Minnesota Patent Litigation Wrap-Up — June 2017


This post continues our monthly summary of patent litigation in the District of Minnesota, including short summaries of substantive orders issued in pending cases.

In June 2017, there was one notable substantive decision for pending cases.

T-Rex Property, AB. V. Cedar Fair, L.P., No. 16-cv-2018 (June 2, 2017) (Frank)

  • Motion to Dismiss for Invalidity Under 35 U.S.C. § 101: Denied

Plaintiff T-Rex Property brought suit against amusement park operator Cedar Fair alleging that Cedar Fair infringed a series of T-Rex's patents related to digital advertising. Specifically, T-Rex contended that Cedar Fair's "network of digital screens … located throughout the guest areas of its amusement parks" utilized T-Rex's patented technology.  In lieu of filing an answer, Cedar Fair moved to dismiss, contending that the patents-in-suit were invalid under § 101.

The asserted patents describe a digital advertising system for collecting display instructions from external content providers, organizing the display content at a central computer, and then displaying the content on electronic displays such that content providers are able to dynamically control the displays in real time. Cedar Fair contended that the claims of the patents-in-suit merely recited abstract concepts and thus violated § 101. T-Rex countered that the patents-in-suit "relate to coordinating and controlling electronic displays and describe specific interconnected hardware and software—'computerized control center means' and 'exposure handler means'—along with the actual physical displays screens," among other non-abstract items and concepts.

Applying the two-step Alice test, Judge Frank found that the patents-in-suit were likely directed to an abstract idea. However, under the second step of Alice, Judge Frank concluded that T-Rex sufficiently demonstrated that "the patent claims set forth concrete ordered combinations of elements that plausibly transform the claimed subject matter . . . into an inventive concept." Further, Judge Frank noted that "at this early stage, no discovery has occurred and no experts have been engaged or deposed," thus counseling against a finding that the asserted claims were invalid.