The Software IP Report

Claims Directed to Conducting Transactions Via Interactive TV Held Patent-Ineligible

By Charles Bieneman

Categories: Patent Eligibility, Software Patents, The Software IP Report

Patent claims directed to securing various aspects of digital content on a user’s television were held patent-ineligible in OpenTV, Inc. v. Apple, Inc., No. 5:15-cv-02008-EJD (N.D. Cal., Jan. 28, 2016). Ruling on Apple’s motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the court used the familiar Alice / Mayo two-step framework to invalidate claims of asserted U.S. Patent Nos. 6,148,081 and U.S. Patent No. 7,644,429.

The ‘081 patent focuses on expediting program-to-program accessibility for programs that require credentials for access. Accordingly, the 081 patent discloses storing additional permissions in an interactive TV application that can access other applications.  An example embodiment included an application for processing a credit card transaction used in the context of a shopping application.

The ‘429 patent is directed to a secure method of automatically renewing pay-per-view programming. In particular, the ‘429 patent tried to solve the problem of users having to manually input information by “granting the user faster product access and automatically renewing access rights to digital content after the user initially inputs the necessary information into a database.”

The asserted independent claim of the ‘081 patent was an abstract idea because “the practice of controlling access to information by verifying credentials . . . is a long standing and well-understood business practice that predates the internet.” The patent’s permission-based security system that computer programs use to authenticate users, the court held, does not “solve a problem ‘specifically arising’ in the realm of computer and content security”, but instead solves a common problem that antedates computers.

Similarly, the ‘429 patent was directed to the abstract idea “of renewing access to products using a generic computer based on user information stored in the computer is akin to a human operator accessing the information in a filing cabinet and referring to this information prior to renewing a user’s membership.” This concept was not specifically focused on solving a problem arising in computer technologies.

Moreover, turning to the second part of the patent-eligibility test, the ‘081 patent and the ‘429 patent claims each failed to recite an inventive concept. The components used to perform the disclosed and claimed operation were “conventional and routine.” Replacing human operators with generic computers that included “conventional industry components” did not “make the concepts inventive.”