Menu Claims Patent-Eligible Under Apple, Core Wireless

Claims directed to an “information management and real time synchronous communications system for configuring and transmitting hospitality menus” were held patent-ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the Alice abstract idea test in Ameranth, Inc. v. Pizza Hut, Inc.No. 3-11-cv-01810 (S.D. Cal. Sept 25, 2018).  The court thus granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment that U.S. Patent No. 8,146,077 is unpatentable.

The independent claims of the ’077 patent (which you can see at the above link) are all really, really long, but boil down to steps to generate user-friendly menus for entering data, and to provide for easy updating when menus change.  The defendants argued that the “claims are directed to the abstract idea of configuring and transmitting menu information,” while the patent owner was less clear what the claims were about, variously arguing for novel arrangements of, first, software, and then hardware.

The patent owner tried to argue that the claims here had additional limitations that overcame the holding in Apple, Inc. v. Ameranth, Inc.,842 F.3d 1229 (Fed. Cir. 2016), that claims of patents related to the ’077 patent were patent-ineligible, and by relying on PTAB decisions to deny Covered Business Method (CBM) review of the ’077 patent.  But the PTAB denials of the CBM petition had come before the Federal Circuit decided Apple.  And when the claims of the ’077 patent were analyzed, they were no more patent-eligible that the claims in the Applecase.

The patent owner tried to rely on two Federal Circuit decisions, Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. v. LG Electronics, Inc. (2018), and Visual Memory LLC v. NVIDIA Corp. (2017), as well as a recent district court case.  But these cases were distinguishable, because here the ’077 patent described itself as “directed to ‘computerization’ of ‘paper-based ordering, waitlist and reservations management ... in the hospitality industry.’”  Further:

the claims themselves are directed to the resulting system wherein hospitality information is configured and transmitted to wireless devices with different display screen sizes, and those devices are able to engage in real-time synchronous communication with other devices in the system.

Under part two of the Alicetest, there was no saving inventive concept. The patent owner did not challenge that the claims recited conventional hardware elements. And software elements, like synchronizing, and processing in real-time, were well-known.  Likewise, the patent owner did not dispute that formatting as cascading menus, and different menus on different devices were “commonplace.”  Describing these concepts in different terms did not make them unconventional.

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