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Calamp Wireless Networks Corp. v. Orbcomm, Inc.

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

February 9, 2017

CALAMP WIRELESS NETWORKS CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
ORBCOMM, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING DEFENDANT'S PARTIAL MOTION TO DISMISS)

          Henry E. Hudson United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant ORBCOMM, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss Count Two of Plaintiff CalAmp Wireless Network Corporation's two-count patent infringement Complaint. (ECF No. 23.) At issue in Count Two is U.S. Patent No. 6, 850, 839 ("the '839 Patent"), entitled "Time Sensitive Article Tracking Device." It claims a system and method for tracking an object by determining whether the object is presently located within a prescribed geographic area and taking appropriate action depending on whether the object is or is not within that area. ORBCOMM alleges that the '839 Patent is an abstract idea and therefore unpatentable subject matter pursuant to 35U.S.C. §101.

         Both parties have filed memoranda of law outlining their respective positions. In its opening brief, ORBCOMM took the position that Count Two should be dismissed in its entirety. Count Two alleges infringement of Claims 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, and 19 of the '839 Patent. However, ORBCOMM conceded in its reply brief that Claims 4 and 5 are patent-eligible. Thus, the Court will not consider those claims in its analysis. The Court will dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions are adequately presented in the materials before the Court, and oral argument would not aid in the decisional process. E.D. Va. Local Civ. R. 7(J). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant ORBCOMM's Motion.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         "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. MerialL.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, 716 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. Amdocs (Israel) Ltd. v. Openet Telecom, Inc., 841 F.3d 1288, 1293 (Fed. Cir. 2016). 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. Amazon.com, Inc., 788 F.3d 1359, 1362 (Fed. Cir. 2015) (applying Federal Circuit and Ninth Circuit law); see also Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009).

         II. DISCUSSION

         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. CLSBank Int'l, 134 S.Ct. 2347, 2354 (2014) (quoting 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. (quoting 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., 566 U.S. 66, 77-78 (2012)). At the first step, the Court must "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, where the Court asks "what else is there in the claims before us?" Id. This 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, 566 U.S. at 73 (citations omitted).

         It is with this framework in mind that the Court conducts its analysis. Claim 1, a representative claim of the '839 Patent[1], states:

A method for determining whether an article tracking device is within a spatial zone, the method comprising the steps of: obtaining a current time and a current position of the device; determining a spatial zone that corresponds to the current time; determining whether the current position of the device is within the spatial zone; and sending a request to a server for a subset of server database records in response to the determination of whether the current position of the device is within the spatial zone.

'839 Patent Bl col. 6 11. 2-14. Distilled to its essence, the '839 Patent claims a system and method of tracking an object by: (1) assessing the current location of the object; (2) obtaining the object's required location for the corresponding time; (3) determining whether the object is in the required location; and (4) requesting information in response to that determination. In other words, the Patent determines whether an object is in the right place at the right time.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court concludes that this method is an abstract idea that falls short at both steps of the Alice analysis. The '839 Patent is therefore unpatentable under § 101.

         A. Abstract Idea

         Beginning at Alice step one, determining whether an object is in the right place at the right time, as claimed in the '839 Patent, falls squarely into a ...


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