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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Federal Circuit Denies Patent Protection for § 1031 Like-Kind Exchange Strategy

Fort Properties, Inc. v. American Master Lease, LLC (No. 2009-1242) (Fed. Cir. Feb. 27, 2012):

The investment tool disclosed in the '788 patent is designed to invoke the benefits of § 1031. In particular, the claims require the aggregation of a number of properties into a "real estate portfolio." The property interests in this portfolio are then divided into shares and sold to investors much in the same way that a company sells stock. These divided property interests are called "deedshares." Each deedshare can be encumbered by its own mortgage debt, which provides flexibility to real estate investors attempting to structure their debts in a way that complies with § 1031.

We view the present case as similar to Bilski. Specifically, like the invention in Bilski, claims 1-31 of the '788 patent disclose an investment tool, particularly a real estate investment tool designed to enable tax-free exchanges of property. This is an abstract concept. Under Bilski, this abstract concept cannot be transformed into patentable subject matter merely because of connections to the physical world through deeds, contracts, and real property. 

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