Patent Claims Drawn to Internet Monitoring and Network Control Are Patent-Eligible, Delaware Court Holds

Patent claims directed to remote monitoring of network sessions and management of computer network access are patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101, according to a recent Delaware decision. Helios Software v. Spectorsoft Corp., No. 12-081-LPS (Sept. 18, 2014). The court’s decision came in the midst of decisions on a volley of summary judgment motions that the parties had brought; in this instance, the court was deciding the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment concerning the defendant’s affirmative defense alleging lack of patentable subject matter under Section 101.

Of the three patents-in-suit, two, U.S. Patent Nos. 6,978,304 and 7,634,571, were entitled “Method of Remotely Monitoring an Internet Session,” and the third, U.S. Patent No. 7,958,237, was entitled “Method for Managing Computer Network Access.” The defendant had argued that “remotely monitoring data associated with an Internet session” and “controlling computer network access” were basic and routine generic computer functions that failed to qualify for patent protection as abstract ideas.

The defendant provided no evidence that monitoring an Internet session or controlling computer network access were fundamental truths or principles that, if patented, “would pre-empt the use of basic tools of scientific and technological work.” Although these concepts could “be principles fundamental to the ubiquitous use of the Internet or computers generally,” the defendant “provided no support for that position.” Therefore, the court disagreed “that the patents-in-suit are drawn to an abstract idea.”

Moreover, the court was persuaded that the claims satisfied “the machine-or-transformation test,” and that this fact alone meant that, even if “drawn to abstract ideas, the claims would remain patentable.” In particular, the patents recited “meaningful limitations by claiming exchanging data over different Internet sessions to capture the content of an ongoing Internet communication session,” as well as “real-time data capture and transmission and reception, thereby using a computer to ‘play a significant part in permitting the claimed method to be performed,’” and “access configurations and communication protocols that control computer network access and monitor activity.”

Notably, the court did not conduct a detailed analysis of any of the patent claims, or break the patent claims down into components to identify an abstract idea to which some additional innovation was added, making a recited abstract idea patentable. Instead, the court simply said that the basic concepts to which the claims were directed were patent-eligible.

This case provides an interesting data point in the ongoing evolution of the law of patent-eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Nonetheless, one has to consider that a different court might have reached a different result, or at least might have conducted a different analysis of the claims.