On February 17th, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia (N.D. Ga.) granted a motion to dismiss a case for failure to state a claim after invalidating two patents under the patentability standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International. The order ends the district court component of this lawsuit filed by Minnesota-based TAGI Ventures, LLC against Georgia-based media company Turner Sports Interactive, Inc. in which TAGI alleged that Turner Sports infringed on patents covering remote access to in-car camera views during a car race. The case may now move on to the Federal Circuit if the patent owner wishes to appeal the ruling, which would seem likely.
- U.S. Patent No. 7162532, titled System and Method for Listening to Teams in a Race Event. It claimed a computer-implemented method to allow a remote computer user to listen to teams in a race event which involves receiving audio signals from a plurality of audio sources, transmitting information from at least some of the audio signals to a remote computer, assigning priority levels to audio sources from the race event based on a remote computer user’s indications and playing the audio signals from the race event on the remote computer.
- U.S. Patent No. 9059089, same title as the ‘532 patent. It protected a similar computer-implemented method which gives users who are remotely watching a racing event a way to listen to communications between a driver and the driver’s pit crew.
TAGI’s allegations of patent infringement focused mainly on Turner Sports’ RaceBuddy software products which provide Internet users access to in-car and stationary cameras, near real-time statistics and various audio sources. These infringing products were primarily used in conjunction with live television broadcasts of races sanctioned by NASCAR. Between 2010 and 2015, RaceBuddy offered users a mosaic camera view allowing them to select an audio source from the race. TAGI also alleged that, around 2011, Turner entered into an agreement with NASCAR and ESPN to provide these allegedly infringing products for free.
RaceBuddy has been a valuable part of Turner Sports’ strategy to encourage greater viewership of NASCAR races through Internet channels. In June 2011, RaceBuddy set a single-day record with 1.1 million streams during the NASCAR Sprint Series Cup Race at Pocono Speedway, beating RaceBuddy’s previous record of 712,000 streams during the previous year’s Sprint Cup Race at Pocono. By the end of 2011, the first year that RaceBuddy streaming was extended into NASCAR’s postseason, a total of 4.6 million streams of NASCAR races had been accessed through the RaceBuddy service.
The motion to dismiss filed by Turner Sports, and granted by the N.D. Ga. district judge, argued that both of TAGI’s patents are directed at unpatentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. Section 101. In response, the court applied the now familiar two-step standard Alice/Mayo test for distinguishing patents claiming abstract ideas and laws of nature.
In the first step, the court considered whether the claims were directed at an abstract idea. Turner Sports argued that the processes in both the ‘532 and ‘089 patents were unpatentable as they were nothing more than claims for more widely broadcasting what was available locally. TAGI’s responded by arguing that its patents were directed at improvements in computer functionality, specifically the new functionality of a server providing a solution to the problem of remote access of audio broadcasts of a race event, relying heavily on legal precedents set by this May’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Fed. Cir.) in Enfish, LLC v. Microsoft Corporation et. al. The court, however, decided that TAGI’s patents failed step one of the Alice test as “the patents here propose no such improvement in computer functionality.”
In step two of the test, the court decided that the patents did not contain an inventive concept. “Providing video data, no matter from how many cameras, is an abstract idea, and the patents disclose nothing about the claimed process that would constitute an inventive step,” the court order reads. At the core of the decision the court found that the patents-in-suit “constitute just the kind of patent-ineligible subject matter contemplated in Alice.”