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ORBCOMM Inc. v. CalAmp Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

October 19, 2016

ORBCOMM INC., Plaintiff,
CALAMP CORP., Defendant.


          Henry E. Hudson United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant CalAmp Corp.'s ("Defendant") Motion for Reconsideration of Denial of Motion to Dismiss, filed on August 4, 2016. (ECF No. 35.) On May 27, 2016, Defendant moved to dismiss this patent infringement suit filed by Plaintiff ORBCOMM, Inc. ("Plaintiff). (ECF No. 16.) On July 22, 2016, the Court denied Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, finding that all five patents at issue constitute patent-eligible subject matter pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 101. (ECF Nos. 29, 30.) In its Motion for Reconsideration, Defendant relies on a case recently decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Electric Power Group, LLC v. Alstom S.A., 830 F.3d 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2016). Each side has filed memoranda supporting their respective positions. The Court heard oral argument on October 13, 2016. In light of Electric Power Group, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit concerns five separate but interrelated patents. They all involve machine-to-machine communication platforms designed for tracking and monitoring the location and status of widely dispersed fleet vehicles and related mobile assets. The specific patents-in-suit include the following:

         1. U.S. Patent No. 6, 292, 724 ("the '724 Patent") (entitled "Method Of And System And Apparatus For Remotely Monitoring The Location, Status, Utilization And Condition Of Widely Geographically [Dispersed] Fleets of Vehicular Construction Equipment And The Like And Providing And Displaying Such Information") (Compl. ¶ 21, ECF No. 1);

         2. U.S. Patent No. 6, 611, 686 ("the '686 Patent") (entitled "Tracking Control And Logistics System And Method") (Compl. ¶ 27);

         3. U.S. Patent No. 6, 651, 001 ("the '001 Patent") (entitled "Method Of And System And Apparatus For Integrating Maintenance Vehicle And Service Personnel Tracking Information With The Remote Monitoring Of The Location, Status, Utilization And Condition Of Widely Geographically Dispersed Fleets Of Vehicular Construction Equipment And The Like To Be Maintained, And Providing And Displaying Together Both Construction And Maintenance Vehicle Information") (Compl. ¶ 38);

         4. U.S. Patent No. 6, 735, 150 ("the ' 150 Patent") (entitled "Method Of And Apparatus For Distinguishing Engine Idling And Working Hours") (Compl. ¶ 43); and 5. U.S. Patent No. 8, 855, 626 ("the '626 Patent") (entitled "Wireless Control For Creation Of, And Command Response To, Standard Freight Shipment Messages") (Compl.¶ 51).

         Defendant maintains, as it did in its original Motion to Dismiss, that all five of the patents-in-suit are invalid because they seek to patent abstract ideas, in contravention of 35U.S.C.§101.


         The denial of Defendant's Rule (I2)(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss was an interlocutory order. See Occupy Columbia v. Haley, 738 F.3d 107, 115 (4th Cir. 2013). The proper vehicle for requesting reconsideration of an interlocutory order is Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b).[1] Fayetteville Inv'rs v. Commercial Builders, Inc., 936 F.2d 1462, 1470 (4th Cir. 1991). Interlocutory orders are subject to reconsideration by the issuing court any time prior to the entry of a final judgment. Am. Canoe Ass'n v. Murphy Farms, Inc., 326 F.3d 505, 514-15 (4th Cir. 2003).

         It is clear that "[m]otions for reconsideration of interlocutory orders are not subject to the strict standards applicable to motions for reconsideration of a final judgment" under Rules 59(e) and 60(b). Id. at 514. However, the Fourth Circuit has declined to "thoroughly express [its] views on the interplay of Rules 60, 59 and 54." Fayetteville, 936 F.2d at 1472. Typically, courts do not depart from a previous ruling unless "(1) a subsequent trial produces substantially different evidence, (2) controlling authority has since made a contrary decision of law applicable to the issue, or (3) the prior decision was clearly erroneous and would work manifest injustice." Am. Canoe Ass'n, 326 F.3d at 515 (quoting Sejman v. Warner-Lambert Co., Inc., 845 F.2d 66, 69 (4th Cir.1988)); see also S. Coal Corp. v. IEG Pty, Ltd, No. 2:14CV617, 2016 WL 393954, at * 1 (E.D. Va. Jan. 29, 2016); Al Shimari v. CACI lnt'l, Inc., 933 F.Supp.2d 793, 798 (E.D. Va. 2013). It is with this framework in mind that the Court reconsiders its denial of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

         "A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). Patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 is an issue of law; as such, it is suitable for resolution on a motion to dismiss. Genetic Techs. Ltd. v. Merial L.L.C., 818 F.3d 1369, 1373 (Fed. Cir. 2016). The Court is permitted to make a patent eligibility determination at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage, so long as it has a "full understanding of the basic character of the claimed subject matter." Content Extraction & Transmission LLC v. Wells Fargo Bank, Nat. Ass'n, 776 F.3d 1343, 1349 (Fed. Cir. 2014). In considering such a motion, the Complaint and patents-in-suit must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id. As with all Rule 12(b)(6) motions, the Court's analysis is "limited to the face of the complaint, materials incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of judicial notice." OIP Techs., Inc. v., Inc., 788 F.3d 1359, 1362 (Fed. Cir. 2015) (applying Federal Circuit and Ninth Circuit law).


         Section 101 of the Patent Act describes the subject matter eligible for patent protection. It provides: "[w]hoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new or useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title." 35 U.S.C. § 101. Section 101 also "contains an important implicit exception: Laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable." Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CIS Bank Int'l, 134 S.Ct. 2347, 2354 (2014) (citing Ass 'n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., 133 S.Ct. 2107, 2116 (2013)). However, a patent is not rendered ineligible "simply because it involves an abstract concept." Id. (citing Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175, 187 (1981)). "[A]pplication[s] of such concepts 'to a new and useful end'... remain eligible for patent protection." Id. (citing Gottschalk v. Benson, 409 U.S. 63, 67 (1972)).

         In Alice, the Supreme Court reiterated the two-step analytical framework "for distinguishing patents that claim laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas from those that claim patent-eligible applications of those concepts." Id. at 2355 (citing Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc., 132 S.Ct. 1289, 1297 (2012)). The first step is to "determine whether the claims at issue are directed to one of those patent-ineligible concepts." Id. If so, the analysis moves to the second step, asking "what else is there in the claims before us?" Id. The second step is a search for an "inventive concept"-i.e., an element or combination of elements that is "sufficient to ensure that the patent in practice amounts to significantly more than a patent upon the [ineligible concept] itself." Mayo, 132 S.Ct. at 1294 (citations omitted).

         In Electric Power Group, the impetus for this Motion for Reconsideration, the Federal Circuit held that the patents in that case failed to meet the eligibility requirements of §101. Elec. Power Grp., 830 F.3d at 1356. Those patents all claimed "systems and methods for performing real-time performance monitoring of an electric power grid by collecting data from multiple data sources, analyzing the data, and displaying the results." Id. at 1351. At the first step of the Alice analysis, the court determined that the patents were '"directed to' a patent-ineligible concept" because the claims focused merely on collecting, analyzing, and displaying information. Id. at 1353. Proceeding to step two, the court determined that the patents contained no inventive concept to remove the claims from the class of ineligible subject matter. Id. at 1354. The patents were invalid because the claims merely required the collection, analysis, and display of information "without limiting them to technical means for performing the functions that are arguably an advance over conventional computer ...

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