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Genband US LLC v. Metaswitch Networks Corp. et al.

Representative Claim

  1. A method of protecting a computer network transmitting and receiving Internet protocol packets formatted in accordance with a real-time Internet protocol, each of said Internet protocol packets being associated with any one of a signaling channel, a control channel, or a bearer channel, the method comprising the steps of:
  1. receiving a stream of Internet protocol packets
  2. applying the Internet protocol packets associated with the signaling channel and the control channel to an application proxy, and
  3. applying the Internet protocol packets associated with the bearer channel to a packet filter.

Posture:

Motion for Summary Judgment

Abstract Idea: No

Prior to a detailed discussion of step one of the Alice/Mayo test, the Court addressed Defendant’s arguments that the claims of the ’210 patent are directed to an abstract idea because they describe the ‘mere manipulation of binary data within abstractions called IP packets’ and do not involve ‘concrete or material objects,’ stating:

“As an initial matter, the fact that a claim involves the manipulation of binary data does not inherently render it abstract. If that were the case, no claim drawn to a digital device could ever survive § 101. The important question is whether the claimed ‘manipulation of binary data’ is merely a computerized implementation of an abstract concept. CyberSource Corp. v. Retail Decisions, Inc., 654 F.3d 1366, 1375 (Fed. Cir. 2011) (‘the basic character of a process claim drawn to an abstract idea is not changed by claiming only its performance by computers, or by claiming the process embodied in program instructions on a computer readable medium’); Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289, 1301 (U.S. 2012) (‘simply implementing a mathematical principle on a physical machine, namely a computer, was not a patentable application of that principle’).

……….

Likewise, Metaswitch’s focus on ‘concrete or material objects’ is misplaced. (Dkt. No. 255 at 12). The law does not support a rule that the presence or absence of ‘concrete or material objects’ defines the boundary between eligible and ineligible subject matter. Indeed, a claim implemented on an apparently ‘concrete’ computer or storage medium may be patent ineligible if it merely embodies an abstract idea, whereas an invention as immaterial as software is potentially patent-eligible. See In re Bilski, 545 F. 3d 943, 960 n.23 (‘we decline to adopt a broad exclusion over software or any other such category of subject matter’).”

The Court ultimately found that claim 1 of the ’210 patent “is not directed an abstract idea, and it is not drawn to the ‘manipulation of binary data’ in an abstract way.”  On the contrary, “[c]laim 1 is directed to a specific set of operations . . . which are confined to a particular context[.]”  Further, “[t]he utility associated with the claimed method is specific to the context recited in the claims – the need to translate message addresses between to different IP networks containing two different telephone number based devices[.]”  As such, the claims “do not represent an attempt to capture a ‘building block[] of human ingenuity,’ ‘a method of organizing human activity,’ a ‘fundamental truth,’ an ‘idea of itself,’ or the like[.]”  Indeed, “[t]he claims of the ’210 Patent, like the claims at issue in DDR, address a problem ‘specifically arising in computer networks,’ that ‘does not arise in the ‘brick and mortar’ context.’”

Similarly, the Court found that claim 12 of the ’561 patent is not directed to an abstract idea, stating:

“Like claim 1 of the ’210 Patent, claim 12 of the ’561 Patent attempts to ‘overcome a problem specifically arising in the realm of computer networks.’ DDR, 773 F.3d at 1257. The claim recites a specific type of data structure unique to a specific class of computer networks (‘Internet protocol packets formatted in accordance with a real-time Internet protocol’), requires that the packets be associated with one of three types of network channels, and requires that the packets be applied to a different firewall component depending on packet type. This is not a case in which an abstract idea or mathematical principle is carried out on a computer—the recited operations are meaningless outside the context of a computer network using specific types of data packets and specific channels defined by particular protocols.

……….

Metaswitch is likewise wrong to characterize ‘an application proxy’ and ‘a packet filter’ as inherently abstract components because they refer to ‘broad ‘types’ or ‘classes’ of firewall components and do not require or connote any specific structure.’ (Dkt. No. 255 at 24). A hypothetical claim limitation directed to ‘a cup’ might encompass an extensive class of objects of varying shapes, sizes, materials, and functions (a coffee mug, a champagne flute, a disposable paper cup), and thus the word ‘cup’ is abstract in the sense that it spans many different structures. But a cup is not an ‘abstract idea’ in the sense meant by Alice, and neither are the ‘application proxy’ and ‘packet filter’ components recited in the claims. These components are not ‘building blocks of human ingenuity,’ ‘a method of organizing human activity,’ a ‘fundamental truth,’ an ‘idea of itself,’ or the like. See Alice, 134 S. Ct. at 2354–56. The ‘application proxy’ and ‘packet filter’ terms refer to specific components that have been construed to perform specific functions within a network. See (Dkt. No. 310 at 7–13). The fact that these components can be implemented in the form of ‘hardware and/or software’ does not change their concrete, network-specific nature.”

Something More: Yes

Although claim 1 of the ’210 patent was not determined to be directed to an abstract idea, the Court further opined that the claim “recites ‘an element or combination of elements .  . . sufficient to ensure that the patent in practice amounts to significantly more than a patent upon [an] ineligible concept itself.’”  Here, the Court stated:

“The claim recites a first and second ‘telephone number based device’ operating in two different connected ‘IP networks,’ and the claim delimits the context in which the two claimed addresses are used (‘the first address . . . is used in the first network and the second address . . . is used in the second network’). Hence claim 1 is implemented in the context of a non-generic computer system, and ‘improve[s] the functioning of the computer itself.’ Alice, 134 S. Ct. at 2359. For this same reason, claim 1 passes the machine-or-transformation test; it recites machines (telephone number based devices, IP networks, a gateway) that ‘impose a meaningful limit on the scope of a claim’ by ‘play[ing] a significant part in permitting the claimed method to be performed.’ SiRF Tech., Inc. v. ITC, 601 F.3d 1319, 1333 (Fed. Cir. 2010).”

Again, although claim 12 of the ’561 patent was not determined to be directed to an abstract idea, the Court further noted that the claim language recites “’significantly more,’ rendering it patent eligible.”  Here, the Court stated:

“Like claim 1 of the ’210 Patent, Claim 12 of the ’561 Patent is implemented in the context of a specific, non-generic computer system, and ‘improve[s] the functioning of the computer itself.’  Alice, 134 S. Ct. at 2359. Also like claim 1 of the ’210 Patent, claim 12 of the ’561 Patent passes the machine-or-transformation test because at least the ‘computer network,’ the ‘application proxy,’ and the ‘packet filter’ are machines that ‘impose a meaningful limit on the scope of a claim’ by ‘play[ing] a significant part in permitting the claimed method to be performed.’ SiRF Tech., 601 F.3d at 1333. Indeed, these machines are the only reason one would perform the claimed method in the first place.”