UbiComm LLC v. Zappos IP Inc., 1-13-cv-01029 (DED November 13, 2013, Order) (Andrews, J.)
Monday, November 18, 2013
“Conditional Action” is Unpatentable Abstract Idea
The court granted defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's infringement action because plaintiff's method patent for triggering machine events claimed unpatentable subject matter. "The patent describes . . . a method for superimposing prespecified locational, environmental, and contextual controls on user interactions . . . . [T]he Court agrees with the Defendant that the abstract idea at the heart of the claim is the very concept of a conditional action. . . . A conditional action is a basic tool on which a multitude of disciplines rely upon for innovation. As the Defendant points out, '[the concept] informs disciplines ranging from medicine ("Treat a patient with medicine X when he presents with symptom Y.") . . . , economics ("Increase price when customer demand is greater than supply.")[,] to law ("My performance of the contract is excused if you materially breach it.").' The fundamental role that the concept of conditional actions play in numerous disciplines is sufficient to warrant it protection as an abstract idea, because its patenting would 'impede innovation[,] more than it would tend to promote it.' Furthermore, a conditional action is more abstract then other ideas that Federal Circuit and the Supreme Court have previously held to be unpatentable. . . . The Patentee attempts to limit claim 1 of the patent by confining it to a computer environment in which there must be present at least one stationary computer and one mobile computer along with the presence of two human users. . . . [W]hile, the Patentee has divided the world of computers into two halves, stationary and mobile, and required a computer from each half, this limitation does little more than require two general-purpose computers, an act that does nothing to transform a nonpatentable abstract idea into a patentable invention."