AMERICAN AXLE & MANUFACTURING v. NEAPCO HOLDINGS, decided October 3, 2019, Statutory Subject Matter

U.S. Patent No. 7,774,911 is directed to manufacturing driveline propeller shafts with vibration attenuating liners (pages 3-5).  Claim 1 recites tuning the liner for two types of vibrations and positioning that liner within a shaft to provide recited amounts of damping (page 5). Based on interpretation of “tuning,” the claims are directed to controlling mass and stiffness of a liner to match frequencies (page 10). The types of vibration, how to damp them, and use of a liner to do so were known (page 10). The selection of frequencies to tune is based on Hooke’s law (page 10). The claim reciting tuning to provide a result merely states the law of nature (page 11). The solution for how to tune for two types of vibration is not recited (pages 11-14). Trial and error to tune was well known (page 14). Claim 1 is directed to utilization of a natural law in a particular context without providing how to tune (pages 19-20). Structure or steps to achieve the claimed result are not recited in the claim (page 20). For step 2, the tuning for two types of vibration is not more than applying Hooke’s law (pages 21-22). The positioning of the tuned liner is not part of tuning and is well known, so does not add an inventive concept (page 22).

Hindsight: This claim may have passed the current USPTO 101 approach of looking for a practical application. The basic problem is reciting the end result without indicating how to achieve that end result. While narrower, the claims could have indicated the modeling used or another way to tune for two frequencies.