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Affinity Labs of Texas v. DirectTV

Representative Claim

1. A broadcast system, comprising:

a network based resource maintaining information associated with a network available representation of a regional broadcasting channel that can be selected by a user of a wireless cellular telephone device; and

a non-transitory storage medium including an application configured for execution by the wireless cellular telephone device that when executed, enables the wireless cellular telephone device:

to present a graphical user interface comprising at least a partial listing of available media sources on a display associated with the wireless cellular telephone device, wherein the listing includes a selectable item that enables user selection of the regional broadcasting channel;

to transmit a request for the regional broadcasting channel from the wireless cellular telephone device; and

to receive a streaming media signal in the wireless cellular telephone device corresponding to the regional broadcasting channel, wherein the wireless cellular telephone device is outside of a broadcast region of the regional broadcasting channel, wherein the wireless cellular telephone device is configured to receive the application via an over the air download.

Posture:

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas (Case Nos.: 6:15-cv-00030, 6:15-cv-00031, 6:15-cv-00032, 6:15-cv-00033)

Abstract Idea: Yes

At step one of the Alice/Mayo framework, the court found that “[t]he concept of providing out-of-region access to regional broadcast content is an abstract idea, as that term is used in the section 101 context.”  In particular, the court noted that “[t]he ‘379 patent claims the function of wirelessly communicating regional broadcast content to an out-of-region recipient, not a particular way of performing that function.”  Thus, “[t]here is nothing in claim 1 that is directed to how to implement out-of-region broadcasting on a cellular telephone. Rather, the claim is drawn to the idea itself.”

The court acknowledged that the claims on appeal “are not as broad as the abstract idea underlying them.”  But then also confirmed that “[t]he Supreme Court and [the Federal Circuit] have repeatedly made clear that merely limiting the field of use of the abstract idea to a particular existing technological environment does not render the claims any less abstract. See Alice, 134 S. Ct. at 2358; Mayo, 132 S. Ct. at 1294; Bilski v. Kappos, 561 U.S. 593, 612, 130 S. Ct. 3218, 177 L. Ed. 2d 792 (2010); Content Extraction & Transmission LLC v. Wells Fargo Bank, Nat’l Ass’n, 776 F.3d 1343, 1348 (Fed. Cir. 2014); buySAFE, Inc. v. Google, Inc., 765 F.3d 1350, 1355 (Fed. Cir. 2014).”

At bottom, the court determined that “the claims are directed not to an improvement in cellular telephones but simply to the use of cellular telephones as tools in the aid of a process focused on an abstract idea. [And] [t]hat is not enough to constitute patentable subject matter.”

Something More: No

The court’s analysis at step two of the Alice/Mayo framework did not yield an “inventive concept” sufficient to “transform[] the abstract idea of out-of-region delivery of regional broadcasting into a patent-eligible application of that abstract idea.”  Instead, the court found that “[t]he claim simply recites the use of generic features of cellular telephones, such as a storage medium and a graphical user interface, as well as routine functions, such as transmitting and receiving signals, to implement the underlying idea.”  Here, the court re-emphasized that “’simply appending conventional steps specified at a high level of generality’ to an abstract idea does not make that idea patentable. Mayo, 132 S. Ct. at 1300.”  Arguments by the appellant/patent owner analogizing the claims on appeal to those of BASCOM Global Internet Servs. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 827 F.3d 1341 (Fed. Cir. 2016), were distinguished based on the court’s finding that the claims are “so result-focused, so functional, as to effectively cover any solution to an identified problem.”  In the court’s view “[t]he specificity of the technical solution provided by the claims in BASCOM stands in sharp contrast to the absence of any such specific technical solution in the claims of the ‘379 patent.”