Federal Circuit Denies en banc Rehearing (6-6), and the Modified Panel Decision Partly Remands the Case for Further Consideration of Whether the Claims Requires More Than Merely Applying a Law of Nature

Am. Axle & Mfg. (AAM) filed a petition for hearing en banc of Am. Axle & Mfg., Inc. v. Neapco Holdings LLC, Neapco Drivelines LLC, No. 2018-1763 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 3, 2019), in which the Federal Circuit (2-1) found the method of manufacture claims in U.S. Patent No. 7,774,911 invalid for failure to specify the means of how to implement a natural law (e.g. Hooke’s Law) in order to achieve the claimed result of tuning a liner to attenuate vibration.  By a thin margin of 6-6, the Federal Circuit denied the rehearing request but revised its original opinion, remanding claim 1 for further consideration.  Relying on Parker v. Flook, the Federal Circuit analogized Morse’s Cl. 8 in O’Reilly v. Morse (1853) to Cl. 22 at issue, which claims only a result (the telegraph, electric lightbulb, the combustion engine) and discloses nothing more than a natural law (electromagnetic force, incandescence, chemical combustion) to achieve that result.  However, the panel remanded the case back to the district court for further consideration of Cl. 1, which requires an additional “position[ing]” step in addition to tuning [step].  The court stated that this step may reflect a tuning technique which requires more than the mere implementation of Hooke’s law.