• Oct 17 2022
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  • Category: CAFC Updates

IBM sued Zillow for infringement of seven patents, including U.S. Patent No. 9,158,789 (related to coordinated geospatial, list-based and filter-based selection) and U.S. Patent No. 7,187,389 (related to methods of displaying layered data on a spatially oriented display (like a map), based on nonspatial display attributes) – – both graphical display technologies. Zillow filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the claims of four of IBM’s asserted patents were patent ineligible under § 101. The district court granted Zillow’s motion as to both the ’389 and ’789 patents, concluding that both were directed to abstract ideas, contain no inventive concept, and fail to recite patentable subject matter. IBM appeals. With respect to the ’789 patent, under step one of the Alice test, the CAFC agrees that the claims fail to recite any assertedly inventive technology for improving computers as tools, and are instead directed to an abstract idea for which computers are invoked merely as a tool. The CAFC notes that identifying, analyzing, and presenting certain data to a user is not an improvement specific to computing and that claims directed to collection of information, comprehending the meaning of that collected information, and indication of the results, all on a generic computer network operating in its normal, expected manner are abstract. With respect to Alice step two, the CAFC finds that IBM has not made plausible and specific allegations that any aspect of the claims is inventive and finds that IBM’s arguments re certain “synchronizing” and “user determined shape” limitations use functional language, at a high level of generality and divorced from any computer technology, to recite the claimed functions. With respect to the ’389 patent, under step one of the Alice test, the CAFC 1) agrees with the district court that the ’389 patent is directed to the abstract idea of organizing and displaying visual information, observing that the collection, organization, and display of two sets of information on a generic display device is abstract absent a specific improvement to the way computers operate, and 2) finds that the ’389 patent does not improve any computer function or recite claim limitations specific to a computing environment; it addresses the space limitations of any finite two-dimensional display. With respect to Alice step two, the CAFC sees no inventive concept that transforms the abstract idea of organizing and displaying visual information into a patent-eligible application of that abstract idea, finding that any of the patent’s improved efficiency comes not from an improvement in the computer but from applying the claimed abstract idea to a computer display. Accordingly, the CAFC affirms the district court’s conclusion that the ’789 and ’389 patents are directed to ineligible subject matter.  Judge Stoll dissents-in-part with respect to the district court’s judgment of patent ineligibility for claims 9 and 13 of the ’389 patent because the district court did not accept the complaint’s well-pled facts relevant to the eligibility inquiry as true, but rather ignored these factual allegations in holding claims 9 and 13 of the ’389 patent ineligible.

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