Controlling Subscription Entertainment Not Patent Eligible

Affirming a motion to dismiss, the Federal Circuit found claims from four patents, directed to “electronic means of increasing user control over subscription entertainment content,” patent-ineligible under the Mayo/Alice test and 35 U.S.C. § 101. Maxon, LLC, v. Funai Corporation, Inc., (Fed. Cir. April 9, 2018) (non-precedential).

The patents-in-suit were U.S. patents 8,989,160; 7,489,671 7,489,671; 7,486,649; and 7,171,194. The court reproduced claim 8 of the ‘160 patent as representative.

An audio-video device capable of sharing services with a plurality of other devices within a personal network, the audio-video device comprising:

a computer-readable medium having storage for a first address corresponding to the audio-video device, a second address corresponding to the personal network, and a third address corresponding to a service provider network;

input/output logic configured to receive from a user a desired change to a service capable of being provisioned to the audio-video device from at least one service available generally to the personal network;

a processor in communication with the computer-readable medium and the input/output logic, the processor programmed to prepare an inbound signaling word comprising at least the first address and payload data representing the desired change to the service capable of being provisioned to the audio-video device from the personal network; and

a transceiver providing the inbound signaling word to the service provider network where the service provider network comprises logic to process the inbound signaling word including modifying stored information in a subscriber database to effect the desired change to the service capable of being provisioned to the audio-video device from the personal network, the transceiver further receiving an outbound signaling word comprising the first address corresponding to the audio-video device and data indicating the desired change to the personal network, the outbound signaling word responsive to the desired change to the service capable of being provisioned to the audio-video device from the personal network.

Plaintiff Maxon conceded that the patents were directed to the abstract idea of “decentralized delivery controlled by the owner of a plurality of devices,” so the court started its analysis with step 2.

In step 2, the court agreed with the district court that the claims did not provide an inventive concept. The claims recited only generic computing processes using functional language. The claimed computer elements such as “computer-readable medium,” “logic,” “processor,” and “transceiver” were also generic, with no distinguishing limitations. The ordered combination of the claimed elements did nothing to elevate them to an inventive concept.

Concluding, the court cited the district court that “t]he only method of reaching the result the patent teaches is, in essence, use of generic computer components for their standard purposes to achieve the result. Nothing about the order of the elements, or the way they are combined, suggests inventiveness.”

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