Justia U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Internet Law
In Re PersonalWeb Technologies LLC
Personal Web’s patents share a largely common specification and claim priority to an abandoned patent application, which was filed in 1995. According to the specification, there was a problem with the way computer networks identified data in their systems. There was “no direct relationship between the data names” and the contents of the data item. Computer networks could become clogged with duplicate data, and the efficiency and integrity of data processing systems could be impaired. The inventors purported to solve this problem by devising “True Names” for data items. The system created a “substantially unique” identifier for each data item that depended only on the content of the data itself and did not depend on purportedly less reliable means of identifying data items, such as user-provided file names. PersonalWeb sued Amazon for patent infringement. After the district court issued its claim construction order, PersonalWeb stipulated to the dismissal of all its claims against Amazon with prejudice; the court subsequently entered judgment against PersonalWeb.In 2018, PersonalWeb filed dozens of new lawsuits against website operators, many of which were Amazon’s customers. Amazon intervened. The Federal Circuit affirmed a declaratory judgment that PersonalWeb’s lawsuits against Amazon’s customers were barred as a result of the prior lawsuit brought by PersonalWeb against Amazon. View "In Re PersonalWeb Technologies LLC" on Justia Law
VirnetX Inc. v. Apple Inc.
VirnetX appealed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board's decision related to three inter partes reexaminations maintained by Apple and Cisco. In this case, the PTO concluded that Apple was not barred from maintaining its reexams by the estoppel provision of the pre-America Invents Act (AIA) version of 35 U.S.C. 317(b), and the Board affirmed the examiner's determination that the claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,418,504 and 7,921,211 are unpatentable as anticipated or obvious over the prior art of record. The '504 and '211 patents describe systems and methods for establishing a secure communication link between a first computer and a second computer over a computer network, such as the Internet.The Federal Circuit held that there has been a final decision entered against Apple that it has not sustained its burden of proving invalidity, and thus section 317(b) estoppel applied to the Apple reexams. Therefore, the court vacated the Board's decisions in the Apple reexams with respect to claims 1–35 of the '504 patent and claims 36–59 of the '211 patent and remanded with instructions to terminate. The court affirmed the Board's decision on all remaining claims of both patents in the Apple reexam not subject to section 317(b) estoppel and fully affirmed the Board's decision regarding the claims of the '211 patent in the Cisco reexam. View "VirnetX Inc. v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law
Prism Technologies LLC v. Sprint Spectrum L.P.
Prism’s patents describe methods and systems for managing access to protected information provided over certain “untrusted” networks. The technology involves an access server, an authentication server, and a client. The access server forwards client requests for protected information to the authentication server. If the authentication server, using stored identity data, successfully authenticates the client, the client receives authorization to access the information. After the court construed “Internet Protocol network” and similar limitations as “an untrusted network using any protocol of the Internet Protocol Suite including at least one of IP, TCP/IP UDP/IP, HTTP, and HTTP/IP.” and defined an “untrusted” network as “a public network with no controlling organization, with the path to access the network being undefined and the user being anonymous,” a jury found Sprint liable for infringement and awarded Prism $30 million in reasonable-royalty damages under 35 U.S.C. 284. The district court denied Prism’s motion for additional monetary relief for times after the period Prism said was covered by the jury verdict. The Federal Circuit affirmed, upholding the court’s admission of evidence of a settlement between Prism and AT&T in a suit involving similar allegations and other evidentiary rulings. View "Prism Technologies LLC v. Sprint Spectrum L.P." on Justia Law
Personal Web Technologies, LLC v. Apple, Inc.
Personal Web’s patent describes and claims methods (or devices for carrying out methods) of locating data and controlling access by giving a data file a substantially unique “True Name” that depends on its content. The patent describes generating a True Name using mathematical algorithms (hash functions) that use a file’s contents to generate a small-size identifier. It calls for comparing that name with values in a network, determining whether a user is authorized to access the data, and providing or denying access based on that determination. Apple petitioned for inter partes review, arguing unpatentability under 35 U.S.C. 103, for obviousness based on a combination of one reference that focuses on a system for backing up or restoring data and one that focuses on a system for managing rights to access data. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board agreed with Apple. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s claim construction of “content-dependent name,” “content-based identifier,” and “digital identifier,” but vacated the obviousness determination because the Board did not adequately support its findings that the prior art disclosed all elements of the challenged claims and that a relevant skilled artisan would have had a motivation to combine the references to produce the claimed inventions with a reasonable expectation of success. View "Personal Web Technologies, LLC v. Apple, Inc." on Justia Law
In re: JobDiva, Inc.
In 2004, the Patent and Trademark Office issued JobDiva’s 917 registration for the service mark JOBDIVA for “personnel placement and recruitment” services. In 2005, it issued JobDiva’s 235 registration for a service mark for “personnel placement and recruitment services; computer services, namely, providing databases featuring recruitment and employment, employment advertising, career information and resources, resume creation, resume transmittals and communication of responses thereto via a global computer network.” JobDiva’s software provides a database of employment applications and employs automated “harvesters” to find potential job candidates. It analyzes resumes and helps hiring managers directly communicate with job candidates; it also recommends openings to job candidates and provides automated resume feedback. JobDiva’s software-as-a-service is delivered over the Internet without downloading software. Users pay for the computing as a service rather than owning the machines and software. The Board cancelled JobDiva’s marks in a proceeding that JobDiva initiated, challenging a registration owned by Jobvite. The Board granted Jobvite’s counterclaim stating, “[a] mark shall be deemed to be ‘abandoned’ . . . [w]hen its use has been discontinued with intent not to resume such use,” 15 U.S.C. 1125, and that JobDiva provided software, not “personnel placement and recruitment” services. The Federal Circuit vacated. The question is whether JobDiva, through its software, performed personnel placement and recruitment services and whether consumers would associate JobDiva’s registered marks with personnel placement and recruitment services, regardless of whether the steps of the service were performed by software. View "In re: JobDiva, Inc." on Justia Law
Abbas v. United States
In 2015, Abbas sued the federal government, alleging taking of his property rights in certain pre-World War II German bonds that were underwritten and payable in the U.S. After the war, Germany was reluctant to pay off the bonds, some of which were in unauthorized hands. Several post-World War II treaties between the U.S. and Germany established procedures for determining the validity of the bonds and the rights of the holders. It appears that Germany finished paying settling holders of validated German pre-war bonds in 2010. The Federal Circuit affirmed dismissal of the claim, finding it barred by the statute of limitations, 28 U.S.C. 2501, which requires that claims brought in the Court of Federal Claims be filed within six years of accrual of the cause of action. Abbas’s claim is that the U.S. caused a regulatory taking of his right to sue Germany for payment of his bonds when the U.S. entered into a 1953 Treaty. View "Abbas v. United States" on Justia Law
Unwired Planet, LLC v. Google, Inc.
The 752 patent, entitled “Method and System for Managing Location Information for Wireless Communications Devices,” describes a system of “privacy preferences” that determine whether “client applications” are allowed to access a wireless device’s location information, based on the time of day, the device’s location at the time of the request, the accuracy of the provided information or the party who is seeking the information. Google petitioned for covered business method (CBM) review of certain claims, 125 Stat. 284, 329–31. The Board found the patent to be a CBM patent, reasoning that its disclosure indicates the “client application” may be associated with a service or goods provider, such as a hotel, restaurant, or store, that wants to know a wireless device’s location so relevant advertising may be transmitted to the device; the subject matter recited in claim 25 is incidental or complementary to the financial activity of service or product sales and is directed to a method for performing data processing or other operations used in the practice, administration, or management of a financial product or service. The Board then held that the challenged claims were directed to unpatentable subject matter, 35 U.S.C. 101. The Federal Circuit vacated; the Board’s reliance on whether the patent claims activities “incidental to” or “complementary to” a financial activity to determine whether a patent is a CBM patent was not in accordance with law. View "Unwired Planet, LLC v. Google, Inc." on Justia Law
Unwired Planet, LLC v. Google, Inc.
Unwired’s patent, entitled “Subscriber Delivered Location-Based Services,” describes a system and method for providing wireless network subscribers (e.g., cell phone users) with prioritized search results based on the location of their mobile device (e.g., the nearest gas station). The specification describes how search results can be personalized for subscribers by taking into account, for example, “favorite restaurants; automobile service plans; and/or a wide variety of other subscriber information.” The specification also describes how search results can be ordered to give priority to “preferred service providers defined by the network administrator,” allowing the network to generate revenue by charging service providers to be put on the preferred-service-provider list. Prioritization based on subscriber information and preferred provider status is independent of a subscriber’s location; it can lead to service providers that are actually farther away from the subscriber being given priority over service providers that are nearer. On inter partes review and covered business method patent review, the Patent Board found certain claims invalid as obvious, 35 U.S.C. 103. The Federal Circuit affirmed, agreeing that the analogous prior art teaches prioritization that results in farther-over-nearer ordering and that a skilled practitioner would have been motivated to combine existing techniques. View "Unwired Planet, LLC v. Google, Inc." on Justia Law
Cox Commc’ns, Inc. v. Sprint Commc’n Co., LP
Sprint's patents concern voiceover-IP technology for transmitting calls over the internet, instead of through traditional telephone lines. The patents discuss the hand-off between traditional telephone lines (a “narrow-band network” or “circuit-switched network”) and a data network (a “broadband network” or “packet-switched network”), such as the internet. Both the “control patents” and the “ATM interworking patents” describe the use of a “processing system,” which receives a signal from a traditional telephone network and processes information related to the call to select the path that the call should take through the data network. In the control patents, a “communications control processor” selects the network elements and the connections for the path. In the ATM interworking patents, a “signaling processor” or a “call/connection manager” selects the virtual connections by which the call will pass through the ATM network and performs other functions, including validation, echo control, and billing. Both specifications disclose that logic for selecting a path resides in lookup-tables. The district court found the claims invalid as indefinite under 35 U.S.C. 112. The Federal Circuit reversed. The terms “processing system” does not prevent the claims, read in light of the specification and the prosecution history, from informing those skilled in the art about the scope of the invention with reasonable certainty. View "Cox Commc'ns, Inc. v. Sprint Commc'n Co., LP" on Justia Law
Affinity Labs of Tex., LLC v. DirecTV, LLC
Affinity’s 379 patent contains two independent claims, directed to streaming regional broadcast signals to cellular telephones located outside the region served by the regional broadcaster. The district court held that the 379 patent is directed to an abstract idea: the purpose of the claimed invention, disseminating regionally broadcast content to users outside the region, is a well-known, longstanding business practice, and the claims directed to that purpose are not tangible and concrete. The court found that the claimed “downloadable application with graphical user interface” does not qualify as an “inventive concept.” After exploring the “developing body of law” under 35 U.S.C. 101, the Federal Circuit affirmed. The only limitations on the breadth of the result-focused, functional claims in this case are that the application used by the cellular telephone must be wirelessly downloadable and that the cellular telephone must have a graphical user interface display that allows the user to select the regional broadcasting channel. Those additional limitations describe purely conventional features of cellular telephones and the applications that enable them to perform particular functions. They do not meaningfully limit the scope of the claims. View "Affinity Labs of Tex., LLC v. DirecTV, LLC" on Justia Law