Trinity Info Media et al. v. Covalent, Inc.
Docket No. 2022-1308 https://cafc.uscourts.gov/opinions-orders/22-1308.OPINION.7-14-2023_2157763.pdf)
STOLL, BRYSON, CUNNINGHAM
July 14, 2023
Brief Summary: DC finding of ineligibility of Trinity’s claims affirmed (e.g., “mental processes that ‘can be performed in the human mind’ or ‘using a pencil and paper’” are “telltale sign[s] of abstraction”, “not improving computer functionality”). Summary: Trinity appealed DC grant of motion to dismiss its infringement claims for US 9,087,321 and 10,936,685 “directed to a poll-based networking system that connects users based on similarities as determined through poll answering and provides real-time results to the users” (‘321 patent which is similar to the ‘685 patent “but…contains additional disclosures discussing progressive polling for ecommerce systems”) as claims ineligible for being “directed to the abstract idea of “matching users who gave corresponding answers to a question” without an inventive concept” (“not improving computer functionality but instead using “generic computer components as tools to perform the functions faster than a human would”). The’321 patent “explains that ‘[w]hile considering the failure of others to make use of all of the above components in this technology space, the inventors unexpectedly realized that using a plurality of match servers would allow the system to quickly connect the users based on their similarities.’” The FC panel reviewed the DC decision de novo (PersonalWeb, FC 2021; Simio, FC 2020) using the two-step Alice framework (US 2014) (Myriad, US 2013; Mayo, US 2012). Trinity argued the DC “needed to conduct claim construction and fact discovery before analyzing the asserted claims under § 101” but the FC panel disagreed (Cleveland Clinic, FC 2017). The FC panel explained that “to avoid grant of a motion to dismiss under § 101”, “the patentee must propose a specific claim construction or identify specific facts that need development and explain why those circumstances must be resolved before the scope of the claims can be understood for § 101 purposes”, and Trinity did not do so. Under Alice step one, the FC panel explained that “reliance on the specification must always yield to the claim language in identifying that focus” of the invention (Charge-Point, FC 2019; Compare Internet, FC 2015; Enfish, FC 2016; Elec. Power, FC 2016) and that “mental processes that ‘can be performed in the human mind’ or ‘using a pencil and paper’” are “telltale sign[s] of abstraction” (PersonalWeb; CyberSource, FC 2011; Elec. Power; SAP, FC 2018). Here, the FC panel found, the ‘321 claims focus on “collecting information, analyzing it, and displaying certain results”, “the ‘familiar class of” patent ineligible claims and the ‘685 patent’s “reviewable by swiping” limitation or dependent claim requirements for a web server or “match aggregator” “merely place the abstract idea in the context of a distributed networking system” (Free Stream Media, FC 2021; In re TLI, FC 2016 (“recording, administration and archiving of digital images” ineligible); Two-Way, FC 2017; Secured Mail, FC 2017 (“identifier” does not make “abstract idea less abstract”)). Under Alice step two, the FC panel agreed Trinity did not show an “inventive concept” and instead only made “conclusory allegations” (Simio; Ultramercial, FC 2014) that, e.g., “merely reflect the improved speed inherent with applying the abstract idea using a computer” (Customedia, FC 2020; OIP, FC 2015). The DC decision was therefore affirmed.