Justia U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Internet Law
In Re Google LLC
Google’s 093 patent application discloses methods for filtering the results of an internet search query such that only results appropriate for the user (e.g., age-appropriate) are displayed.. According to the disclosed method, each result of a search query is assigned a “content rating class” indicating the suitability of the associated content (e.g., suitable for all ages). The Patent Trial and Appeal Board affirmed an examiner’s rejection of multiple claims of the application, citing 35 U.S.C. 103.The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded for further proceedings. The court rejected arguments that the claims were obvious in light of prior art because those arguments did not reflect the reasoning or findings the Board actually invoked. Although the Board concluded that modifying prior art to take into account query length would have been obvious, there was no discussion of how such a modification would be accomplished. The Board’s expressed reasoning cannot sustain its rejection of the claims. The prior art arguments rest on factual predicates unaddressed by the examiner or Board. View "In Re Google LLC" on Justia Law
Sound View Innovations, LLC v. Hulu, LLC
Sound View alleged that Hulu infringed claim 16 of its patent, titled “Method for Streaming Multimedia Information over Public Networks” by its use of (third party) edge servers, which sit between a central Hulu content server and the video-playing devices of customers. The district court construed the patent’s “downloading/retrieving limitation” not to cover a process in which downloading occurs from one buffer in a helper server and the (concurrent) retrieving places what is retrieved in another buffer in that server. The court construed the limitation to require that the same buffer in the helper server host both the portion sent to the client and a remaining portion retrieved concurrently from the content server or other helper server. Hulu argued that, in the edge servers of its content delivery networks, no single buffer hosts both the video portion downloaded to the client and the retrieved additional portion. Sound View argued that there remained a factual dispute about whether “caches” in the edge servers met the concurrency limitation as construed.The district court held that a “cache” could not be the “buffer” that its construction of the downloading/retrieving limitation required. The Federal Circuit vacated the summary judgment of non-infringement, affirming the construction of the downloading/retrieving limitation but rejecting the determination that “buffer” cannot cover “a cache.” View "Sound View Innovations, LLC v. Hulu, LLC" on Justia Law
In Re Vox Populi Registry Ltd.
Vox is the domain registry operator for the ".SUCKS" generic top-level domain (gTLD) for Internet websites. Vox’s 941 trademark application sought registration of the standard character mark .SUCKS in Class 42 (computer and scientific services) for “[d]omain registry operator services related to the gTLD in the mark” and in Class 45 (personal and legal services) for “[d]omain name registration services featuring the gTLD in the mark” plus “registration of domain names for identification of users on a global computer network featuring the gTLD in the mark.” Vox’s 215 application sought to register the stylized form of .SUCKS, which appears as a retro, pixelated font that resembles letters on early LED screens in Class 42. The examining attorney refused both applications finding that, when used in connection with the identified services, “each fails to function as a mark” and “submitted evidence [for the 215 application] does not establish that the mark functions as a source identifier.”The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and Federal Circuit affirmed with respect to the 215 application. The standard character mark .SUCKS “will not be perceived as a source identifier” and instead “will be perceived merely as one of many gTLDs that are used in domain names.” Stylized lettering or design element in the mark did not create a separate commercial impression and “is not sufficiently distinctive to ‘carry’ the overall mark into registrability.” View "In Re Vox Populi Registry Ltd." on Justia 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