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Automated Tracking Solutions v. The Coca-Cola Company

Representative Claim

1 (of the ’766 patent). A system for locating, identifying and/or tracking of an object, the system comprising:

a first transponder associated with the object;

a reader that is configured to receive first transponder data via a radio frequency (RF) signal from the first transponder;

an antenna in communication with the reader and having a first coverage area;

a processor coupled to the reader, wherein the processor is configured to receive the first transponder data from the reader and to generate detection information based on the received first transponder data, the detection information comprising first sighting and last sighting of the first transponder in the first coverage area; and

a storage device that is configured to store the detection information.

49 (of the ’089 patent). A system for locating, identifying, and/or tracking of at least one object, said system comprising:

a transponder affixable to the object, the transponder associated with a transponder identification (ID);

a reader for detecting a transponder ID;

an antenna for communicating radio frequency (RF) signals between said reader and said transponder, the RF signals including the transponder ID;

a storage device for storing known transponder IDs and detection information associated with the stored known transponder IDs, wherein the detection information indicates whether the stored known transponder ID has been previously detected by the system; and

a processor for comparing the known transponder IDs stored in said storage device with the detected transponder ID, and determining whether the detected transponder ID is a detected known transponder ID based on the comparison of the known transponder IDs with the detected transponder ID.

Posture:

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in No. 1:15-cv-04348-WSD, Judge William S. Duffey, Jr.

Abstract Idea: Yes

The Federal Circuit confirmed the district court’s Step One determination that “the claims are directed to an abstract idea under Alice step one.” In explanation, the opinion states:

“[O]ur concerns lie with [Patentee]’s portrayal of the breadth of the representative claims.”

                *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *        *

The claim does not recite any ‘particular configuration’ or specialized arrangement of the RFID system components. It does not specify the relative location of the claimed components. It only requires a single antenna, and does not specify a particular configuration for the antenna to achieve the allegedly more systematic determination of the location, identity, and movement of the transponders . . . At oral argument, [Patentee] even conceded that all RFID antennas have coverage areas, and that the claimed antenna in representative claim 1 does not differ from conventional RFID antennas in that regard. Oral Arg. at 6:23–50. For these reasons, we conclude that claim 1 of the ’766 patent is directed to an abstract idea under Alice step one.

As to the second representative claim, claim 49 of the ’089 patent, [Patentee] concedes that it does not claim a ‘coverage area.’ Oral Arg. at 6:23–50. Nor does claim 49 recite any additional elements beyond those found to be directed to an abstract idea under our analysis of claim 1 of the ’766 patent. We thus conclude that claim 49 is also directed to an abstract idea under Alice step one.”

Something More: No

The Federal Circuit also confirmed the district court’s Step Two determination that “the asserted claims do not possess an inventive concept sufficient to confer patent eligibility” because (1) the claims do not use the conventional components in a non-conventional combination; and (2) although whether a claim element is conventional is a question of fact, neither the complaint nor specification allege that the components in the claims are anything but conventional. In explanation, the opinion states:

“Our analysis of the representative claims here uncovers no inventive concept in the individual claim limitations or their ordered combination. The representative claims are quite broad, reciting uses of RFID system components recognized in the specification to be routine and conventional. The claims do not use these conventional RFID components in a non-conventional combination or arrangement. Instead, the claims merely disclose collecting data from a particular source—RFID transponders—and analyzing that data.

[Patentee] argues that, at the time of the invention, RFID was a developing technology and that the district court erred in resolving a disputed fact question—whether the claims recite routine and conventional uses of an RFID system—in Coca-Cola’s favor. We have held that ‘whether a claim element or combination of elements is well-understood, routine and conventional to a skilled artisan in the relevant field is a question of fact.’ Berkheimer, 2018 WL 774096, at *5. Furthermore, we must accept all plausible factual allegations in [Patentee]’s complaint as true . . . But the complaint alleges nothing to support [Patentee]’s contention that RFID was a developing technology. See generally Am. Compl. Nor does the complaint allege that any of the hardware components in the representative claims—either alone or in combination as a system—are anything but well-understood, routine, and conventional.

Nor does the specification support [Patentee]’s contention that there is a factual dispute regarding whether the claims recite routine and conventional RFID components.”