Patent Baristas has a guest post from Bill Bennett at Pizzeys considering the Deputy Commissioner’s recent rejection of the “Iowa Lottery” patent application.

1. A prize pool for a lottery game played among a plurality of member lotteries, at least two of which are from diverse jurisdictions, the prize pool comprising:

a system of prize levels including a jackpot prize and at least first and second subordinate prizes;

a super pool of accumulated funds that is used to pay the jackpot prize and inflate the second subordinate prize; and

wherein, in a drawing having a jackpot prize winner in at least one jurisdiction, a member lottery in a jurisdiction without a jackpot prize winner pays out of its own funds the first subordinate prizes and contributes money to the jackpot winner and second subordinate prize winners in each jurisdiction having a jackpot winner, and

wherein one or more of the jurisdictions sets a jackpot prize limit such that money in the super pool in excess of the jackpot prize limit is awarded as second subordinate prizes.”

The third independent claim, claim 12 for a method added in (at least) using a computing device to calculate the allocations to the different prize pools.

In a world where Tattslotto and Powerball have existed for donkey years, apparently, the “exciting” element in this claimed invention was the ability of lottery operators in different states to combine.

The Deputy Commissioner appears to have considered that the claim was just to a mere scheme:

  1. I consider that the same can also be said in relation to all the subject matter of the present application. What is claimed, in whatever guise, is a scheme and not an artificially created state of affairs within the principles articulated in the NRDC decision. In considering the applicant’s submissions I note that in relation to claims 1-2 and 17 it is argued that Grant is distinguished because what is claimed is not a method and more significantly that the claimed prize pool is an artificially created state of affairs whose significance is economic. While clearly of economic significance and a creation of human activity, I however consider the prize pool to be merely information (ie the size of a potential future payment) generated in or reflective of the operation of the scheme defined in the claims. Information even if represented in a physical way has never been considered sufficient for patentability save for some material advantage or mechanical effect in the arrangement of the information. See for example Re Cooper’s Application for a Patent (1901) 19 RPC 53 and Re Virginia-Carolina Chemical Corporation’s Application (1958) RPC 35).
  2. I further do not consider the claiming of a product characterised by the features of a scheme by which it is produced or is affected, even if a real, physical thing, fundamentally alters the question of patentability over the claiming of the scheme as a method. Clearly Mr Grant would have had no better success had he claimed a house characterised by his asset protection scheme. As observed in the Virginia-Carolina decision care should be taken not to allow the form of words use to claim an alleged invention to cloud the real issues of manner of manufacture and it should not be the case that:

“claiming clauses ostensibly directed towards a manner of manufacture cloak the real nature of the applicant’s disclosure”

The Deputy Commissioner went on to reject another set of claims on the grounds that:

15 Obviously a financial transaction, or otherwise, the legal transfer of an asset, is not the sort of physical or observable effect that the Court [in Grant’s case] was referring to, and this is apparent from its reference to the situation in Welcome Real-Time v Catuity Inc [2002] FCA 445 finding at [30] that Mr Grant’s method [was not patentable]

The Deputy Commissioner did not think that reciting in a computer to do all the calculations helped. The change in state or information in the computer was not sufficiently substantial to secure a patent. In this connection, at Patent Baristas, Mr Bennett is concerned by the Deputy Commissioner’s statement in [17] that:

…. As I indicated in my decision in Invention Pathways Pty Ltd [2010] APO 10 I do not believe there is any authority in Australian law for the proposition that the mere identification of a physical effect is sufficient for patentability. It must in my view be an effect “…of such substance or quality that the method considered as a whole is “proper subject of letters patent according to the principles which have been developed for the application of s. 6 of the Statute of Monopolies” ”.

Iowa Lottery [2010] APO 25