On May 15, 2015, the Northern District of Texas granted a motion to dismiss because the asserted patent only claims unpatentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The asserted patent (U.S. Patent No. 5,987,606) is directed toward a method and system for filtering Internet content in a manner that is customizable for each Internet user. To determine whether the asserted patent fails to claim patentable subject matter under § 101, the court applied the Federal Circuit’s two-step Alice test.
Under step one of the Alice test, a court determines whether the patent is directed toward an abstract idea. Here, the court found that the asserted patent is directed toward the abstract idea of “filtering Internet content.” The court determined—with the support of recent Federal Circuit precedent—that “the abstract idea of filtering content” is “a long standing, well-known method of organizing human activity.” The court placed little weight on the fact that the claims are limited to filtering Internet content, finding that “content provided on the Internet is not fundamentally different from content observed, read, and interacted with through other mediums like books, magazines, televisions, or movies, all of which had to grapple with filtering complications similar to those addressed by the claims of the ’606 Patent.”
Under step two, a court considers the elements of the claims, both individually and as an ordered combination, to determine whether any additional elements “transform the nature of the claim.” The second step is essentially a search for an “inventive concept” in the claims. Here, the court determined that the asserted patent fails to claim the necessary inventive features for a patent-eligible invention. The court found there was “little dispute” that the featured claim elements—a “local client computer,” “remote ISP server,” and “Internet computer network”—are well known components of a generic computer system and failed to provide any inventive concepts. Also, the claimed “filtering schemes” failed to transform the claims into patent-eligible material because the specification discloses that these schemes can be “any type” of executable code. The court’s primary concern with the asserted patent was that “the absence of structure for the generic computer elements of the claims raises the likelihood that such claims could preempt every filtering scheme under the sun.” Thus, the court held both steps were met under Alice and the asserted patent failed to claim patentable subject matter under § 101.
Bascom Global Internet Servs. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, No. 3:14-cv-3942-M (N.D. Tex. May 15, 2015) (Lynn, J.).