The Software IP Report

Overcome Alice by Talking up Technical Benefits

By Charles Bieneman

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

Patent claims directed to dynamically generating and providing an applet to a client from a server should survive Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss, says an Eastern District of Texas Magistrate Judge. Dynamic Applet Technologies, LLC v. Mattress Firm, Inc., Civil Action Nos. 4:17-CV-860, 861, 862, 878ALM-KPJ  (E.D. Texas August 29, 2018).

US Patent No. 6,446,111is directed to “client-server communication using a limited capability client over a low-speed communications link.” Independent claim 17 of the ’111 patent recites:

17. A method of processing data comprising:

receiving a data request from a client device at a server system over a communications link;

collecting on the server a plurality of data items in response to the data request;

generating an executable applet dynamically in response to the data request, a constituent system associated with the applet including a subset of the data items therein as pre-loaded values;

wherein a further constituent system associated with the executable applet comprises a data interface capability configured to provide a plurality of operations on the pre-loaded values, the operations comprising operations associated with the subset of the data items; and

transferring the applet to the client device.

The defendants alleged that the ’111 patent claims were “directed to an unpatentable, abstract idea that is nothing more than the ‘long-standing,’ ‘routine,’ and ‘conventional’ concept of building and sending information responsive to a request.” But the court was more persuaded by some familiar cases finding claims to be non-abstract and patent-eligible: Enfish, LLC v. Microsoft Corp.(Fed. Cir. 2016), Visual Memory, LLC v. NVIDIA Corp.(Fed. Cir. 2017), Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. v. LG Electronics, Inc.(Fed. Cir. 2018), and McRO, Inc. v. Bandai Namco Games Am. Inc.(Fed. Cir. 2016).

What carried the day for the plaintiff? Their argument “that the claims of the ’111 Patent cover improvements to technologic functionality related to applets generated by server systems for delivery to and operation on client devices.” The plaintiff was able to point to portions of the specification explaining that the claimed applet provided advantages of being transient and not requiring services from a client, or persistence after a transaction, as well as reducing the amount of data needed to be transferred between a client and a server. The court found that the claims therefore recited a specific improvement in computing capability, specifically “enhanced data-interface capabilities between server systems and client devices in response to a data request, through dynamic generation, transmission, and operation of a self-sufficient executable applet.”

At a minimum, the court said, determination of whether the claims recited an inventive concept needed to await claim construction.

Lessons for Practice

Anything you can put in your specification about how claimed subject matter makes hardware bigger, better, faster, or stronger may be very helpful supporting a patent-eligibility argument.