Lost Item Tracking Patent Finds No Love in the Northern District of California
Linquet Technologies owns U.S. Patent No. 10,163,318, which claims a system for "detecting placement or misplacement of an object." The patent introduces the invention:
A wireless tag to be associated with the object to be linked, tracked, or both is disclosed along with an electronic device for communicating with the tag and updating the information to an external device, such as a computer, network, or the cloud. Information such as, but not limited to time, position (including latitude, longitude, and altitude), speed, direction, temperature, and identification can be transmitted for either real-time linking/tracking and analysis, or a historical view. In one embodiment, the electronic device for communicating with the tag is a cellular phone, a tablet computer, a laptop computer, a pair of electronic glasses, or a watch.
In Linquet Techs., Inc. v. Tile, Inc., No. 3:20-CV-05153-JD, 2022 WL 2812185 (N.D. Cal. July 18, 2022), Linquet asserted its patent against Tile, Inc. Tile moved to dismiss the complaint (and amended complaints), arguing that the asserted patent claims are directed to patent-ineligible subject matter. The court most recently addressed Linquet's second amended complaint (SAC).
Alice Step 1
The court, in a previous order, had determined that claim one was directed to the "time-honored concept of using markers and identifiers to avoid losing things." The court found that nothing had changed in the SAC, and the patent "simply implements the concept of tracking objects using computer technology, which does not make it non-abstract."
Linquet argued that the patent is directed to "improved network functionality and performance," but the court was not persuaded: despite the SAC including an expert declaration, neither the complaint nor the declaration "points to the patent to show that there was a technical problem with community-powered tracking systems that needed to be solved."
The expert declaration claimed that the prior art did not provide for "privacy-preserving, scalable, cloud-based, community-powered solutions" for tracking items. The court, however, noted that while it may be true that the patent "presented an innovation over the prior art," the expert declaration is relevant to novelty and obviousness. The court further noted that the patent itself "is silent on whether such problems existed and needed solving" and, therefore, the court declined to accept the allegations in the SAC and expert declaration "that are not grounded in the plain language of the patent."
The court, consequently, found that the patent is not directed to a technical solution but is, in fact, directed to the referenced abstract idea.
Alice Step 2
At step two, Linquet argued that claim one of the patent improved "privacy, scalability, and efficiency in a non-conventional manner," including allegations regarding the claimed system using a network "of tags and electronic devices in a manner not well-known, routine, and conventional to address technological problems." The court, however, noted that the patent does not explain how any of the tags and electronic devices are configured or used in unconventional ways.
The SAC and expert declaration, again, pointed to overcoming prior art, but the court noted that while "it is true that the § 101 patent-eligibility inquiry and, say, the § 102 novelty inquiry might sometimes overlap, it is also true that a claim for a new abstract idea is still an abstract idea."
Finally, the court dismissed Linquet's argument that fact disputes preclude dismissal and stated that any "factual disputes" were based on conclusory allegations. The court accordingly dismissed the SAC with prejudice.
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Claim one of the patent reads:
A system for detecting placement or misplacement of an object, the system comprising:
a wireless tag associated with the object;
a first set of instructions stored in a first non-transitory storage medium, the first set of instructions, when executed by one or more processors in a first electronic device associated with the wireless tag, cause the one or more processors in the first electronic device to automatically:
detect one or more signals from the wireless tag;
determine a position of the first electronic device;
determine a status of the wireless tag in response to a strength or absence of the one or more signals detected by the first electronic device, the status indicating that the wireless tag and the first electronic device are within a predetermined range or that the wireless tag and the first electronic device are outside the predetermined range;
transmit the position of the first electronic device and the status to an external electronic device in response to the status indicating that the wireless tag and the first electronic device are within the predetermined range; and
transmit the position of the first electronic device and the status to the external electronic device in response to the status indicating that the wireless tag and the first electronic device are outside of the predetermined range;
a second set of instructions stored in a second non-transitory storage medium, the second set of instructions, when executed by one or more processors in a second electronic device that is unassociated with the wireless tag, cause the one or more processors in the second electronic device to automatically:
detect one or more signals from the wireless tag;
determine a position of the second electronic device;
determine an identifier for the wireless tag using the one or more signals from the wireless tag; and
transmit the position of the second electronic device and the identifier to the external electronic device.