Fuzzysharp Decision Vacated and Remanded on Bilski Grounds

By Robyn Hagan Cain on November 11, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Fuzzysharp Technologies Inc. (Fuzzysharp) won in the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals last week in its case against 3DLabs. The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded the case, Fuzzysharp Technologies v. 3D Labs, after a district court invalidated several Fuzzysharp patents for failure to meet the “machine-or-transformation” test.

In light of the Supreme Court’s Bilski v. Kappos decision, the Federal Circuit determined that the district court had erred in applying the machine-or-transformation test.

Fuzzysharp specializes in three dimensional computer graphics technology. The objective of three-dimensional computer graphics technology is to create two-dimensional images that depict three-dimensional scenes.

Because conventional viewing technology is capable of displaying only two dimensions, three-dimensional computer graphics technology uses various techniques such as shading and lighting to depict three-dimensional attributes in a two-dimensional image.

A collection of three-dimensional graphics forms a scene, which can be observed from different positions and orientations, but only a portion of each object can be viewed from a given position and orientation; some surfaces will be partially or completely concealed by other surfaces closer to the viewpoint.

Fuzzysharp owns several patents relating to an improved method of hidden surface detection that works off the principle that some surfaces are always visible and other surfaces are always hidden.

In 2007, Fuzzysharp brought a district court action against 3DLabs patents that disclose a "method of reducing the complexity of hidden surface removal in 3D graphics systems." The method decreases the complexity of hidden surface detection by employing what are described as "fuzzy regions" and "non-fuzzy regions."

The patents recognize that the fuzzy region of a surface can be difficult to compute because "the viewpoints can have any orientation and be anywhere in the view-point bounding box," so the method described in the patents calculates the fuzzy region on the projection plane.

The district court invalidated Fuzzysharp's asserted claims because they did not satisfy the machine or transformation test - they did not involve the use of a particular machine, and they did not result in the transformation of an article to a different state.

The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals explained last week that the district court's ruling was reasonable in light of the Federal Circuit's previous holding in In re Bilski, but noted that, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision in Bilski v. Kappos, failure to satisfy the machine-or-transformation test no longer ensured that the subject matter of a claim was unpatentable.

Based on Bilski v. Kappos and recent Federal Circuit precedents, the patent eligibility of at least one of Fuzzysharp's asserted claims turns on questions of claim construction that the district court did not have the opportunity to address, so the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case to the district court.

We suspect the parties will be back in the Federal Circuit to contest the district court's claim construction determination.

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