The Software IP Report

Strike Zone Patent Survives Dismissal: Sportvision, Inc. v. MLB Advanced Media, LP

Major League Baseball may be on hold, but the next inning of baseball patent litigation has just started. Sportvision, Inc. v. MLB Advanced Media, LP, No. 18 Civ. 3025 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 23, 2020). Like several other courts recently, the Court denied a motion to dismiss a software patent on the pleadings as ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

Plaintiffs Sportvision Inc. and SportsMEDIA Technology Corp. sued Defendant MLB Advanced Media, alleging several counts including contract breach and trade secret misappropriation. In particular, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant infringed U.S. Patent No. 7,341,530, directed to a system for inserting a strike zone image in a live video feed of a baseball game. Claim 31 is representative and recites, in part:

determining a location of a strike zone for a first batter by receiving an indication of one or more positions on said first batter in an image of said first batter and using said indicated positions to automatically calculate height and a three dimensional volume of said strike zone;

determining a first position in a video, said first position corresponding to said location of said strike zone; and

adding an image for said strike zone to said video at said first position, wherein said step of determining the first position includes:

converting the three dimensional volume of said strike zone to two-dimensional locations within the video using data in video.

Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the patent infringement claim, arguing that claim 31 is invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Plaintiffs argued that claim 31 is valid under the two-part Alice test. For the first step, Plaintiffs alleged that claim 31 is directed to a “particular way” to generate the strike zone image that is not abstract. For the second step, Plaintiffs alleged that the claimed method to determine the strike zone using the position of the batter and inserting the strike zone image into live video feeds is an unconventional improvement over prior technology.

The Court held that claim 31 was directed to the abstract idea of “presenting data,” likening the claims to those held invalid in Electric Power Group. The claim language “is still, at bottom, a presentation of ‘what’ rather than ‘how’” and “is plainly aimed at collecting, analyzing, or presenting data.” However, the Court held that overlaying the strike zone image onto live video “claim[ed] a significant improvement over existing technology.” This alleged improvement presented a question of fact under Berkheimer, and the Court denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss the patent infringement claim.

Lessons for Practice

Defendants around the country are striking out when trying to dismiss claims as ineligible under § 101. Perhaps dismissal on the pleadings will indeed become rare for these cases as plaintiffs adjust their lineup to rely on stronger factual pleadings that focus on Berkheimer and the second step of the Alice test.