Southern District of New York: Digital Mapping Patent Fails Under Section 101
Disclosure: Holland & Knight LLP, including the authors of this blog post, represents Polar Electro in the litigation described below.
In the case of Jewel Pathway LLC v. Polar Electro Inc., No. 20 CIV. 4108 (ER), 2021 WL 3621885, (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 16, 2021), Jewel Pathway LLC (Jewel) sued Polar Electro asserting U.S. Patent No. 8,818,711 ('711 Patent), which was entitled to 3D Path Analysis for Environmental Modeling. The '711 Patent explained that, although advances in Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies allow people to use digital maps that are presented in mapping applications, those digital maps are often limited to existing roads and are unable to dynamically adapt to changing conditions. Over time, according to the '711 Patent, location data collected from location-enabled devices could provide a crowd-sourced multi-dimensional map of traversable spaces.
Claim 1 of the '711 Patent reads:
A method to construct a path analysis in an area, the method comprising:
receiving a first set of location data from a first mobile device, the first set of location data comprising multiple data points of physical locations traversed by the first mobile device that represent a first path in an area traversed by the first mobile device;
generating, using a processor, a traversable path based on the first set of location data without using traditional maps, the traversable path following a non-predetermined path that at least partially does not adhere to predetermined paths identified in the traditional maps and including a portion that deviates from the first path traversed by the first mobile device determined based on differences between the first set of location data and one or more second sets of location data from one or more second mobile devices, the one or more second sets of location data comprising multiple data points of physical locations traversed by the one or more second mobile devices in the area traversed by the first mobile device;
superimposing the traversable path onto a map; and
packaging the map for delivery or display of the map at a device.
Polar Electro moved to dismiss Jewel's complaint, arguing that the '711 Patent was directed to ineligible subject matter under Section 101. The Honorable Edgardo Ramos of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted Polar Electro's motion. The court agreed that Jewel's patent was directed to the well-established abstract idea of collecting, analyzing and displaying data. More specifically, the court concluded that the patent received location data (collecting data), analyzed the data to determine a path (analyzing) and packaged the map for display (displaying).
The court disagreed with Jewel's argument that the '711 Patent described a "particular technique for creating a traversable path" and found that this limitation was merely the second step of the patent's abstract idea – i.e., analyzing the collected data to determine a traversable path. The court additionally noted that the '711 Patent nowhere identifies any specific improvement to the way computers or mobile phones operate. The patent's focus is not any such improvement – whether to a device or a network – but to the idea itself.
At Alice step two, the court concluded that the claim elements did not recite an inventive concept, but only recited the abstract idea itself. "At bottom, Jewel argues that the novelty of its abstract idea is the inventive concept that renders the idea patent eligible. But again, an inventive concept must offer significantly more than the abstract idea itself." The court concluded that the elements of the representative claim did not contain an inventive concept sufficient to transform the nature of the claim into a patent-eligible application and dismissed Jewel's complaint with prejudice.
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