Linking Web Pages to Each Other Not Patent-Eligible

Agreeing that patent claims “are directed to the abstract idea of facilitating cross-marketing relationships and fail to add any inventive concept” under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the Alice/Mayo abstract test, Delaware’s Judge Stark granted a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss a complaint alleging infringement of claims of U.S. Patent No. 8,768,760DiStefano Patent Trust III, LLC v. LinkedIn Corp.C.A. No. 17-1798-LPS-CJB (D. Del. Sept. 28, 2018).

The ’760 patent is entitled “Reciprocal Linking Arrangement between Webpages.” The parties agreed that independent claim 1 was representative:

A method, within and by a computer hardware system that is configured to serve a first web page associated with a first user and a second web page associated with a second user, comprising:

receiving, from a first computer associated with the first user, a first indication to opt into a reciprocal linking arrangement;

receiving, from a second computer associated with the second user, a second indication to opt into the reciprocal linking arrangement;

establishing, within a database associated with the computer hardware system, the reciprocal linking arrangement based upon both the first and second users opting to participate in the reciprocal linking arrangement;

including, within the second web page and based upon the reciprocal linking arrangement, a second functional identification element associated with the first entity; and

including, within the first web page and based upon the reciprocal linking arrangement, a first functional identification element associated with the second entity, wherein

the second functional identification element includes a link to the first web page, and

the first functional identification element includes a link to the second web page.

The asserted claims of the ’760 patent were “directed to the abstract idea of facilitating cross-marketing relationships” because:

In broad terms, the method of claim 1 comprises two users on two computers opting into a reciprocal linking arrangement and then, through use of a computer database, establishing the reciprocal linking arrangements between the two users such that a link to the first page appears on the second and a link to the second page appears on the first.

This was just like bricks and mortar stores forming reciprocal marketing relationships.  The patent owner argued that the claims in fact had “no physical corollary” because it was not possible to put one storefront physically inside another. But lack of a direct physical analog did not make the claims patent-eligible.

Moreover, under Alicestep two, there was no significant additional inventive concept. The specification acknowledged that reciprocal links were well known. And the patent did not provide any explanation of how its opt-ins to reciprocal links were performed, or how it’s database was used. Further, the patent-owner’s argument that the claims recited in inventive ordered combination of steps was to no avail because in addition to the failure to describe the invention’s database, the claims did not describe with any detail how to create webpages or links.

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