The Federal Circuit has upheld a judgment of noninfringement for Google in litigation filed by Data Engine Technologies LLC (“Data Engine” or “DET”), a subsidiary of Acacia Research Corporation. On August 26, the appellate court issued a precedential opinion that affirmed the claim construction of a preamble term that led to that prior ruling, faulting the plaintiff for contradicting arguments that it made during an earlier appeal on patent eligibility. While Data Engine had previously overcome the three asserted patents’ invalidation under Alice by flagging this term as the source of a claimed technological improvement, the court rejected its subsequent attempt to argue that this preamble was nonlimiting as an improper attempt to “twist claims . . . ‘like ‘a nose of wax’’”.
A Delaware judge has issued a noninfringement ruling for Alphabet (Google) in a long-running database lawsuit waged by Data Engine Technologies LLC, a subsidiary of Acacia Research Corporation. On September 9, Chief District Judge Leonard Stark ruled that Google Sheets does not infringe the asserted claims of the three remaining patents-in-suit, holding that the product does not involve “three-dimensional electronic spreadsheets”, a key claim limitation, as construed by the court. Those three patents previously survived a trip down the Alice rabbit hole: Judge Stark ruled in 2016 that the patents were invalid as unpatentably directed to an abstract idea, but the Federal Circuit reversed that conclusion in 2018 as to all but a single claim, holding instead that the patents’ subject matter described nonabstract improvements to computer database technology.
The Federal Circuit has overturned part of a Delaware court’s ruling in a case against Google that invalidated four Acacia Research Corporation spreadsheet patents under Alice. In an October 9 decision, the Federal Circuit held that all challenged claims from two of those patents (and all but one from a third) were not directed to patent-ineligible subject matter, ruling instead that they described technical solutions and improvements to problems found in prior art computer spreadsheet systems rather than claiming the abstract idea of “using notebook-type tabs to label and organize spreadsheets”. However, the decision upheld the lower court’s invalidation of a single claim from the third patent related to spreadsheet tabs and of all challenged claims from a fourth patent related to tracking changes in spreadsheet cells. The patents at issue are among eight that have been asserted by Acacia subsidiary Data Engine Technologies LLC in a litigation campaign launched in 2012.
Data Engine Technologies LLC filed suit against Apple (6:12-cv-00697), alleging that Apple’s software application Numbers infringes a patent related to an electronic spreadsheet interface with user-familiar objects.
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