples are hard to find and use, they have been separated from their original source document and placed into separate pages in BitLaw. More information on Section 101, and other resources for analyzing these issues, can be found on Bitlaw's Section 101 Index.

Source of Examples

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (the PTO) has been issuing Guidance on Section 101 Subject Matter Eligibility issues since the Supreme Court's Alice Corp. decision in 2014. The PTO has issued various batches of example scenarios that are interpreted in light of these Guidance documents. It can be helpful to review Bitlaw's description of the current approach taken by the PTO on subject matter eligibility along with these examples. The 46 examples presented to date below were provided by the USPTO in these batches:

Examples List

The following table identifies the 46 different Section 101 examples prepared by the PTO. This is a dynamic table, which can be sorted by clicking on column headers, or filtered by entering text into the search box.

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Example Relevant Case Step 2A: Exception Eligible? Notes
Example 1:
Removing Malicious Code From Email Messages
None (not an abstract idea) Yes A computer readable medium is an article of manufacture. Software code on the medium that removes a computer virus is "inextricably tied to computer technology" and therefore is not abstract.
Example 2:
Composite Web Page
DDR Holdings None (not an abstract idea) Yes Claim is not abstract because it does not merely recite performance of some business practice known from the pre-Internet world. Instead, the claim is necessarily rooted in computer technology as it overcomes a problem arising in the realm of computer networks. Since this is not abstract, no need to analyze inventive concepts under step two of Alice Corp..
Example 3:
Halftoning--Digital Image Processing
Research Corp. Technologies Abstract Idea (Math) Yes Claims use mathematical operation to generate a mask, and therefore is directed toward an abstract idea. But the mask is used to convert a binary image array into a halftoned image in a way that uses less memory and faster computation time without sacrificing quality. These are improvements in the technology of digital image processing, and therefore the claim is eligible. This example also explains that the claimed steps do more than retrieve (gather) and combine data using a computer.
Example 4:
Global Positioning System in Mobile Device
SiRF Technology Abstract Idea (Math) Yes Claims recite mathematical operations and therefore are directed to an abstract idea. The use of a CPU, memory, and a clock are insufficient to save claim. However, the analyzed claim recites a mobile device with GPS receiver, wireless transceiver, and display. This, plus the recited improvement to existing technology (global positioning), makes the claim eligible. 
Example 5:
Generating device profile for a scanner
Digitech Image Tech Abstract Idea (Math) No The claim generates data using mathematical techniques (so is directed toward an abstract idea), and then combines data into a "profile." Without any additional elements beyond idea of gathering and combining data, claim is ineligible.
Example 6:
Game of Bingo
Planet Bingo Abstract Idea (Organizing Human Activity) No Managing Bingo game can be performed mentally and is therefore similar to the organizing of human activity of Alice Corp.. Additional generic computer components perform basic functions, so there is no inventive concept.
Example 7:
E‐Commerce With Transaction Performance Guaranty
buySAFE Abstract Idea (Fundemental Economic Practices) No The invention discussed in this example guarantees the performance of a transaction over a computer program and therefore creates a contractual relationship similar to economic practices of Bilski. The rest of claim is only generic computer and networking elements performing their basic functions, so the claim is ineligible.
Example 8:
Display Ads in Exchange for Viewing Desired Material
Ultramercial Abstract Idea (Fundemental Economic Practices) No Claims use ads "as an exchange or currency" and relate to commercial practices that the courts have found to be abstract. The details (11 steps) in the claim further describe the abstract idea, but do not make it less abstract. Additional limitations are data gathering or other pre-solution activity or limitations to a particular technological environment, so the claims are not eligible.
Example 9:
Gunpowder & Fireworks
None (Product of Nature) Yes Claim is to gunpowder--a mixture of three naturally occurring substances, but there are no naturally occurring counterparts to the combination. The explosive property of the mixture has a markedly different characteristic of the non-explosive quality of the components; therefore, the claim is not directed toward product of nature. A claim to a firework, including a cardboard body, is clearly not directed to nature-based products, and it is not necessary to apply the markedly different analysis.
Example 10:
Pomelo Juice
Product of Nature   No and Yes Claim to simply providing a known fruit is no different than a claim to the fruit--there is no difference in characteristics between fruit provided in the claim and the fruit obtained from a tree. This claim is therefore ineligible. However, a claim to a beverage of fruit juice and an effective amount of added preservative creates a beverage that spoils more slowly and is markedly different from the juice in nature. This claim is not directed to a product of nature.
Example 11:
Amazonic Acid, Pharm. Compositions, & Methods of Treatment
Product of Nature   No and Yes Claims are analyzed that relate to a chemical purified from leaves of a tree, derivatives (one is functionally different from chemical in nature), and the use of the chemical to treat a disease. Claim to a purified version of the chemical is not eligible as it has no characteristics that are markedly different that that found in nature. This is a product of nature, and no additional claim elements provide inventive concept. Both derivatives are eligible as they are at least structurally different from the chemical as found in nature and are therefore not directed toward a product of nature. In addition, compositions with different characteristics are also eligible. Finally, the use of the purified chemical to treat particular medical conditions is not directed to an exception.
Example 12:
Purified Proteins
Product of Nature   No and Yes An antibiotic protein is found in nature, but the invention relates to processes that yield the same protein. A claim to protein alone is ineligible as product of nature. The process creates a purified version of the protein with different characteristics than natural protein, and claims relating to this purified version are eligible--different characteristics than natural protein. Proteins in forms not found in nature are also patentable because of a marked difference. 
Example 13:
Genetically Modified Bacterium
Chakrabarty Product of Nature   No and Yes One claim was to a plasmid that might exist in a bacterium to degrade a hydrocarbon. Because the claim covers a plasmid that is no different than that occurring in nature, the product of nature exception applies, and there are no additional features in the claim. This claim is ineligible. The claim to a bacterium that has plasmids that degrade two different hydrocarbons is eligible--nature has no such bacterium so the claim is to something with markedly different characteristics.
Example 14:
Bacterial Mixtures
Funk Brothers Product of Nature   No and Yes A claim to a mixture of non-inhibitive (but otherwise unidentified) species of Rhizobium bacteria is not eligible, since the specification did not indicate that the mixture has any markedly different characteristics from what occurs in nature (as in Funk Brothers). A mixture of two identified Rhizobium bacteria that the specification has identified as changing the biological function of one bacteria is eligible as the biological difference "rises to the level of a marked difference."
Example 15:
Nucleic Acids
Product of Nature   No and Yes Claims are to an "isolated nucleic acid." Claim only to a sequence (severed to isolate it from the chromosome) is not eligible under Myriad--not different enough to be markedly different. When the sequence has been modified so it is different than that in nature, it is eligible as markedly different. 
Example 16:
Antibodies
Product of Nature   No and Yes Antibody to a protein on a bacteria is found in animals but not humans. A claim to the antibody alone is the same as what is found in nature and is ineligible as a product of nature. A claim to the "human antibody" is eligible, as no human antibodies are naturally occurring. Also, antibodies that are structurally different than natural antibodies are eligible.
Example 17:
Cells
Product of Nature   No and Yes Specification describes growing human pacemaker cell through stem cells. A claim to an isolated human pacemaker cell is ineligible because it encompasses naturally occurring cells (product of nature). Same is true to claim of cells in a container (container is well-understood and conventional and does not add an inventive concept). Some cells express a protein marker that is not found in nature. Claims relating to these cells are eligible (markedly different). 
Example 18:
Food
Product of Nature  No and Yes Invention is use of two different bacteria to produce goat milk yoghurt. Use of both bacteria creates better yoghurt (faster fermentation, less fat, better flavor). A claim merely to the two bacteria (standing alone) as a "kit" is ineligible, as each bacteria standing alone has no markedly different characteristics than they did in nature. A claim to the mixture of the two bacteria and goats' milk is eligible, because of the markedly different differences.
Example 19:
Hip Prosthesis
Product of Nature
Streamlined
Yes A hip prosthesis that has a surface coated with a naturally occurring mineral recites the mineral, but clearly does not seek to tie up the mineral. This claim qualifies as eligible without full analysis (using the streamlined analysis). 
Example 20:
Robotic Arm Assembly
Abstract Idea (Math)
Streamlined
Yes A claim to a robotic arm assembly that can adjust velocity (a mathematical relationship between position and time) recites math, but clearly does not seek to tie up this mathematical relationship and qualifies as eligible without full analysis (using the streamlined analysis). 
Example 21:
Transmission Of Stock Quote Data
Simpleair CBM Abstract Idea (mental steps, idea of itself) No and Yes Claim to a server that receives stock quote data, filters data, formats data into an alert, and transmits the alert is not eligible as an abstract idea. These steps can be performed mentally (PTO calls it an "idea of itself" without explanation).  Extra claim elements are generic computer components performing generic functions or the Internet, which are not enough (or field of use limitations). A second claim adds actions that occur at a subscriber computer where the alert activates an app that connects to a data source identified in the alert. This second claim is still directed to abstract idea, but the claim as a whole now amounts to significantly more than organizing and comparing data. This is an Internet-centric problem like that in DDR Holdings.
Example 22:
Graphical User Interface For Meal Planning
Dietgoal Innovations Abstract Idea (Mental Steps) No The analyzed claim is to a user interface, a database, and a "meal builder" which caused meals to be displayed on the user interface. Meal planning is a mental process of managing behavior, and as such is abstract (compared to SmartGene and Cybersource). As database and interface provide only basic computer functions, the claim does not amount to significantly more than the abstract idea.
Example 23:
Graphical User Interface For Relocating Obscured Textual Information
Abstract Idea (Math) Yes and No Invention related to automatically re-formatting obscured windows on a computer's user interface. Claims that only calculated window areas and  a scaling factor are directed toward abstract ideas (math) and have no limitations beyond the math. Method that relocates text when obscured  without defining the math are not directed toward an abstract idea at all--necessarily rooted in computer technology. Similar claim that includes math is directed to abstract idea (math) but contains significantly more than the math when viewed as an ordered combination because the limitations improve the functioning of the display and therefore are eligible. 
Example 24:
Updating Alarm Limits
Flook Abstract Idea (Math) No Method covers calculating alarm limit either by hand or by computer. This is math, so claim is directed toward abstract idea. Additional claim elements do not create inventive concept. Determining value of process variable is data gathering, and adjusting an alarm limit is merely post-solution activity.
Example 25:
Rubber Manufacturing
Diehr Abstract Idea (Math) Yes Claim includes the Arrhenius equation (math), so are directed toward an abstract idea. Many of the individual claim steps are cited generally and perform basic functions, or are mere data gathering steps. When the claim is viewed as a whole it is seen that another technical field (rubber molding) is improved, making the claim eligible.
Example 26:
Internal Combustion Engine
Abstract Idea (Math)
Streamlined
Yes Claim is to an internal combustion engine with a control system that determines rate of change of the throttle position and alters the position of the gas recirculation valve. While the claim relates to math (rate of change), the claim does not seek to tie up this mathematical relationship so others can't practice it. Plus, there are meaningful relationships, and the math improves engine technology. Eligibility is self-evident--there is no need to perform the full analysis.
Example 27:
System Software ‐ BIOS
None
Streamlined
Yes Claim is to a method of loading BIOS into a computer system. Analysis indicates that computer processes involved are not directed toward any exception. Even if they were, claim elements "would clearly amount to significantly more" than an exception (example is unclear, but probably because of improvement to another technical field).
Example 28:
Vaccines
Product of Nature Yes and No Seven claims are analyzed relating to a vaccine. The analysis considered whether the claims were directed to a product of nature. The claimed elements in six claims had markedly different characteristics from what exists in nature, which means that those six claims are not directed to an exception. One claim was found ineligible that combined two products found in nature even though they were not normally together in mixture. However, the combination did not markedly change the characteristics of either component, and each component continued to have the same properties in the mixture as it had alone. This claim was considered to be directed to a product of nature, and no inventive concept was found in the claim outside of this product of nature. Thus, this seventh claim was ineligible. 
Example 29:
Diagnosing and Treating Julitiss
Abstract Idea (Mental Steps) or Law of Nature Yes and No The analysis explains that claimed steps for detecting the presence of a protein in a plasma sample are not directed to a natural law exception even when the protein exists in a patient as a result of a disease state (note that this analysis appears to contradict the Ariosa v. Sequenom decision of the Federal Circuit, among others). Adding the step of diagnosing a patient based on the detected protein, however, is ineligible, as the claim is now directed to a law of nature or mental steps, and the general steps presented for detecting the protein do not save the claim under Step 2B (step 2 of Alice). The markedly different characteristics analysis was not relevant, because the claim is not focused on natural products per se, but rather on detecting those natural products. This analysis therefore concludes that an eligible claim (the first claim in this analysis) can become ineligible by adding additional claim elements. Claims that add non-routine details to the detecting steps will make the claims eligible for protection, as will treatment steps. 
Example 30:
Dietary Sweeteners
Product of Nature Yes and No Claims related to use of a naturally occurring crystal as a dietary sweetener are analyzed under the markedly different characteristics test. Claims that cover the natural occurring product, and mixtures with waters in ratios not found in nature are ineligible under this test. Adding additional compounds to improve taste in a manner different than the compounds taste standing alone would create something markedly different than that found in nature, and therefore the claim would be eligible. 
Example 31:
Screening For Gene Alterations
Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. Abstract Idea (Mental Steps) Yes and No This example analyzes claim one from the Supreme Court's Myriad decision to introduce a new set of hypothetical claims. Claim 1 relates to comparing a patient's genetic sequence with wild-type sequences. This comparing could occur in the mind, and therefore is an abstract mental process. Since the claim is not focused on the nature-based products (only comparing information about the products), the markedly different characteristics analysis does not apply. No additional elements are found, so the claim is ineligible. Hypothetical claims that include unconventional data gathering steps made the claims eligible, even though the steps were themselves found in the prior art (they were not yet conventional). Claims steps for amplifying nucleic acids and sequencing the amplified nucleic acids also make the claim eligible as these steps do not recite a recognized exception.
Example 32:
Paper-Making Machine
Eibel Process Co. v. Minnesota & Ontario Paper Co. (US 1923) None (Natural Phenomenon)
Streamlined
Yes This is an example of the eligibility of a paper making machine being "immediately evident" even though the machine utilizes a gravitational force. No analysis was required under steps 2A and 2B. 
Example 33:
Hydrolysis of Fat
Tilghman v. Proctor (US 1881) None
Streamlined
Yes A method for the hydrolysis of fat involving heating a mixture of fat and water under pressure to 600 degrees Fahrenheit is immediately evident as eligible, so there is no need to perform the analysis under steps 2A and 2B.
Example 34:
System for Filtering Internet Content
BASCOM Global Internet v. AT&T Mobility LLC Abstract Idea (Organizing Human Activity) Yes This example analyzes claim one from the Federal Circuit's Bascom case that found the claim eligible under step two of Alice. The PTO explained that the claim was directed to a method of organizing human behavior under their Step 2A, although the PTO agreed with the Federal Circuit that this decision was a close call. The example then follows the Federal Circuit logic in finding an inventive concept (Step 2B) based on the combination of the claim elements. 
Example 35:
Verifying A Bank Customer’s Identity To Permit An ATM Transaction
Abstract Idea (Fundemental Economic Practices) Yes and No Three claims are analyzed for a hypothetical invention relating to authenticating a user of an ATM. The first claim that merely compares customer info from a bank card with customer info from a financial institution was considered ineligible. The claim is directed to the abstract idea of fraud prevention, and no significant elements beyond that abstract idea are presented in the claim. Two additional claims that add steps of generating random codes and displaying the generated code to be read during the transaction were considered eligible because these elements are non-conventional and non-generic, and therefore constitute an inventive concept under Step 2B.
Example 36:
Tracking Inventory
Abstract Idea (Data Collection) Yes and No A claim relating to data records having images, classification data, and location data for items in an inventory management system is not eligible for patent protection. This type of data collection and management is considered abstract based on several Federal Circuit decisions. No inventive concept was found in generic computer elements. A second claim that utilized a video camera array and reconstructed the coordinates of an item using location data of the cameras was eligible even though it was still considered to be directed to the same abstract idea. The camera array with predetermined overlapping views was considered an inventive step under Step 2B because it provided a technological solution to the "technical problem" of determining an object's position in a computer vision system. A third claim was also eligible under Step 2B for presenting a combination of elements (including visual contour information) that individually were routine.   
Example 37:
Relocation of Icons on a Graphical User Interface
Abstract Idea (Mental Steps) Yes and No In this example, claims are analyzed relating to an invention that re-organizes icons (app icons) on a display according to frequency of use. A claim that automatically moves icon on a display is eligible even though it recites an abstract idea relating to mental steps. But under Prong 2 of Step 2A, this mental process is integrated into a practical application, namely an improved user interface for electronic devices. So this claim is eligible. A claim that reorganizes icons based on the amount of memory allocated to an application is eligible under Prong One of Step 2A, because this could not be considered a mental step. A claim that stops short of reorganizing the icons on the display, but merely ranks them based on frequency of use, is ineligible because the mental step is no longer integrated into a practical application.
Example 38:
Simulating an Analog Audio Mixer
None (not an abstract idea) Yes A single claim is analyzed that uses a digital computer to simulate an analog audio mixer using a model of an analog circuit. This model uses  randomization to simulate variances that are generated during the manufacture of an analog circuit. The claim is eligible because it does not recite any of the enumerated judicial exceptions. 
Example 39:
Method for Training a Neural Network for Facial Detection
None (not an abstract idea) Yes In this example, a claim for training a neural network is considered eligible for patent protection. The training process involves transforming images and then using the transformed images to create a training set. The network is trained with this training set. Images that are mischaracterized after this first training are then used to retrain the neural network again. This claim is eligible because it does not recite any of the enumerated judicial exceptions.
Example 40:
Adaptive Monitoring of Network Traffic Data
Abstract Idea (Mental Steps) Yes and No A first claim for monitoring computer network traffic was considered eligible even though the claim related solely to the collection and comparing of data. The analysis considered this as reciting a mental process because of this comparison of data. But under Prong Two of Step 2A, the PTO considered the claim to integrate this into a practical application, because a reduced amount of data would be collected using the claimed process. A claim that merely collected data and then did the comparison step, without altering the data collection process, was ineligible. 
Example 41:
Cryptographic Communications
Abstract Idea (Math) Yes A claim to a process that uses mathematics to encrypt communications between computer terminals was considered eligible for patent protection. The claim recited mathematics under Prong One of Step 2A, but the math was integrated into a practical application under Prong Two because the math is part of a process that secures network communications. This is true even though the communication steps, and even the concept of transforming text into encrypted text, are conventional. The example explains that Prong Two of Step 2A does not evaluate whether the additional elements are conventional.  
Example 42:
Method for Transmission of Notifications When Medical Records Are Updated
Abstract Idea (Organizing Human Activity) Yes and No A claim that identifies new medical records, converts the new record to a standard format, and then transmits updated information about a patient found in the new record to users in real time is eligible for patent protection. The claim recites a method for organizing human activity because it grants access to medical records. But under Prong Two of Step 2A, the claim was considered to integrate this into a practical application because it allowed remote users to share the information in real time and in a standardized format. A claim that stored medical records, provided access to those records for updating, and then stored updated information was not considered eligible because this did not integrate the abstract idea into a practical application. 
Example 43:
Treating Kidney Disease
Abstract Idea (Math)
Natural Phenomenon
Yes and No From the PTO: This example illustrates the application of Revised Step 2A to treatment claims. The recited disease (Nephritic Autoimmune Syndrome Type 3) and biomarkers (C11 and C13) are hypothetical, but the recited treatments (glucocorticoids, non-steroidal agents, rapamycin, and plasmapheresis) are known treatments in the medical field. Claim 1 is ineligible because it recites a judicial exception (an abstract idea), and the claim as a whole does not integrate the exception into a practical application or provide an inventive concept. Claims 2-4 recite the same judicial exception as claim 1, but are eligible because the claim, including the recited treatment or prophylaxis steps, integrates the exception into a practical application. Claim 5 is eligible because it does not recite a judicial exception. This example also illustrates how process claims reciting nature-based product limitations are analyzed.
Example 44:
Denveric Acid
Product of Nature Yes and No From the PTO: This example illustrates the application of Revised Step 2A to product claims reciting nature-based product limitations. The Rocky Mountain cassia tree and denveric acid are hypothetical products, but protamine is a known product used in the medical field. Claim 1 is ineligible because the claimed nature-based product lacks markedly different characteristics from what exists in nature, and the claim as a whole does not integrate the exception into a practical application or provide an inventive concept. Claim 2 recites the same judicial exception as claim 1, but is eligible because the claim as a whole integrates the exception into a practical application. Claims 3 and 4 are eligible because the claimed nature-based products have markedly different characteristics from what exists in nature.
Example 45:
Controller for Injection Mold
Abstract Idea (Math) Yes and No From the PTO: This example illustrates the application of Revised Step 2A to product claims reciting a machine or manufacture (a controller) for controlling the injection molding of a hypothetical chemical (polyurethane polymer X46). Claim 1 is ineligible because it is directed to judicial exceptions (abstract ideas), and the claim as a whole does not integrate the exceptions into a practical application or amount to significantly more than the exceptions. Claim 2 recites the same judicial exceptions as claim 1, but is eligible because it recites other meaningful limitations that use the abstract ideas to improve the previous molding technology, such that the claim integrates the exceptions into a practical application. Claim 3 recites the same judicial exceptions as claims 1 and 2, and lacks any additional elements that integrate the exceptions into a practical application, but nonetheless is eligible in Step 2B because it recites a specific and unconventional tool in the data gathering steps that amounts to significantly more than the exceptions. Claim 4 recites a different judicial exception, and is eligible because it recites other meaningful limitations that use the abstract idea to improve the previous molding technology, such that the claim as a whole integrates the exception into a practical application.
Example 46:
Livestock Management
Abstract Idea (Mental Steps) Yes and No From the PTO: This example illustrates the application of Revised Step 2A to claims for obtaining and analyzing identification and behavioral data of livestock animals, such as dairy cattle. Grass tetany (also called grass staggers) is a real nutritional deficiency that affects ruminant animals such as cattle and sheep. Claim 1 is ineligible because it recites a judicial exception (an abstract idea), and the claim as a whole does not integrate the exception into a practical application or amount to significantly more than the exceptions. Claim 2 recites the same judicial exception as claim 1, but is eligible because it recites other meaningful limitations, which, when evaluated in combination, integrate the exceptions into a practical application. Claim 3 recites a different judicial exception (also an abstract idea), and is eligible because it recites other meaningful limitations, which in combination integrate the exception into a practical application. Claim 4 is eligible because it does not recite any judicial exceptions.
Example AI-1:
Transaxle for Remote Control Car
Unlike the other examples, examples AI-1 and AI-2 are not Section 101 examples, but instead are examples that illustrate how inventorship is determined for claims related to Artificial Intelligence (AI)-assisted inventions in accordance with the Inventorship Guidance for AI-assisted Inventions (Inventorship Guidance). This example relates to the use of a generative AI model to design a transaxle for a radio-controlled model car.
Example AI-2:
Developing a Therapeutic Compound for Treating Cancer
Unlike the other examples, examples AI-1 and AI-2 are not Section 101 examples, but instead are examples that illustrate how inventorship is determined for claims related to Artificial Intelligence (AI)-assisted inventions in accordance with the Inventorship Guidance for AI-assisted Inventions (Inventorship Guidance). This example relates to the use of a AI system to create a novel drug compound.