In Re McDonald, No. 21-1697 (Fed. Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
In 2008, McDonald filed a patent application for methods and systems related to the display of search results. Several original claims did not recite a “processor” for conducting the claimed searches. The examiner rejected those claims as directed to patent-ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. 101. McDonald amended the claims, adding a “processor” to certain claim limitations. The examiner withdrew the rejection. While the application leading to the 901 patent was pending, McDonald filed a continuation application, which resulted in the 111 patent; the claims in the continuation application included “processor” limitations. In 2015, McDonald filed a reissue application seeking to broaden the claims of the 111 patent, including amendments to remove the “processor” limitations. The examiner rejected multiple claims as obvious.
The Patent Board affirmed, rejecting the reissue claims as being based on a defective reissue declaration lacking an error correctable by reissue and rejecting certain claims as impermissibly attempting to recapture subject matter that the patentee intentionally surrendered to overcome an eligibility rejection. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The Board properly applied the recapture rule; McDonald deliberately—not erroneously or inadvertently—added the “processor” limitations during the prosecution of the original claims to overcome the rejection. The error pinpointed in the Inventor Reissue Declaration—the existence of the allegedly unnecessary “processor” limitations—is uncorrectable because doing so would violate the recapture rule.