Vehicle Intelligence & Safety LLC v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, No. 13 C 4417, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jan. 29, 2015) (Hart, Sen. J.).
Judge Hart granted defendants’ Mercedes-Benz USA’s and Daimler’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) motion to dismiss plaintiff Vehicle Intelligence & Safety’s (“VIS”) patent claims as unenforceable because they were patent ineligible pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 101 in this patent case involving automotive safety systems.
Following the two-prong analysis set forth in Mayo and further refined in Alice, the Court first held that the asserted claims covered abstract ideas – testing operators of moving vehicles for physical or mental impairment. The Court reasoned that testing for impairment could be performed entirely within the human mind.
The Court then turned to whether the asserted claims set forth an inventive concept sufficient to make the claims patent eligible. The key claim element for each asserted claim required “expert system(s)” – a class of computer programs designed to mimic human decision-making. The Court reasoned that the expert systems were “generic computer automation” that did not amount to an inventive concept. Importantly, the claims did not require that the expert system be programed in any specific way to perform its various functions.
Claims requiring that the expert systems use one or more of various modules did not rise to the level of an inventive concept at least because it did not specify how the expert system was required to use any of the modules.