In Image Processing Technologies, LLC v. Samsung Electronics Co., et al., (E. D. Texas, October 24, 2017) Judge Gilstrap applied the two-step Alice patent-eligibility analysis and granted Samsung’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgement, finding claim 29 of U.S. 6,959,293 to be invalid under 35 U.S.C. §101. A day later, the judge stayed the lawsuit pending results of Inter Partes Review (IPR) for the remaining patents in dispute.
Claim 29 of the ‘293 patent recites:
29. A method of analyzing parameters associated with an event by an electronic device, comprising:
a) receiving data representative of one or more parameters of the event being detected;
b) calculating, for a given instant of time, a statistical distribution, defied as a histogram, of a selected parameter of the event being detected;
c) classifying the data by comparing its value to classification criteria stored in a classification memory;
d) enabling the calculating step when classified data satisfies predetermined time coincidence criteria; and
e) automatically updating, for each instant of time, the classification criteria stored in the classification memory based on statistical information associated with the histogram.
Applying step one in the Alice analysis, the Court first found that claim 29 was directed to an abstract idea. IPT argued, based on a declaration from its expert witness that updating classification criteria while the histogram is being formed, based on statistical information associated with the histogram, was a novel and innovative approach to analyzing parameters associated with an event, and therefore directed to patent eligible subject matter. The Court, however, agreed with Samsung’s argument that claim 29 is directed to “a general process of collecting data, and analyzing the data using techniques that could be accomplished mentally or with the aid of a pen and paper,” and therefore covers an abstract idea. Even if the approach is “novel and innovative”, it is not an improvement to computer functionality. Citing Synopsys, Inc. v. Mentor Graphics Corp., the court explained that “[a] claim for a new abstract idea is still an abstract idea.”
Moving to the second step of the Alice analysis, the Court, citing Amdocs (Israel) Ltd. V. Openet Telecom, Inc., found that claim 29 did not recite “a technological solution to a technological problem specific to computer networks,” and therefore did not embody an inventive concept. IPT argued that the benefits of claim 29 include “improved operation with speedier processing that facilitates faster analysis and improved performance, improved classification range and improved anticipation characteristics.”
The Court disagreed, noting that these “improvements” were discussed in the specification as improvements to a histogram processing unit, and did not apply to claim 29. The use of an “electronic device” to generate a histogram according to claim 29 merely incorporates a computer to perform the “automatically updating” step faster, without achieving any substantively different result. IPT, the court said, does not explain, and the patent does not describe, how “automatically updating” is an improvement to computer capabilities.
Lessons for Practice
As we noted in our recent post on TS Patents LLC v. Yahoo! Inc., patent eligibility requires more than the abstract idea of a solution (speedier processing, faster analysis) to a problem. To position a patent application to overcome a patent-eligibility challenge, a patent practitioner will be well served to identify detailed improvements to algorithms, data structures and hardware components. Moreover, such improvements should be tied to the claimed subject matter.