The Federal Circuit has released its long-awaited opinion in McRo v. Bandai, reversing the lower court’s decision that the claims were ineligible subject matter. McRo’s invention in U.S. 6,307,576 was a method used in 3D computer animation, specifically how to synchronize positioning of the lips and facial expression of a 3D character to correspond to the character’s dialogue, thus providing a realistic impression of the character speaking. Here is the claim:
obtaining a first set of rules that define output morph weight set stream as a function of phoneme sequence and time of said phoneme sequence;
obtaining a timed data file of phonemes having a plurality of sub-sequences;
generating an intermediate stream of output morph weight sets and a plurality of transition parameters between two adjacent morph weight sets by evaluating said plurality of sub-sequences against said first set of rules;
generating a final stream of output morph weight sets at a desired frame rate from said intermediate stream of output morph weight sets and said plurality of transition parameters; and
applying said final stream of output morph weight sets to a sequence of animated characters to produce lip synchronization and facial expression control of said animated characters.
The court held that this claim is not directed to an abstract idea, but reached this result in a new way, using preemption. Here’s how they did it.