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From Intellectual Property Law Daily, April 11, 2018

Patents for automatic phone display refreshing do not describe abstract concept, court holds

By Robert Margolis, J.D.

The federal district court in San Jose has denied HTC America, Inc.’s motion to dismiss a patent infringement suit against it, finding that plaintiff Local Intelligence, LLC ‘s asserted patents concerning the refreshing of cell phone displays are not directed to an abstract idea (Local Intelligence, LLC v. HTC America, Inc., April 6, 2018, Davila, E.).

Local sued HTC for infringing U.S. Patent Numbers 8,903,067 (the "’067 Patent"), 9,219,982 (the "’982 Patent"), and 9,084,084 (the "’084 Patent"). Each Patent is titled "Apparatus and Method for Automatically Refreshing a Display of a Telephone." As the Background of the Invention section of the ’067 Patent describes, typical telephones provide many services—communication, information, and commercial—and given the many available services, users often must navigate through many menu displays to find the particular service they are looking for. The patents-in-suit purport to solve this problem by following the user’s behavioral patterns and automatically displaying the services that are likely to be used at a given time and/or in a given location. They do so by storing mappings between specific times or locations and the services the user most often uses in those particular circumstances. Thus, a function would be created for "office," so that when a user is in the office, the phone would display the services that the user has previously accessed most while there.

HTC moved to dismiss Local’s patent infringement claims, contending that Local’s patents-in-suit are ineligible for patent protection because they are directed to abstract concepts. The court disagreed and denied the motion.

Patent eligibility. Abstract ideas are not patentable, and the Supreme Court has established a two-part test for determining whether the claims at issue in a patent are patent-eligible or directed to an abstract idea. Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 134 S. Ct. 2347, 2355, 189 L. Ed. 2d 296 (2014); Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 566 U.S. 66, 132 S. Ct. 1289, 1298, 1297, 182 L. Ed. 2d 321 (2012). Step one concerns whether the claims are directed to a patent-ineligible concept, such as an abstraction. If the court answers that question affirmatively, it then looks to see if nonetheless the inventor has added sufficient elements—an "inventive concept"—to transform the invention into something patent-eligible. Finding that the specific improvement to user interfaces claimed in Local’s patents are not patent-ineligible abstract concepts, the court denied HTC’s motion at the first step of the two-step Alice/Mayo analysis.

Not abstract. HTC contended that that the claims of the patents-in-suit are directed to the abstract idea of "providing communication information based on location and other user information." Citing an earlier Federal Circuit decision holding that "tailoring content based on the viewers location or address" is an abstract concept, HTC argued that the patents-in-suit do exactly that, which is a fundamental process preceding the computer era. Because, HTC contended, Local’s patents-in-suit are not sufficiently specific in reciting a specific solution to overcome their abstractness, they fail the first part of the Alice/Mayo test. Local countered that the patents-in-suit are directed to "specific systems and methods that use a location server associated with a system such as a WiFi network (and not a positioning system like GPS) to obtain a phone’s current location, and a phone’s ‘datastore’ or memory (as opposed to a carrier’s records), in order to provide and refresh location-relevant communication services on a phone’s display as the phone’s current location changes." Thus, Local argued that its patent claims do provide a specific solution to technical problems in the use of location-based technology in conjunction with displaying particular communication services on a phone. The court found that the truth about the patents-in-suit lies somewhere in the middle of the parties’ characterizations. The court characterized the patents as directed to "refreshing location-relevant communication services on a phone’s display by obtaining a current location from a location server, selecting communication services using logic in a datastore, and refreshing the display."

That ultimately is not an abstract idea, the court held, relying on the recent Federal Circuit decision, Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. v. LG Elecs., Inc., 880 F.3d 1356, 1363 (Fed. Cir. 2018), which held that claims relating to "an improved user interface for electronic devices, particularly those with small screens" were not abstract. The court found it hard to distinguish this case from Core Wireless, noting that the patents in each case purport to solve the same problem within user interfaces: how to access desired information given the limited display space on electronic devices with small screens. Both sets of patents describe specific ways of solving the problem. Because the Core Wireless court held that he specific improvement to the technology of user interfaces was not abstract, the same result followed for Local’s patents-in-suit, the court reasoned. In doing so, it rejected HTC’s arguments that Local’s patents do not identify a technological problem to be solved, and that Local’s claims are not as specific as those in Core Wireless.

This case is No. 5:17-cv-06437-EJD.

Attorneys: Marc Christopher Belloli (Feinberg Day Alberti Lim & Belloli LLP) and Nicole Dominique Galli (Law Offices of N.D. Galli LLC) for Local Intelligence, LLC. Yar R. Chaikovsky (Paul Hastings LLP) for HTC America, Inc. and HTC Corp.

Companies: Local Intelligence, LLC; HTC America, Inc.; HTC Corp.

MainStory: TopStory Patent CaliforniaNews

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