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Interval Licensing v. AOL

Representative Claim

  1. A computer readable medium, for use by a content display system, encoded with one or more computer programs for enabling acquisition of a set of content data and display of an image or images generated from the set of content data on a display device during operation of an attention manager, comprising:

[1] acquisition instructions for enabling acquisition of a set of content data from a specified information source;
[2] user interface installation instructions for enabling provision of a user interface that allows a person to request the set of content data from the specified information source;
[3] content data scheduling instructions for providing temporal constraints on the display of the image or images generated from the set of content data;
[4] display instructions for enabling display of the image or images generated from the set of content data;
[5] content data update instructions for enabling acquisition of an updated set of content data from an information source that corresponds to a previously acquired set of content data;
[6] operating instructions for beginning, managing and terminating the display on the display device of an image generated from a set of content data;
[7] content display system scheduling instructions for scheduling the display of the image or images on the display device;
[8] installation instructions for installing the operating instructions and content display system scheduling instructions on the content display system; and
[9] audit instructions for monitoring usage of the content display system to selectively display an image or images generated from a set of content data.


Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington in Nos. 2:13-cv-00263-MJP, 2:13-cv-00264-MJP, 2:13-cv-00265-MJP, 2:13-cv-00266-MJP, Judge Marsha J. Pechman, Senior Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein.

Abstract Idea: Yes

The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s Step One finding that the claims on appeal were directed to an abstract idea of “providing information to a person without interfering with the person’s primary activity, i.e., the result-centric construction of the claimed ‘attention manager.’” The patent owner contended that the claimed “attention manager” provided a technological improvement to a computer system, but the Federal Circuit disagreed, stating, “the act of providing someone an additional set of information without disrupting the ongoing provision of an initial set of information is an abstract idea.”  The Federal Circuit emphasized precedent holding that “[i]nformation as such is an intangible” and that collecting, analyzing, and displaying that information, without more, is an abstract idea, as are claims directed to displaying two different information sets sequentially are abstract.  Furthermore, the Federal Circuit found the broad, result-oriented construction for the “attention manager” was abstract rather than a technical improvement to display devices, because the term as properly construed required the production of a desired result (non-interfering display of two information sets) without any limitation on how to produce that result.

The patent owner argued that its claims were not directed to an abstract idea in light of the claimed instructions.  The Federal Circuit was unpersuaded for several reasons, including that the claimed instructions did not identify how the attention manager performed “the function of ensuring a defined boundary between two data sets co-displayed on a screen.”  Indeed, the instructions limitations were “for either collecting a second data set or controlling the order and timing of when to display the collected second data set, not for how to engineer or program the display of the second data set in a way that does not interfere with the first data set, wherever that first data set may exist on a screen.”  Additionally, in the circuit court’s view, the claimed instructions did “not impose meaningful limitations on the purported solution of an attention manager that would improve a computer as a tool,” but merely recited routine and conventional steps in carrying out the well-established practice of accessing data from an external source and displaying that data on a user’s device.

Something More: No

The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s Step Two finding that nothing in the claim converted the abstract idea to an inventive concept.  According to the Federal Circuit, the claims did not recite an inventive method of how the secondary information is displayed, such as what portion of the screen is utilized or how the primary activity on the screen was monitored.  While the circuit court recognized that the specification and claims of the ‘652 patent purported to describe an improved user experience which allowed the presentation of an additional set of information, the court ultimately found that patent was wholly devoid of details which describe how this is accomplished.

In response to arguments from the patent owner that the claimed instructions were in the form of an alleged inventive concept, the Federal Circuit reiterated that the instructions were “recited at a high level of generality and conventional, and [were] not the kinds of limitations we have held to ‘solve a technology-based problem, even with conventional, generic components, combined in an unconventional manner.’”

The patent owner also argued that the claims provided a specific technological improvement which was “rooted in computer technology” by improving “computer display devices by combining the acquired information with the user’s primary display interaction.”  The Federal Circuit disagreed because the asserted claims, as construed, were so broad that they encompassed the “basic concept of displaying two sets of information, using any means to display them without overlap, in which the secondary data set is acquired and organized by generic, conventional steps.”