The Software IP Report

Patent Claims Directed to Filtering Internet Content Not Patent-Eligible

By Charles Bieneman

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

Patent claims directed to “filtering Internet content” were held invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 in Bascom Global Internet Servs., Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, No. 3:14-cv-3942-M (N.D. Tex May 15, 2015). The court held that, under Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l., 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014), the claims were directed to a patent-ineligible abstract idea, and thus not patentable under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

U.S. patent no. 5,987,606 is directed to methods and systems for filtering internet content. Claims 1 and 22 were representative. Claim 1 recites a content filtering system comprising the elements of a “local client computer,” “at least one filtering scheme,” “a plurality of sets of logical filtering elements,” and “a remote ISP server coupled to said client computer and said internet computer network.” Claim 22 is directed to an “ISP server” comprising the elements of “a master inclusive-list of supplied sites,” “a plurality of sets of exclusive-lists of excluded sites,” and “a filtering scheme.”

Under the first prong of the “abstract idea” test, the court held that the claims were directed to the abstract idea of filtering content. The court explained that the “act of filtering content [is] a long-standing, well-known method of organizing human activity” that is “no more than an Internet iteration of the basic concept of filtering content.” The use of a computer and internet in the ’606 patent was not enough to show that the invention solved a problem that arose out of the use of the computer and internet.

Under the second prong of the test – whether there is “significantly more” than the abstract idea – the court mainly looked to whether the claims of the ’606 patent were analogous to the claims of the patent asserted in DDR Holdings L.P. The Federal Circuit in DDR Holdings focused on whether the claimed invention solves a long-standing problem or a problem that has arisen out of innovation. Here, the claims could preempt the entire field of filtering network content, and had no narrowing innovation. The patent owner’s argument that the claims presented a novel “ordered combination” did not present “significantly more” than the abstract idea. The claim limitations here, whether taken individually or as an ordered combination, were held to be an unpatentable abstract idea.