March 26, 2020

A Snapshot From Section 101: Patent Directed to Image Cataloging Not Patent Eligible

Brian P. Murray
Section 101 Blog

The automatic tagging of a photograph with photographer, location, date and time is not patent eligible subject matter, according to a recent decision from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In Rothschild Digital Confirmation, LLC v. Skedulo Holdings Inc., Case No. 3:19-cv-02659 (N.D. Cal. March 19, 2020), the court considered a single patent claim claiming the following:

1. A locational image verification device for verifying an assignment of a user comprising:

  • a user verification module for verifying an identity of a user of the device, wherein upon verification, the user verification module enables operation of the device and provides an assignment to the user
  • a capture module for capturing an image relating to the assignment and creating a digital image file, wherein the user verification module verifies the identity of the user of the device at a time of the image capture
  • a locational information module for determining a location of the device when capturing the image
  • a date and time module for determining a date and time of the image capture
  • a processing module for associating the assignment, the user identity, location information and the time and date to the digital image file
  • an encryption module for encrypting the digital image file and associated information upon image capture

On a motion to dismiss, the court found that this claim failed to satisfy the two-part Alice inquiry. The court held that the claim was directed to an abstract idea – the organization of photographs by certain criteria, such as photographer, location, date and time – which is of an essentially result-focused, functional character. The court analogized the patent claim to that of a photo album with handwritten notes scribbled on the back of the photographs recording the same information that the patent claimed to catalog and rejected the assertion that the claim was tied to improvements in computer functionality.

In the second step of the Alice analysis, the court held that the claim lacked any inventive concept sufficient to transform the abstract idea into patentable subject matter, specifically that the patent lacked any concrete allegations regarding the claimed combination's improvement to the functioning of a computer but instead simply reiterated the abstract idea. Beyond the abstract idea, the patent lacked anything that was not well understood, routine or conventional. For these reasons, the court reasoned that the claim at issue was directed to an abstract idea, not patent eligible, and granted the motion for dismiss.

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