The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned a district court dismissal of a patent case for errors in analyzing the claims’ patent eligibility under Alice. The Court found that regardless of whether the claimed invention was abstract under step 1, the invention claimed specific improvements rendering it patent eligible under step 2. Cooperative Entertainment, Inc. v. Kollective Technology, Inc., Case No. 21-2167 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 28, 2022) (Moore, C.J.; Lourie, Stark, JJ.)
Cooperative Entertainment sued Kollective Technology for infringement of several claims of Cooperative’s patent directed to structuring a peer-to-peer (P2P) dynamic network for distributing large files. After Kollective filed a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) arguing that all of the patent claims were ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101, Cooperative filed an amended complaint. Kollective refiled its motion to dismiss, and the district court granted the motion, holding the challenged claims ineligible under § 101. Cooperative appealed.
The patent relates to systems and methods of structuring a P2P dynamic network for distributing large files, specifically videos and video games. The patent specification explains that in prior art systems, video streaming was controlled by content distribution networks (CDNs), with content “distributed directly from the CDN server originating the content.” In contrast, the challenged claims recite methods and systems for a network in which content distribution occurs “outside controlled networks and/or [CDNs]” (emphasis added), and therefore outside a “static network of controlled systems.” Dynamic P2P networks comprising “peer nodes,” which consume the same content contemporaneously, transmit content directly to each other instead of receiving content from the CDN. The claimed P2P networks use “content segmentation” to segment a video file into smaller clips and distribute it piecemeal. Viewers can obtain individual segments as needed, preferably from other viewers. The disclosed segmentation techniques include “CDN address resolution, trace route to CDN and the P2P server manager, dynamic feedback from peers reporting traffic rates between individual peer and its neighbors, round-robin, other server side scheduling/resource allocation techniques, and combinations thereof” (emphasis in original).
The Federal Circuit applied the two-step Alice framework: (1) determining whether the claim is “directed to” a “patent-ineligible concept,” such as an abstract idea, and if it is, (2) examining “the elements of the claim to determine whether it contains an ‘inventive concept’ sufficient to ‘transform’ the claimed abstract idea into a patent-eligible application.” Step 2 examines whether the claim elements, individually and as an ordered combination, contain an inventive concept that more than merely implements an abstract idea using “well-understood, routine, [and] conventional activities previously known to the industry.”
Under Alice step 1, the district court had held that the “focus of the  patent” is the abstract idea of “the preparation and transmission of content to peers through a computer network.” The Federal Circuit disagreed, concluding that regardless of whether the invention could be reduced to an abstract concept, under step 2 the claims contained several alleged inventive concepts that the specification touted as specific improvements in the distribution of data [...]