Affinity Labs v. DirecTV (Fed. Cir. 2016)
The Federal Circuit here affirms that Affinity’s challenged claims invalid as directed to an abstract idea. when “stripped of excess claim verbiage”, Claim 1 of U.S. Patent No. 7,970,379 “is directed to a broadcast system in which a cellular telephone located outside the range of a regional broadcaster (1) requests and receives network-based content from the broadcaster via a streaming signal, (2) is configured to wirelessly download an application for performing those functions, and (3) contains a display that allows the user to select particular content.” Slip opinion.
Alice Step 1: Considering these limitations and the claim’s “character as a whole” the court identified the concept of “providing out-of-region access to regional broadcast content” as an unpatentable abstract idea. The court explained its conclusion by noting that the practice (1) has been long employed in media distribution; (2) is not tied to any particular technology; and (3) could be implemented by very low-tech technology such as via mail. The court went on to explain that (4) nothing in the claim “is directed to how to implement out-of-region broadcasting on a cellular telephone. Rather, the claim is drawn to the idea itself.” And, (5) unlike in Enfish, the claims are not directed to “an improvement in cellular telephones but simply to the use of cellular telephones as tools.” Taking all these together, the court found the claim was in fact directed to an abstract idea.
Alice Step 2: Step two of Alice indicates that a patent directed to an abstract idea is patent eligible if it claims “additional features” that constitute an “inventive concept” that go beyond “well-understood, routine, conventional activity.” Mayo. Here, the court found no such additional features. “The claim simply recites the use of generic features of cellular telephones, such as a storage medium and a graphical user interface, as well as routine functions, such as transmitting and receiving signals, to implement the underlying idea. That is not enough.” Slip Opinion at 15-16.
= = = = =
Claim 1 below – seen was used as representative for the analysis:
1. A broadcast system, comprising:
a network based resource maintaining information associated with a network available representation of a regional broadcasting channel that can be selected by a user of a wireless cellular telephone device; and
a non-transitory storage medium including an application configured for execution by the wireless cellular telephone device that when executed, enables the wireless cellular telephone device:
to present a graphical user interface comprising at least a partial listing of available media sources on a display associated with the wireless cellular telephone device, wherein the listing includes a selectable item that enables user selection of the regional broadcasting channel;
to transmit a request for the regional broadcasting channel from the wireless cellular telephone device; and
to receive a streaming media signal in the wireless cellular telephone device corresponding to the regional broadcasting channel, wherein the wireless cellular telephone device is outside of a broadcast region of the regional broadcasting channel, wherein the wireless cellular telephone device is configured to receive the application via an over the air download.