Affinity Labs of Texas, LLC v. DirecTV, LLC

Docket No. 2015-1845-48

September 23, 2016

Brief Summary: DC decision that claims “fail to meet the standard for eligibility under section 101” affirmed (e.g., “[t]he concept…is an abstract idea…untethered to any specific or concrete way of implementing it”).

Summary: Affinity appealed magistrate judge’s decision (with which the DC agreed) that US 7,970,379 directed to a broadcast system that allows cellphones to receive regional radio broadcasts outside the stations’ broadcast signals “was directed to an ‘abstract idea’ and that the claims did not contain an ‘inventive concept’” (“‘the dissemination of regionally broadcasted content to users outside the region’ is a “fundamental economic and conventional business practice’ that is both ‘well-known and historically long-standing’” and “the claims…do not contain an inventive concept such that they do more than claim the ineligible idea itself”; Mayo, US 2012 and Alice, US 2014). The FC panel agreed that “[t]he concept…is an abstract idea…untethered to any specific or concrete way of implementing it” (“can be implemented in myriad ways from the low tech…to the high-tech…the claimed invention is entirely functional in nature…claim 1…is drawn to the idea itself”). The panel acknowledged that since the claims relate to “wireless delivery of regional broadcast content only to cellphones”, they “are not as broad as the abstract idea underlying them” but concluded this “does not alter the result.” It explained that “all that limitation does is to confine the abstract idea to a particular technological environment” which “does not render the claims any less abstract” and that “the specification underscores the breadth and abstract nature of the idea embodied in the claims” (e.g., it “describes the wireless communication of information to an electronic device at a high level of generality…[n]othing in the flow chart or the text…provides any details regarding the manner in which the invention accomplishes the recited functions” (Dealtrack, FC 2012 (“adding a ‘computer aided’ limitation is insufficient to constitute a specific application where”, e.g., “[t]he claims are silent as to how a computer aids the method”); In re TLI, FC 2016 (“recited physical components ‘merely provide a generic environment in which to carry out the abstract idea’…describes the system and methods in purely functional terms”); Ultramercial, FC 2014 (distribution of copyrighted content over the web “an abstract idean, devoid of a concrete or tangible application”)). And, in contrast to this case, DDR Holdings (FC 2014) the claims were found “not to embody a fundamental economic principle or a longstanding commercial practice” but a “novel” “challenge…‘particular to the Internet’” and “necessarily rooted in computer technology in order to overcome a problem specifically arising in the realm of computer networks” (“the claims…recited a specific way to automate the creation of a composite web page”, not “every application of the idea”). Enfish (FC 2016) was also distinguished as being focused on “an improvement to computer functionality itself, not on economic or other tasks for which a computer is used in its ordinary capacity.” Under the second step of the “Mayo/Alice analysis” (do “the claims do significantly more than simply describe the abstract method” and “transform the abstract idea into patentable subject matter”?), the FC panel found “the ‘379 patent does not provide an inventive solution to a problem” but “simply recites that the abstract idea…will be implemented using the conventional components and functions generic to cellular telephones” (“the user-downloadable application does not constitute an inventive concept sufficient to render the claims patent-eligible”; citing Ultramercial (FC 2014), Content Extraction (FC 2014), Mortgage Grader (FC 2016) and Intellectual Ventures (FC 2015)). It therefore affirmed the DC decision.

See also Affinity Labs v. Inc. regarding US 8,688,085 (“similar specification”) (Docket No. 2015-2080, also Sept. 23, 2016 (The ‘085 patent is “not directed to the solution of a ‘technological problem’, Alice, 134 S.Ct. at 2358, nor is it directed to an improvement in computer or network functionality, see In re TLI…It claims the general concept of streaming user-selected content to a portable device. The addition of basic user customization features to the interface does not alter the abstract nature of the claims and does not add an inventive component that renders the claims patentable.”)

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