A judge in the Southern District of New York found Iron Gate Security’s U.S. Patent No. 7,203,693 patent eligible because it did not claim an abstract idea. Specifically, the Court applied the two-step test introduced in Mayo and further explained in Alice by analyzing whether (1) the subject matter that the claims are “directed to” an abstract idea, and (2) whether the elements of the claim contain an inventive concept sufficient to transform the claimed abstract idea into a patent-eligible application. The Court’s analysis revealed the claims of ’693 patent were not directed to an abstract idea, and contained inventive elements sufficient to make the claims patent eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101.
Claims of the ’693 patent are directed to virtual reality environments where motion data is captured and indexed for live or future display based on the type of event that is taking place, such as a tennis match, or a soccer game. Claim 1 of the ’693 patent claims a method for indexing data associated with a specific type of event by (1) processing motion data from a sensor, (2) obtaining pre-existing data associated with the event, (3) indexing the pre-existing data in the event database contemporaneously with the capture of the motion sensor data, and (4) creating a cross-index between the pre-existing data and the motion data.
The Court found that the ’693 patent was not directed to an abstract idea under step (1) of the Alice inquiry. The Court rejected Lowe’s argument that the claims were directed to the abstract idea of “generally organizing data using an index” because that high-level description would essentially make everything patent ineligible under § 101. (“As made clear by Enfish, at step one a court should not construe a patent at too high a level of generality, nor should it broadly find all improvements in computer-related technology to be directed to abstract ideas. Doing so would render numerous ideas that are clearly inventive and useful ineligible for patent protection.”). The Court reasoned that Lowe’s description was too high-level by drawing an analogy to a calculator. Although the “human mind has the capacity to do all sorts of mathematical calculations … [i]t seems beyond doubt that a four-function calculator should be eligible for patent protection even under Alice,” even though the calculator can be described, at a high-level, “as an apparatus directed to the abstract idea of executing basic mathematical formulas by means of computer technology.” To the contrary, the Court found that the claims of the ’693 patent are “directed to particular improvements over prior art multimedia data indexing techniques that render such data accessible in real time.” The Court does not describe these particular improvements, but points to the patent’s specifications and dependent claims. Moreover, the “claims in the ’693 patent do not merely use a computer as a medium for implementing a conventional, well understood capability.” In any event, because the case was at the pleadings stage, it was not clear to the Court, on the facts presented, that “contemporaneous processing and indexing described in the ’693 Patent is something which the human mind can perform.”
Although the Court could have stopped its analysis at step (1), the Court nevertheless concluded that the ’693 patent also claimed an inventive concept sufficient to meet patent eligibility under step (2) of the Alice analysis. Somewhat conflating the two steps, the Court stated that “many of the same aspects that support the determination that the ’693 Patent is not directed to an abstract idea at Alice step one also support the conclusion that, even if it were so directed, the claims nonetheless contain an inventive concept.” The Court stated that the following questions are relevant to: “(1) Is there an improvement recited? (2) Is there a benefit recited? (3) Is something new recited? (4) Does the patent have one or more particular applications? (5) What are the steps and limits to be followed in applying the invention?” But the Court appears to have forgone some of this analysis because it was “not in a position” to make additional findings of fact given the procedural posture of the case at the motion to dismiss stage. Iron Gate Security’s virtual reality patents may yet be found patent ineligible if “Lowe’s marshal facts on a more developed record that support its position that the ’693 Patent does not actually contain anything inventive or merely implements abstract concepts regarding data indexing.”
Iron Gate Security, Inc. v. Lowe’s Companies, Inc., 1-15-cv-08814 (NYSD August 3, 2016) (Forrest, J.)