Wednesday, November 03, 2021

CAFC invokes 101 to defeat CardioNet

CardioNet loses at CAFC, but for different reasons:

CardioNet, LLC and Braemar Manufacturing, LLC (collectively, “CardioNet”) appeal from the decision of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts granting summary judgment that InfoBionic did not infringe claims 1–2, 8, 11–12, and 20–21 of U.S. Patent 7,099,715 (“the ’715 patent”). CardioNet, LLC v. InfoBionic, Inc., No. 1:15-CV-11803-IT, 2020 WL 4559934 (D. Mass. June 22, 2020) (“Summary Judgment Decision”). InfoBionic cross-appeals from the district court’s decision that the asserted claims of CardioNet’s ’715 patent are not ineligible for patent under 35 U.S.C. § 101. CardioNet, LLC v. InfoBionic, Inc., No. 1:15-CV-11803-IT, 2017 WL 1788650 (D. Mass. May 4, 2017) (“Validity Decision”). Because we conclude that the ’715 patent claims subject matter ineligible for patent, we vacate the district court’s decision granting summary judgment of noninfringement. We remand for the entry of judgment of no liability on the ground that the district court should have granted InfoBionic’s motion for judgment on the pleadings as to unpatentability.

Of 101:

At step one, InfoBionic argues that claim 20 is directed to the abstract idea of filtering data. It further asserts that the T wave filter performs a simple mathematical function—reducing the T wave’s amplitude—which cannot confer eligibility. CardioNet responds that claim 20 is not directed to an abstract idea, but, rather, to an improvement in cardiac monitoring technology. We agree with InfoBionic. As the claim language and the specification make clear, the invention is directed to the abstract idea of filtering patient heartbeat signals to increase accuracy. ’715 patent at col. 3 ll. 58–60, col. 4 ll. 35–36. Specifically, claim 20 focuses on selectively “activat[ing]” the “T wave filter” to “preprocess[] a cardiac signal.” Id. at col. 7 ll. 45–53. Similarly, the specification explains that the very purpose of the invention centers on using the T wave filter to filter data. See id. at Abstract, col. 3 ll. 52–col. 4 ll. 67. But, at bottom, filtering the data requires only basic mathematical calculations, such as “decompos[ing] a T wave into its constituent frequencies and multipl[ying] them by a filter frequency response.” Appellant’s Reply and Resp. Br. 49 (citing ’715 patent at col. 4 ll. 19–36). And such calculations, even if “[g]roundbreaking,” are still directed to an abstract idea. SAP Am., Inc. v. InvestPic, LLC, 898 F.3d 1161, 1163 (Fed. Cir. 2018) (citing Ass’n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., 569 U.S. 576, 591 (2013)). CardioNet makes several additional arguments in support of its assertion that claim 20 is not directed to an abstract idea. Those arguments are all unpersuasive. First, CardioNet contends that claim 20 is necessarily tied to a “specific improvement” in cardiac monitoring technology because, without the claimed T wave filter, the ECG may mistakenly classify the T waves as R waves. Appellant’s Reply and Resp. Br. 42–43. We are unpersuaded by that argument. To qualify as “a patent-eligible improvement,” the invention must be directed to a specific improvement in the computer’s functionality, not simply to use of the computer “as a tool” to implement an abstract idea. Customedia Techs., LLC v. Dish Network Corp., 951 F.3d 1359, 1363–1364 (Fed. Cir. 2020). Here, the invention falls into the latter category. It focuses on using a general-purpose computer to carry out the abstract idea of filtering data. See ’715 patent at col. 3 ll. 52–60, col. 4 ll. 19–36, col. 5, ll. 34–38.

In addition, claim 20 supplies no specific way to collect and process the data or to implement the T wave filter. Nor does it specify how to determine when to activate the T wave filter. Rather, it leaves that decision to the operator. See id. at col. 4 ll. 61–65. Indeed, even the district court recognized that the claim language was problematic for CardioNet’s eligibility argument. Specifically, when analyzing the parties’ dispute regarding infringement, the court briefly revisited its earlier conclusion that the asserted claims are not ineligible under § 101. Summary Judgment Decision, 2020 WL 4559934, at *9–10. It observed that, when making its infringement argument, CardioNet had emphasized the operator’s role in activating the T wave filter, but that, problematically, when making its eligibility argument (at an earlier stage in the proceedings), it had downplayed that aspect of the claim. Id. The court strongly hinted that, had it been aware of the significance of the operator’s mental process to the claimed invention at the pleadings stage, it would have considered holding the claims ineligible under § 101. J.A. 8963–72, 8985 (oral argument proceedings). The district court’s subsequent analysis regarding § 101 supports our ultimate conclusion here.


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