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United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
March 8, 2017, Decided
[*1344] [***1899] Moore, Circuit Judge.
Thales Visionix, Inc. ("TVI") appeals from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ("Claims Court") judgment on the pleadings holding that claims 1-5, 11-13, 20, 22-26, 32-34, and 41 of U.S. Patent No. 6,474,159 ("'159 patent") are directed to patent-ineligible subject matter. Thales Visionix, Inc. v. United States, 122 Fed. Cl. 245, 257 (2015). We reverse the Claims Court's determination for all claims [**2] and remand for further proceedings.
The '159 patent discloses an inertial tracking system for tracking the motion of an object relative to a moving reference frame. '159 patent at 1:54-56. Inertial sensors, such as accelerometers and gyroscopes, measure the specific forces associated with changes in a sensor's position and orientation relative to a known starting position. Such sensors are used in a wide variety of applications, including [*1345] aircraft navigation and virtual reality simulations. When mounted on a moving object, inertial sensors can calculate the position, orientation, and velocity of the object in 3-dimensional space, based on a specified starting point, without the need for any other external information. Because small errors in the measurement of acceleration and angular velocity translate to large errors in position over time, inertial systems generally include at least one other type of sensor, such as an optical or magnetic sensor, to intermittently correct these errors that compound over time.
The patent disclosure recognized that conventional solutions for tracking inertial motion of an object on a moving platform were flawed because both object- and platform-based inertial sensors [**3] measured motion relative to earth, and the error-correcting sensors on the tracked object measured position relative to the moving platform. Id. at 1:23-42. Attempting to fuse this data produced inconsistent position information when the moving platform accelerated or turned. Id.
The inertial sensors disclosed in the '159 patent do not use the conventional approach of measuring inertial changes with respect to the earth. Id. at 7:12-23. Instead, the platform (e.g., vehicle) inertial sensors directly measure the gravitational field in the platform frame. Id. at 7:12-49, fig. 3D. The object (e.g., helmet) inertial sensors then calculate position information relative to the frame of the moving platform. Id. at 7:41-67, 8:1-17, fig. 3D. By changing the reference frame, one can track the position and orientation of the object within the moving platform without input from a vehicle attitude reference system or calculating orientation or position of the moving platform itself. Id. at 8:34-41.
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850 F.3d 1343 *; 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 4059 **; 121 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1898 ***; 2017 WL 914618
THALES VISIONIX INC., Plaintiff-Appellant v. UNITED STATES, Defendant-Appellee, ELBIT SYSTEMS OF AMERICA, LLC, Third Party Defendant-Appellee
Subsequent History: On remand at, Motion granted by, in part, Motion denied by, in part Thales Visionix, Inc. v. United States, 149 Fed. Cl. 38, 2020 U.S. Claims LEXIS 1014 (Apr. 6, 2020)
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the United States Court of Federal Claims in No. 1:14-cv-00513-TCW, Judge Thomas C. Wheeler.
Thales Visionix, Inc. v. United States, 122 Fed. Cl. 245, 2015 U.S. Claims LEXIS 884 (July 20, 2015)
Disposition: REVERSED AND REMANDED.
sensors, inertial, platform, orientation, tracked, frame, patent, abstract idea, measured, calculate, equations, subject matter, patent-ineligible, mathematical, patent-eligible, cells, cure, mounted, rubber, conventional, inventive, eligible, improved, formula, earth
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