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LendingTree v. Zillow

Representative Claim

The ’594 patent

1.  A method for coordinating an electronic credit qualification form between an Internet user and a plurality of lending institutions via the Internet, comprising the steps of:

a) receiving selection criteria from the plurality of lending institutions;
b) storing the selection criteria in a database;
c) displaying a plurality of documents in a web site;
d) receiving a plurality of credit data sent from the Internet user;
e) applying said credit data to a filter comprising the plurality of selection criteria of the database to select without manual intervention each one of said plurality of lending institutions associated with a match of said credit data to said selection criteria;
f) determining an appropriate transfer method to transmit said electronic credit qualification form to the lending institutions associated with a match of said credit data;
g) transmitting said electronic qualification form comprising said credit data to said plurality of lending institutions associated with a match of said credit data via said appropriate transfer method, the transmission of said electronic qualification form comprising said credit data occurring without a delay for reception of any credit decisions from said lending institutions;
h) receiving a plurality of positive credit decisions from said plurality of lending institutions associated with a match of said credit data regarding an offer of credit or a loan to the Internet user;
i) simultaneously displaying the plurality of positive credit decisions to the Internet user on the website;
j) receiving via the web site at least one decision from the Internet user regarding at least one of the positive credit decisions, the Internet user’s decision comprising an acceptance, denial or request for more information regarding a positive decision for one of said lending institutions associated with a match of said credit data; and
k) transmitting the at least one Internet user’s decision to at least one lending institution corresponding with a positive credit decision so that said Internet user can obtain credit or a loan from one of said lending institutions associated with a match of said credit data, whereby said lending institutions associated with a match of said credit data compete with each other for business with the Internet user.

Posture:

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina in No. 3:10-cv-00439-FDW-DCK, Chief Judge Frank D. Whitney.

Abstract Idea: Yes

The ’594 patent

The Federal Circuit agreed with the district court’s Step One determination, stating:

“On its face, representative method claim 1 is directed to an abstract idea; namely, a loan-application clearinghouse or, more simply, coordinating loans. Indeed, claim 1 is directed to a practice similar to ‘fundamental economic practice[s]’ found abstract by the Supreme Court. Alice, 134 S. Ct. at 2357.”

The ’816 patent

The Federal Circuit agreed with the district court’s Step One determination, stating:

“Because system claim 22 of the ’816 patent does not differ in any meaningful way from method claim 1 of the ’594 patent, we conclude that it too is directed to patent-ineligible subject matter.”

Something More: No

The ’594 patent

The Federal Circuit also agreed with the district court’s Step Two determination, stating:

“We find that claim 1 does not recite any elements that individually, or as an ordered combination, transform the abstract idea of coordinating loans into a patent-eligible application of that idea. ‘At best, the claim[] describe[s] the automation of [a] fundamental economic concept . . . through the use of generic-computer functions.’ OIP Techs., 788 F.3d at 1363. It is well settled, though, that automating conventional activities using generic technology does not amount to an inventive concept.”

The ’816 patent

The Federal Circuit also agreed with the district court’s Step Two determination, stating:

“Likewise, we also do not think the claims are directed to ‘improvements in computer-related technology,’ Enfish, 822 F.3d at 1335, or to solving ‘a challenge par-underscores this point by emphasizing that the aim of the invention is speeding up the loan-application process by enabling borrowers to avoid ‘physically going to or calling each lender and filling out an application.’ See ’594 patent at 1:34–44.”