Electronic Communication Technologies, LLC v. ShoppersChoice.Com, LLC, 051420 FEDFED, 2019-1587

Docket Nº:2019-1587
Opinion Judge:Prost, Chief Judge.
Party Name:ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellant v. SHOPPERSCHOICE.COM, LLC, Defendant-Appellee
Attorney:Artoush Ohanian, I, OhanianIP, Austin, TX, for plaintiff-appellant. David K. Friedland, Friedland Vining, PA, Miami, FL, for defendant-appellee. Also represented by James Stepan, Law Offices of James A. Stepan, P.A., Hollywood, FL.
Judge Panel:Before Prost, Chief Judge, Dyk and Wallach, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:May 14, 2020
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellant

v.

SHOPPERSCHOICE.COM, LLC, Defendant-Appellee

No. 2019-1587

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

May 14, 2020

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida in No. 9:16-cv-81677-KAM, Senior Judge Kenneth A. Marra.

Artoush Ohanian, I, OhanianIP, Austin, TX, for plaintiff-appellant.

David K. Friedland, Friedland Vining, PA, Miami, FL, for defendant-appellee. Also represented by James Stepan, Law Offices of James A. Stepan, P.A., Hollywood, FL.

Before Prost, Chief Judge, Dyk and Wallach, Circuit Judges.

Prost, Chief Judge.

Electronic Communication Technologies, LLC ("ECT") sued ShoppersChoice.com, LLC ("ShoppersChoice"), alleging that ShoppersChoice infringed claim 11 of U.S. Patent No. 9, 373, 261 ("the '261 patent"). The district court granted ShoppersChoice's motion for judgment on the pleadings that claim 11 was invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

ECT appeals. We have jurisdiction over this appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(1). For the reasons stated below, we affirm.

Background

The '261 patent is titled "Secure Notification Messaging with User Option to Communicate with Delivery or Pickup Representative." '261 patent title. Claim 11 recites: 11. An automated notification system, comprising:

one or more transceivers designed to communicate data;

one or more memories;

one or more processors; and

computer program code stored in the one or more memories and executed by the one or more processors, the computer program code comprising:

code that enables a first party associated with a personal communication device (PCD) to input or select authentication information for use in connection with a subsequent notification communication session involving advance notice of a delivery or pickup of a good or service at a stop location by a mobile thing (MT);

code that causes storage of the authentication information;

code that monitors location or travel information in connection with the MT;

code that causes initiation of the notification communication session to the PCD with the one or more transceivers, in advance of arrival of the MT at the stop location, based at least in part upon the location or travel information associated with the MT;

code that, during the notification communication session, provides the authentication information to the PCD that indicates to the first party that the notification communication session was initiated by an authorized source; and

code that, during the notification communication session, enables the first party to select whether or not to engage in a communication session with a second party having access to particulars of the pickup or delivery.

'261 patent claim 11.

ShoppersChoice filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings that claim 11 is ineligible under § 101, which the district court granted. The district court found that "claim 11 is directed to the abstract idea of providing advance notification of the pickup or delivery of a mobile thing." Elec. Commc'n Techs., LLC v. ShoppersChoice.com, LLC, No. 16-81677-CIV-MARRA, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10042, slip op. at 6 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 18, 2019) ("District Court Opinion"). The court explained "business practices designed to advise customers of the status of delivery of their goods have existed at least for several decades, if not longer." Id. at 7 (quoting Mobile Telecomms. Techs., LLC v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 173 F.Supp.3d 1324, 1331 (N.D.Ga. 2016), aff'd, 708 Fed.Appx. 684 (Fed. Cir. 2018)). The district court further concluded that claim 11 does not include an inventive concept. Id. at 10-11. The court reasoned that "[t]he claim recites generic computer components that can be configured to perform purely conventional computer functions." Id. at 11.

ECT appealed.

Discussion

Patent eligibility under § 101 is an issue of law that sometimes contains underlying issues of fact. See Berk-heimer v. HP Inc., 881 F.3d 1360, 1365 (Fed. Cir. 2018). The Supreme Court has laid out a two-step framework for evaluating patent eligibility. Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int'l, 573 U.S. 208, 217 (2014); Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc., 566 U.S. 66, 70-73 (2012). First, we determine whether a patent claim is directed to an un-patentable law of nature, natural phenomena, or abstract idea. Alice, 573 U.S. at 217. If so, we then determine whether the claim nonetheless includes an "inventive concept" sufficient to "'transform the nature of the claim' into a patent-eligible application." Id. (quoting Mayo, 566 U.S. at 72, 78).

I

We begin our analysis with step one of the two-step framework. We agree with the district court that claim 11 of the '261 patent is directed to the abstract idea of "providing advance notification of the pickup or delivery of a mobile thing." District Court Opinion, at 6. Claim 11 recites conventional computer components and "computer program code" that, as both the district court explained in its opinion and ECT explained in its briefing, (1) enables a first party to input authentication information; (2) stores the authentication information; (3) monitors the location of a mobile things; (4) initiates notification to the first party in advance of arrival of the mobile thing based in part on the location of the mobile thing; (5) provides the authentication information to the first party; and (6) enables the party to select whether or not to communicate with a second party having access to particulars of the pickup or delivery.

District Court Opinion, at 2; ECT's Opening Br. 4-5. Two of the six identified functions-monitoring the location of a mobile thing and notifying a party in advance of arrival of that mobile thing-amount to nothing more than the fundamental business practice of providing advance notification of the pickup or delivery of a mobile thing. As the district court correctly noted, "business practices designed to advise customers of the status of delivery of their goods have existed at...

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