A weekly summary of the precedential patent-related opinions issued by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the opinions designated precedential or informative by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.
Weisner, et al. v. Google LLC, No. 2021-2228 (Fed. Cir. (S.D.N.Y.) Oct. 13, 2022). Opinion by Stoll, joined by Reyna. Opinion dissenting in part by Hughes.
Mr. Weisner sued Google for infringement of four patents directed to collecting a “digital record of a person’s physical presence across time” and using this collected travel history data to “enhance web searching results.” Google moved to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the basis that the asserted claims are patent ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The district court granted the dismissal. Mr. Weisner appealed.
The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision as to two of the patents, but reversed as to the other two. Addressing the first two patents, the court determined at step one of Alice that the claims are directed to the abstract idea of “collecting information on a user’s movements and location history and electronically recording that data,” or put more simply, “creating a digital travel log.” The court explained that “automation or digitization of a conventional method of organizing human activity like the creation of a travel log on a computer does not bring the claims out of the realm of abstractness.”
Under step two of Alice, the Federal Circuit agreed with the district court that the claims “rely on the use of existing technology to create a computerized version of travel logs and do not focus on a specific means or method that improves the relevant technology.” Thus, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal as to these two patents.
Turning to the other two patents, the Federal Circuit determined at step one of Alice that, although it was a “much closer question,” the claims are directed to an abstract idea, namely, “creating and using travel histories to improve computerized search results.”
Under Alice step two, however, the Federal Circuit ruled that the complaint plausibly alleged a specific implementation of the abstract idea for solving a problem unique to the Internet. In particular, the claims provide “specificity” regarding “a new technique for prioritizing the results of a conventional search.” As the Federal Circuit explained, the claims concern “more than just the concept of improving a web search using location history—it is a specific implementation of that concept.” Accordingly, the district court should not have dismissed the complaint as to these two patents at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage.
Judge Hughes dissented in part. In his view, the claims of the second two patents fail step two of Alice because the “complaint admits that the algorithms used to incorporate location data are routine and conventional,” and “the claims do not solve a problem specific to the internet.” Thus, Judge Hughes would have affirmed the district court’s dismissal as to all four patents.