Fitbit, Inc. v. AliphCom

Fitbit, Inc. v. AliphCom, No. 15-CV-04073-EJD, 2017 WL 528491, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 9, 2017)

Patent(s):

  • U.S. Patent Nos. 9,026,053 (“the '053 Patent”), 9,106,307 (“the ‘307 Patent”), and 9,048,923 (“the ‘923 Patent”) (collectively “the Patents”) all entitled “System and Method for Wireless Device Pairing.”

Disposition:               

Motion for judgment on the pleadings denied. 

Abstract Idea:

Undetermined

Something More:

Yes

Technology:              

The primary innovative feature of the Patents is that they employ a specific type of portable device pairing, which is aware of user account information, relies on a server to regulate the list of eligible devices, and uses tapping as the means of user validation.  

Summary:                 

The Court concluded that the Patents claim patentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101.
Under the first step of the Alice framework, the Court declined to decide whether the claims' particular variant of portable device pairing was an abstract idea, and assessed whether, even if it was, the concrete improvements they recited are inventive concepts under step two. The Court declined because, although the overall concept of device pairing is abstract, the claims here could be characterized as purporting to improve the functioning of the computer itself, or improving an existing technological process.

The Court then determined that under step two of the Alice framework, both the use of tapping and the use of a server, when considered along with the rest of the claims as an ordered combination, supply an inventive concept that transformed the asserted claims into patent eligible subject matter. The addition of tapping as the form of validation is an inventive concept. One problem that confronted the process of pairing small, portable devices was that they were purposefully designed to eliminate keyboards and multiple buttons in order to satisfy other design criteria. Tapping overcame this problem in an inventive way because it took advantage of the inherent, technical capabilities of the portable monitoring device—its ability to detect motion with a motion sensor—to provide a manner of validating the device that was different from traditional forms of input (i.e., buttons and keyboards). 

The Court next explained that the use of a server as a part of the claimed pairing process supplied an inventive concept. As the name suggests, the concept of pairing traditionally involves two devices: the device that gets paired and the device it is paired with. By injecting a third device—a server—into this process, the asserted claims shift this paradigm so that all of the information needed for pairing does not have to be provided through the two devices. Instead, the server can also regulate and facilitate this process.