Senior District Judge Sleet recently considered a motion to dismiss on Section 101 grounds that challenged a patent claiming “a computer implemented method of displaying search results.” As an initial matter, Judge Sleet found that it was appropriate to consider Section 101 arguments at the pleadings stage because the plaintiff “failed to identify any specific claim construction issues that could impact the analysis.” Blackbird Tech LLC v. Advanced Discovery Inc., et al., C.A. No. 16-413-GMS, Memo. at 7-8 (D. Del. June 26, 2017).
Judge Sleet went on to find that “the claims of the asserted patent are drawn to the steps of 1) conducting a search based on a search query, 2) determining a concept associated with a search query, 3) and then ranking the search results based on which documents are most relevant to that concept [which are] merely ‘generalized steps to be performed on a computer using conventional computer activity’ and therefore an abstract idea.” Id. at 8. Moreover, there was no inventive concept to transform the abstract idea into patentable subject matter: “The court is unable to discern the inventive contribution to the art made by claims that merely provide for conducting a search, determining a concept associated with the search, ranking the search results, and then displaying the results. Rather, the claims recite generic computer components . . . to perform the very same sorting and rankings steps that humans can perform using pen and paper.” Id. at 10-11.
Judge Sleet did not invalidate every asserted claim, however. The plaintiff argued that “the validity of claims 2-9, 11-15, 17-24, and 26-30 should be upheld because defendants failed to carry their burden of establishing a representative claim. Although [the defendant] conducted a thorough analysis of each of the ‘specifically asserted claims of the ’717 patent, it undisputedly failed to identify a representative claim. Because [the plaintiff] has properly raised the representative claim issue, the court concludes that [the defendant] cannot meet is burden of establishing the § 101 defense with respect to each of the twenty-six dependent claims that were not addressed in the briefing.” Id. at 8 n.1.