A method for analyzing text to determine a strength of an opinion is not patent-eligible subject matter under § 101. Isentium, LLC v. Bloomberg Fin. L.P., 17-cv-7601 (PKC) (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 29, 2018).
U.S. Patent No. 8,556,056 is directed to a multi-step method for evaluating statements that discuss publicly traded assets to determine whether the statement express a positive, negative, or neutral opinion (i.e., a “polarity”) and to assign a strength value to the opinion. Specifically, Plaintiff analyzed Tweets to provide information for financial professionals. The Court granted a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the Complaint, holding that the claims of the ‘056 patent were ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101.
Applying the first step of the Alice test, the Court held that the claims were directed to the abstract idea of analyzing whether a statement communicates an opinion about a publicly traded asset and the strength of that opinion. The Court likened the claims to those of SAP Am. Inc. v. Investpic, LLC, which held that selecting and analyzing information with mathematical techniques and reporting the results is an ineligible abstract idea. 898 F.3d 1161 (Fed. Cir. 2018). Plaintiff’s attempts to rely on McRO Inc. v. Bandai Namco Games Am. Inc. failed, as the Court concluded that McRO was “directed to the creation of something physical” with its display of animated facial expressions, unlike method of gathering and analyzing data of the ‘056 patent. 837 F.3d 1299 (Fed. Cir. 2016).
Applying the second step of the Alicetest, the Court rejected Plaintiff’s arguments that the claims were directed to the inventive concept of applying algorithms to consider the words in the statements in specific context with proprietary databases from natural language processing methods. The Court further rejected Plaintiff’s arguments that the claims were directed to a technological improvement to existing methods of interpreting posts on social media. Such an improvement is merely a type of data analysis, “not an improvement to the functionality of a computer or network.”
Lessons for Practice
Claims live and die by analogy. Here, the Court relied heavily on cases like SAP, analogizing the claims to ineligible data analysis and rejecting comparisons to McRO and other eligible software claims. As the library of cases determining the eligibility of software claims grows, it’s becoming easier to set up the right comparison for the judge or the examiner to get the result you want.