Peer-to-Peer Employment Verification Patent Directed to Unpatentable Subject Matter
Tenstreet asserted its patent against DriverReach, a recruiting company for hiring CDL drivers, in the Southern District of Indiana. DriverReach moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the asserted patent was directed to unpatentable subject matter.
The patent, entitled "peer-to-peer sharing of job applicant information," explains that previous methods of employment verification – like calling references – were "time consuming" and "expensive." The patent purports to advance a solution to the cumbersome employment verification process by providing a peer-to-peer network for employers and job applicants to communicate and share data.
Tenstreet argued that the patent improved the existing technological process of employment verification by automating tasks, focusing communication with assigned preferred channels, and allowing real-time review of data by the applicants. This did not convince the court.
The court, instead, found the patent to be "a quintessential do it on a computer patent." Employment data that was previously collected and stored by humans via phone, fax, or a database "is now collected by a computer using the same communication tools." This, the court held, is nothing more than the abstract idea "of collecting, organizing, and storing data on a generic computer." As for the alleged improvement to a technological process, the court found that the patent “makes no improvement to the already existing computer functions, and merely implements a business practice onto a computer."
At step two of the Alice inquiry, the court looked to the patent claims and found that they require a computerized exchange that can (1) allow communication channels to interface with the exchange, (2) assign an attribute to each participant, (3) receive verification requests, (4) compare requests with the requirements, (5) route the requests to an employer, (6) receive verification data pro-vided by the employer, and (7) route the received data to the requester.
Tenstreet argued these claim elements amount to an inventive concept because conventional methods were not capable of allowing the applicant to participate in the exchange of data in real time. This, again, did not persuade the court: "Tenstreet did not invent anything new by automating a manual process onto a computer that already had the capability of exchanging data in real time . . . Although the patent may have made the employment verification process more efficient and accurate it did not make any improvements to computer technology."
The court granted DriverReach’s motion to dismiss and dismissed the complaint with prejudice.
Claim 1 of the asserted patent reads:
A method for peer-to-peer sharing of job applicant verification data over a network, the network comprising; a computerized exchange being in communication with one or more requesters, providers, and job applicants; the exchange managing one or more interactions of each requester, provider, and job applicant with the exchange; each requester being an entity seeking verification data about one or more job applicants, each provider being an entity in possession of the verification data of one or more job applicants and providing the verification data in response to a request for the verification data, the verification data disclosing a status of the job applicant during a period of time; said method comprising the steps of:
allowing one or more communication channels to interface with the exchange;
assigning an attribute to each requester, provider, and job applicant, the attribute defining the communication channel accessible to each requester, provider, and job
applicant in transmitting data to the exchange and receiving data from the exchange;
receiving a verification request from a requester through the communication channel of the requester;
comparing, by the computerized exchange, the verification request with requirements;
routing the verification request to a provider through the communication channel of the provider;
receiving verification data provided by the provider in response to the verification request through the communication channel of the provider; and
routing the received verification data through the communication channel of the requester;
wherein at least one requester is also a provider for a second requester and at least one provider is also a requester for a second provider, the at least one requester
providing verification data to the exchange for a period of time in which a respective job applicant was employed by the at least one requester and the second provider
providing verification data to the exchange for a period a time in which the same or a different respective job applicant was employed by the second provider.