Off the Board: Law of the Case Doesn't Save Patent Directed to Location-Based Game Configuration
Plaintiffs CG Technology Development and Interactive Games originally sued FanDuel in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, alleging infringement of 12 patents. The court eventually transferred the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware where, after FanDuel successfully invalidated a number of the asserted claims, only Claim 6 of U.S. Patent No. 8,771,058 remained at issue.
The '058 patent is directed to determining game configurations on a mobile device based on the location of the device. FanDuel moved to dismiss the final asserted claim, arguing that it is directed to ineligible subject matter.
Law of the Case
Before addressing Section 101, plaintiffs argued that the law-of-the-case doctrine applies here because the Nevada court already decided that certain claims of the '058 patent were not directed to a patent-ineligible abstract idea, and this should end the analysis. The Delaware court disagreed. While the cases were eventually consolidated in Nevada, the Nevada court's Section 101 decision occurred prior to the consolidation, and that "consolidation does not mean a previous decision in one case retroactively applies to the other consolidated cases."
Plaintiffs countered that the Nevada court made another Section 101 determination after the consolidation. But as the Delaware court noted, this determination was the denial of a motion for reconsideration of the first decision and the later decision was not even entered on the consolidated docket.
The court decided that neither of the Nevada court's Section 101 decisions were part of the "same case" and so the law-of-the-case doctrine did not apply.
Court's Section 101 Analysis
The court then turned to the Section 101 question, laying out the steps of the asserted method claim: 1) determining the location of a mobile gaming device, 2) using a lookup table to determine the game configuration associated with that location and 3) implementing that game configuration.
Plaintiffs argued that the method was directed to the specific improvement of the "operation of a mobile gaming device and the way it displays game configurations to an end user." The court disagreed and stated that these "are basic steps of determining the configuration of a game based on the location of a mobile device, a method of organizing human activity."
The court referred specifically to Electric Power, noting that the combination of multiple abstract ideas still fails under step one: "Determining the location of a mobile gaming device, determining the game configuration associated with that location, and implementing that game configuration are each independently abstract ideas that use computers as tools."
The court further discussed the claimed lookup table and determined that the asserted claim "merely uses a generic data structure, a lookup table, as a tool to automate conventional activity" and finally determined that the asserted claim was directed to the abstract idea of "determining game configuration based on location."
The court's analysis at step 2 was similarly straightforward. The plaintiff argued that the asserted claim provided a "solution to the real-world need to address the implications of differing jurisdictions and their effect on permitted game configuration." The court dispelled that argument quickly: "A lookup table itself is not an inventive concept," especially when it is used in the conventional manner. The court, accordingly, granted FanDuel's Rule 12(c) motion.
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