United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
Peschke Map Technologies LLC, Plaintiff.
Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, Defendant.
LIAM O'GRADY, UNITED SLATES DISTRICT JUDGE
This matter comes before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust C'PREIT"). Plaintiff Peschke Map Technologies LLC ("Peschke") filed a Complaint against PREIT on October 20, 2015. claiming patent infringement. PREIT, in turn, filed the current Motion to Dismiss, arguing that the Plaintiffs Patent is invalid.
For the reasons outlined below, the Court finds good cause to grant the Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiffs Patent is not valid. Because PREIT cannot infringe on an invalid patent, it is appropriate for the Court to dismiss the Complaint at this time.
Plaintiff holds the rights to United States Patent No. 6.397.143 (the '"143 Patent"), which was invented by George Peschke in the late 1990s. Mr. Peschke filed his patent application on October 26. 2000. The PTO issued the * 143 Patent on May 28, 2002. The Patent contains 19 claims, two of which-Claims 1 and 17-are independent.
The invention covered by the " 143 Patent is a "computer based" "map navigation and display system" that is ''used to assist users in locating stores and businesses" through "the visual presentation of a shopping center showing the layout of the buildings and stores/'
§ 143 Pat col. 1:6-9; abstract. The basic iteration of the system is a map of a shopping mail that displays the location and shape of all of the different stores in the mall. Each store functions as a link that, when clicked on. takes the user to a "description page" containing information about that particular store. The system might also contain several levels of maps that permit a user to zoom in to and out of the shopping mall from a larger region or neighborhood. This system is designed to give consumers access to information about different stores using the physical layout of a mall as opposed to. for example, navigating through a list of the names of the stores at a mall.
The Defendant allegedly owns a website for a shopping mall that uses this type of computerized mapping system. Specifically. Plaintiff says PREIT is infringing on the '143 Patent through its webpage <http://shoppatrickhenrymall.com/directory>. which contains a map of the Patrick Henry Mall located in Newport News, Virginia.
II. Legal Standard
A motion to dismiss is proper under federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) where the pleadings fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of a complaint without resolving factual disputes; therefore a district court '"must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint' and "draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.'" Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't v. Montgomery County, 684 F.3d 462. 467 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus.. Inc.. 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011)). However, to survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). a complaint must contain sufficient factual information to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 550 (2007). Further, a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) must be considered in combination with Rule 8(a)(2). which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). When the complaint asserts patent infringement, "a patentee need only plead facts sufficient to place the alleged infringer on notice. The requirement ensures that the accused infringer has sufficient knowledge of the facts alleged to enable it to answer the complaint and defend itself." Phonometries. Inc. v. Hospitality Franchise Systems. Inc., 203 F.3d 790, 794 (Fed. Cir. 2000).
Defendant argues that the Complaint must be dismissed because the * 143 Patent is invalid. More specifically. Defendant asserts that the '143 Patent is directed at a patent-ineligible abstract idea. Plaintiff, in response, contends that these arguments are not properly raised at the 12(b)(6) stage and that the
§ 143 Patent is valid. The Court addresses each argument in turn.
A. Whether These Arguments Are Properly Raised in a Motion to Dismiss
First. Plaintiff contends that Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is premature because the Court has not yet construed any of the claims in the '143 Patent. As a general matter, ''patent eligibility under section 101 is a question of law, [and] the Court can resolve such issue on the pleadings, if the eligibility of the subject matter of the patents-in-suit does not involve an underlying factual dispute." CertasView Techs., LLC v. S & N Locating Servs., LLC, 111 F.Supp.3d 688. 704 (E.D. Va. 2015). The Federal Circuit has made clear that there is no ''bright line rule requiring district courts to construe claims before determining subject matter eligibility/' Ultramercial, LLC v. Hidu, LLC, 657 F.3d 1323, 1325 (Fed. Cir. 2011) cerl. granted, judgment vacated sub nom. WildTangent. Inc. v. Ultramercial. LLC, 132 S.Ct. 2431. 182 L.Ed.2d 1059 (2012). The Federal Circuit explained that "because eligibility is a 'coarse' gauge of the suitability of broad subject matter categories for patent protection, claim construction may not always be necessary for a § 101 analysis." Id. (citations omitted). As Defendant points out. many courts have decided § 101 eligibility prior to claim construction. See, e.g.. In re TLI Comma 'ns LLC Patent Lilig., 87 F.Supp.3d 773, 805 (E.D. Va. 2015) (“[A]11 of the claims in the "295 patent arc invalid, and defendants* consolidated motion to dismiss is granted in these respects."); see also DIP Technologies, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc., 788 F.3d 1359 (Fed. Cir. 2015). For example, the Supreme Court found the patent at issue in Bilski v. Kappos was aimed at patent-ineligible subject matter before claim construction had occurred. 130 S.Ct. 3218. 3231 (2010). Nevertheless, this Court acknowledges that "it will ordinarily be desirable- and often necessary-to resolve claim construction disputes prior to a § 101 analysis." Bancorp Servs.. L.L.C. v. Sun Life Assur. Co. of Canada (U.S.), 687 F.3d 1266, 1273 (Fed. Cir. 2012). This is because claim construction may "clarity the basic character of the subject matter of the invention, " and may resolve "questions about subject matter abstractness." Ultramercial, 657 F.3dat 1325.
After a thorough review of the " 143 Patent, the Court concludes that the claimed subject matter is readily ascertainable from the face of the '143 Patent. The claims in the "143 Patent describe a "[m]ethod of presenting and providing navigation through a series of maps." '143 Patent, col. 7:17-18: col. 8:44-45. The invention includes at least three levels of maps. Claim 1 provides for a first level map that depicts several store layouts. Id. col, 7:20-21. For each store layout depicted on the first level map, there is a corresponding "description page." Id. 22- ...