Spireon v. Procon Analytics (Supreme Court 2022)
Another new petition for certiorari has re-asked the American Axle questions:
- What is the appropriate standard for determining whether a patent claim is “directed to” a patent-ineligible concept…?
- Is patent eligibility (at each step of the Court’s two-step framework) a question of law for the court based on the scope of the claims or a question of fact for the jury based on the state of the art at the time of the patent?
[Petition] Spireon is the maker of LoJack and has millions of vehicle tracking systems in operation. Procon provides similar services as well.
Spireon’s U.S. Patent No. 10,089,598 is directed to a method of managing vehicle inventory at an auto dealership using a “location device” (such as a GPS receiver or other positioning system designed to be attached to the vehicle). Claim 1 includes the following steps:
- In the Server DB: Associate the location device with the dealer’s group of ‘available location devices’;
- Communicatively couple the device with a vehicle;
- Once coupled, transmit a connection notice that includes a vehicle identifier and location device identifier;
- In the server DB: Associate the location device with the vehicle and remove it from the list of ‘available location devices’; and
- Receive current location from the location devices. [Full text of Claim 1 is below]
In the case, Procon filed a declaratory judgment action. The district court dismissed the case on the pleadings — finding the claims directed to an abstract idea. The Federal Circuit then affirmed without opinion.
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Off the Shelf: The patent specification indicated that “the location device may be an off-the-shelf tracking device for a vehicle, for example for use by an end user, for user-based insurance, for fleet management, for managing driver behavior, and/or the like.” The district court relied upon this statement to conclude that the location device did not include any inventive concept. In its petition, the patentee argues (I think correctly) that the “off-the-shelf” statement should be interpreted as contemplating the invented device being sold in retail stores, not that it could already be found on retail stores pre-invention.
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1. A method for managing a vehicle inventory for a dealer implemented by a computer having a processor and a memory, the method comprising:
while a location device is not communicatively coupled with a vehicle, associating the location device with a dealer’s group of available location devices in the memory, wherein the dealer’s group of available location devices comprises location devices owned by the dealer that are not coupled with any vehicle;
communicatively coupling the location device with a vehicle;
in response to the location device becoming communicatively coupled with the vehicle, the location device transmitting a connection notice over a network, the connection notice comprising a vehicle identifier and a location device identifier;
receiving, by the computer, the connection notice from the location device over the network;
in response to the connection notice received by the computer, the processor: associating the location device identifier with the vehicle identifier in the memory; and disassociating the location device from the dealer’s group of available location devices in the memory; and
receiving, by the computer, current location information from the location device.
2. A method for managing a vehicle inventory according to claim 1, wherein the vehicle identifier comprises a VIN of the vehicle and the location device identifier comprises a location device serial number.
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