Alice Step 2 Saves Conference Call Patents

Patent claims directed to managing teleconferences over hybrid networks, i.e., PSTN and Internet, recited an unconventional combination of elements, said the court in Meetrix, IP, LLC v. Citrix Systems, Inc., No. 1-16-CV-1033-LY (W.D. Texas July 27, 2017).  The court thus denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss alleging patent-ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the Mayto/Alice test.

The “subject matter” of the three patents-in-suit, U.S. Patent Nos. 9,094,525, 9,253,332, and 8,339,997, could, said the court, “be described as audio and video telecommunications for collaboration over hybrid networks.”  Rather than focusing on individual or representative claims, the court simply summarized each of the three patents as follows:

The '997 patent teaches a system for telephonic (e.g. PSTN) participation in an audio video conference over a hybrid network with the use of multicast protocols, multicast appliances, and Virtual Private Networks ("VPNs"). The '525 patent teaches a system for telephonic participation in an audio-video conference over a hybrid network using a Voice Over Internet Protocol ("VoIP") decoder to decode IP packets, at least one audio decompressor, and transmitted across a VPN tunnel. The '332 patent teaches a method for collaboration of audio and video telecommunications over a hybrid secure network by decoding IP packets and encoding the data.

The defendants argued that the patent “claims are directed to abstract ideas rooted in long-standing and commonplace activities: mixing audio data from different types of sources ('525 and '332 patents) and authenticating one's identity before joining a meeting ('997 patent).”  But relying especially on DDR Holdings v. Hotels.com, 773 F.3d 1245 (Fed. Cir. 2014), and BASCOM Global Internet Svcs. v. AT& T Mobility LLC, 827 F.3d 1341 (Fed. Cir. 2016), the court found the claims patent-eligible even though they relied on generic network components.  The claims, the court explained, “involve an unconventional technological solution (mixing media over hybrid networks) to a technological problem (transporting audio and video data together over low bit-rate networks).”  Under Alice, therefore, the claims recited significantly more than a patent-ineligible abstract idea.

Lessons for Practice

This is yet another case that shows how the problem-solution approach – setting for a technical solution to a technical problem – can save patent-eligibility.

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