Ubisoft Loses Appeal and Patent Related to “Rocksmith” is Invalidated
In a nonprecedential decision, the Federal Circuit affirmed a District Court ruling (which we previously covered) invalidating the claims of Ubisoft’s U.S. Patent No. 9,839,852 (“the ’852 Patent”) related to its Rocksmith guitar game for being directed to unpatentable subject matter.
Ubisoft asserted that Yousician’s self-titled Yousician software, which uses the microphone of a user’s computer or mobile device to assess a user’s performance of a song and then provide feedback, infringes the ’852 Patent. The ’852 Patent relates to an interactive game designed for learning to play guitar. It discloses an invention that improves upon traditional instruction such as music teachers and books, and critiques traditional instructional methods as being of lesser quality than the disclosed invention. Ubisoft argues that the invention claimed in the ’852 Patent improves upon prior art by assessing the performance of the user playing a song and changing the difficulty level of the song based on that assessment.
As we’ve written about many times before, in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l et al., the Supreme Court created a two-part framework for subject matter eligibility. First, courts must determine whether a patent’s claims are directed to an abstract idea. Second, if a patent’s claims are directed to an abstract idea, courts are to determine whether a claim may be patentable despite being directed to an abstract idea.
The District Court found that changing the difficulty level of a song based on assessment of the player’s performance is “vague and lacking innovation” because “the claims and specification provide no reference to how [it] is to be accomplished, beyond that which a music teacher can provide.” Ubisoft then argued before the Federal Circuit that the claimed advance of the ’852 Patent is the asserted improvement in computer capabilities.
In its analysis of the ’852 Patent, the Court cited Finjan, Inc. v. BlueCoat Sys., Inc. and evaluated whether the claims focus on a “specific asserted improvement in computer capabilities” rather than invoking computers as a tool in a process that is an abstract idea. The Court held that presenting notations, receiving input, assessing performance, determining weakness, and changing the difficulty level and creating a mini game for a song is an abstract idea because “[t]he specification describes these steps in functional terms and not by what process or machinery is required to achieve those functions” and the claims “do not recite a particular way of programming or designing software.”
The Court also affirmed the District Court’s finding that the claims lack an inventive concept and do not improve upon the prior art because “the claimed invention involves merely the application of conventional computer technology to common guitar instruction techniques,” which is insufficient to make a claimed abstract idea patent-eligible.
The Court affirmed the District Court’s determination that claims 1-4 and 6 of the ’852 Patent are directed to unpatentable subject matter.