In an order dated March 27, 2015, a US district judge in San Diego granted eBay’s motion for judgement on the pleadings and threw out an action against the company for patent infringement.

The case involved a US patent entitled “Real time auction with end game.”

Advanced Auctions LLC sued eBay in 2013 claiming that eBay infringed the patent by displaying updates of bid and pricing information automatically during the last hour of an auction, without the need for users to manually refresh their browsers.

The patent claims a “two-mode computer-based Internet auction.”  According to the court’s opinion,

During the first mode, the item being sold is displayed, bids can be placed, and a user receives updated information on the status of the auction by a manual request, i.e. manually refreshing the page. At a predetermined set time, the auction moves into a second mode. During the second mode, information about the status of the auction is updated automatically without the user manually requesting the update.

Abstract Ideas

Under 35 U.S.C. § 101, as discussed by the Supreme Court in the Myriad case, “[l]aws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable.”

As the Supreme Court said in the Bilski case,

The concepts covered by these exceptions are ‘part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men’ . . . free to all men and reserved exclusively to none.

Citing the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l, the district court noted that the Supreme Court has not delimited the precise contours of the “abstract ideas” category:

Mathematical formulas and algorithms have been found to be abstract ideas ineligible for patent protection under § 101, but a concept need not be a “preexisting, fundamental truth” or reducible to a mathematical formula to constitute an abstract idea.

The court concluded that the patent at issue:

claims the abstract idea of an auction and the generic computer implementation of that idea on the Internet without the addition of any inventive concept.

The case is Advanced Auctions LLC v. eBay Inc., Case No. 3:13-CV-01612, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

As we have discussed in this blog, patent infringement cases against HP and Amazon were also recently dismissed as abstract under Alice.