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Cardionet, LLC v. Infobionic, Inc

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 16, 2018

INFOBIONIC, INC., Defendant.


          Indira Talwani United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs CardioNet, LLC (“CardioNet”) and Braemar Manufacturing, LLC (“Braemar”) allege that products manufactured and distributed by Defendant InfoBionic, Inc. (“InfoBionic”) infringe on Plaintiffs' patent, U.S. Patent Number 7, 941, 207 (“the '207 patent”). Am. Compl. (“Complaint”) [#25]. InfoBionic moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint [#25], arguing that the '270 patent is invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 as construed by Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Intern., 134 S.Ct. 2347, 2354 (2014), and its progeny, because the asserted claims are directed to an abstract idea and are patent-ineligible. Mot. to Dismiss 1 [#36]. Finding that the claims at issue are directed at patent-ineligible concepts, and that the elements of each claim do not transform the claim into a patent-eligible application, the court ALLOWS Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [#36].

         I. Background

         The '207 patent was issued to CardioNet in 2011. Cardionet assigned the '207 patent to Braemar, and Braemar granted CardioNet an exclusive license to make, use, offer to sell, sell, import, license, and exploit the '207 patent. Compl. ¶¶ 7-8 [#25].

         The '207 patent is entitled “Cardiac Monitoring.” Id. ¶ 7 [#25]. It relates to “[s]ystems and techniques for monitoring cardiac activity.” Compl. Ex. A ('207 Patent) 2 [#25-1]. The patented methods monitor the electrical activity of the heart to identify two types of heart arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter (collectively, “AF”), both of which are associated with stroke, congestive heart failure, and cardiomyopathy. Id. at 11 col. 1:31-32. The '207 patent claims to distinguish AF from other types of cardiac arrhythmia by monitoring the variability between heartbeats, id. at col. 1:49-50, in a manner that can “provid[e] improved positive predictability of AF, ” and “identify sustained AF episodes, where AF continues for more [than] approximately 20 beats and has an increased clinical significance.” Id. at 12 col. 3:14-15, 17-20. The patent claims that the systems and techniques “are well-adapted to monitoring cardiac signals of ambulatory patents who are away from controlled environments such as hospital beds or treatment facilities.” Id. at col. 3:27-30. The patent further claims that “the described systems and techniques are also well-adapted to real-time monitoring of arrhythmia patients, where minimal delays in distinguishing between different types of cardiac arrhythmia can speed the delivery of any urgent medical care, ” and “require minimal computational resources.” Id. at col. 3:35-40.

         The Complaint [#25] asserts that InfoBionic's first and second generation MoMe Kardia Systems infringe one or more claims of the '207 patent, including claims 1, 2, 3, 7, 10, 11, 12, and 22. Compl. ¶¶ 19-31 [#25].

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff “must state a claim that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In resolving the motion, the court must “begin by identifying and disregarding statements . . . that merely offer ‘legal conclusion[s] couched as . . . fact[].'” Occasion-Hernández v. Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011) (alteration in original) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 668 (2009)). Nonconclusory factual statements contained in the pleadings must then be viewed as true, id., and the court must view these facts in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom to the nonmovant's behalf. Id. at 17.

         “While most Rule 12(b)(6) motions are premised on a plaintiff's putative failure to state an actionable claim, such a motion may sometimes be premised on the inevitable success of an affirmative defense.” Nisselson v. Lernout, 469 F.3d 143, 150 (1st Cir. 2006). “Dismissing a case under Rule 12(b)(6) on the basis of an affirmative defense requires that ‘(i) the facts establishing the defense are definitively ascertainable from the complaint and the other allowable sources of information, and (ii) those facts suffice to establish the affirmative defense with certitude.'” Id. (quoting Rodi v. S. New Eng. Sch. of Law, 389 F.3d 5, 12 (1st Cir. 2004)); see also Aatrix Software, Inc. v. Green Shades Software, Inc., 882 F.3d 1121, 1125 (Fed. Cir. 2018) (“patent eligibility can be determined at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage . . . only when there are no [plausible] factual allegations that . . . preclude dismiss[al]”).

         Because the court accepts the factual allegations in the complaint and other allowable sources of information as true for purposes of a motion to dismiss, “[i]f there are claim construction disputes, . . . the court [may] proceed by adopting the non-moving party's construction, ” and construing the patent claims in a manner most favorable to the non-moving party. Aatrix Software, 882 F.3d at 1125; see also Content Extraction & Transmission LLC v. Wells Fargo Bank, Nat'l Ass'n, 776 F.3d 1343, 1349 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (court applies the non-moving party's construction of the terms of the patent for purposes of the motion).

         Section 101 states, “[w]hoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.” 35 U.S.C. § 101. The subject matter of a patent must be patentable under § 101; otherwise, the patent is invalid. See Content Extraction, 776 F.3d at 1346. The Supreme Court has held that this section contains an “implicit exception: [l]aws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable.” Alice, 134 S.Ct. at 2354 (quoting Ass'n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., 133 S.Ct. 2107, 2116 (2013)). Although “all inventions at some level embody, use, reflect, rest upon, or apply laws of nature, natural phenomena, or abstract ideas, ” these three patent-ineligible exceptions prevent “monopolization” of the “basic tools of scientific and technological work, ” Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc., 132 S.Ct. 1289, 1293 (2012), and the “inhibit[ion of] further discovery by improperly tying up the future use of these building blocks of human ingenuity, ” Alice, 134 S.Ct. at 2354 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Mayo, 132 S.Ct. at 1301).

         “[I]n applying the § 101 exception, [the court] must distinguish between patents that claim the ‘building[g] block[s]' of human ingenuity and those that integrate the building blocks into something more, thereby ‘transform[ing] them into a patent-eligible invention.'” Id. at 2354, (quoting Mayo, 132 S.Ct. at 1294, 1303). To do so, the court must perform a two-step analysis.

         First, the court must determine whether the claims at issue are directed to laws of nature, natural phenomena, or abstract ideas. Id. at 2355.[1] Claims are directed to an abstract idea if, “considered in light of the specification, . . . ‘their character as a whole is directed to'” an abstract idea. Enfish, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., 822 F.3d 1327, 1335 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (quoting Internet Patents Corp. v. Active Network, Inc., 790 F.3d 1343, 1346 (Fed. Cir. 2015)). “The ‘abstract ideas' category embodies ‘the longstanding rule that [a]n idea of itself is not patentable.'” Alice, 134 S.Ct. at 2355 (internal quotation marks omitted) (alteration in original) (quoting Gottschalk v. Benson, 409 U.S. 63, 67 (1972)). In Benson, for example, the court rejected claims involving an algorithm for “converting [binary-coded decimal] numerals to pure binary form, ” holding that the claimed patent was “in practical effect . . . a patent on the algorithm itself.” 409 U.S. at 71-72. Similarly, in Parker v. Flook, the court held a mathematical formula for computing ‘alarm limits' in a catalytic conversion process was an abstract idea. 437 U.S. 584, 594-95 (1978).

         If the claims at issue are directed to laws of nature, natural phenomena, or abstract ideas, the court then considers the elements of each claim both “individually and ‘as an ordered combination'” to determine whether the additional elements “‘transform the nature of the claim' into a patent-eligible application.” Alice, 134 S.Ct. at 2350 (quoting Mayo, 132 S.Ct. at 1298, 1297). The Supreme Court has “described step two of this analysis as a search for an ‘inventive concept' - i.e., an element or combination of elements that is ‘sufficient to ensure that the patent in practice amounts to significantly more than a patent upon the [ineligible concept] itself.'” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Mayo, 132 S.Ct. at 1294). “Purely ‘conventional or obvious' ‘[pre]-solution activity' is normally not sufficient to transform an unpatentable law of nature into a patent-eligible application of such a law.” Mayo, 566 U.S. at 79 (quoting Flook, 437 U.S. at 590); see also Bilski v. Kappos 561 U.S. 593, 610-11 (2010) (“[T]he prohibition against patenting abstract ideas ‘cannot be circumvented by' . . . adding ‘insignificant post-solution activity.'” (quoting Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175, 191-92 (1981))). To survive step two, the additional activity must “transform the claim into ‘significantly more than a patent upon the' ineligible concept itself.” Rapid Litig. Mgmt., Ltd. v. CellzDirect, Inc., 827 F.3d 1042, 1047 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (quoting Mayo, 132 S.Ct. at 1294).

         B. Step One: Are Claims Directed to a Patent Ineligible Concept?

         InfoBionic contends that “[t]he '207 patent claims are directed to the abstract idea of identifying [AF] by looking at the variability in time between heartbeats and taking into account ventricular beats.” Def.'s Mem. 11 [#37]. InfoBionic argues that because AF “are characterized by the ‘loss of synchrony between the atria and the ventricles' leading to ‘irregular' heart beating, looking at the variability in time between heartbeats, taking into account any ventricular beats, has long been the way to diagnose these conditions.” Id. (quoting '207 Patent 11 col. 1:23-29 [#25-1]). InfoBionic argues further that “[t]he '207 patent . . . claims automatically identifying [AF] in the same way doctors have always done, ” and “broadly claims the automated process itself without specifying a particular implementation.” Id. InfoBionic asserts that the '207 patent “does not claim any new or improved approach to detecting [AF].” Id. Plaintiffs dispute that the '207 patent is directed to an abstract idea, and argue instead that the '207 patent “represents an improvement to the function of cardiac monitoring devices, ” Pls.' Opp'n 10 [#40], and that the asserted claims “are directed to a concrete improvement in the signal processing and analysis capabilities of cardiac monitoring devices.” Id. at 14.

         To determine whether computerized technology is directed to an abstract idea, the court “asks whether the focus of the claims is on the specific asserted improvement in computer capabilities . . . or, instead, on a process that qualifies as an ‘abstract idea' for which computers are merely invoked as a tool.” Enfish, 822 F.3d at 1335-36. If “the plain focus of the claims is on an improvement to computer functionality itself, ” it is not directed to an abstract idea. Id. at 1336. However, if the “claims ‘simply add[] conventional computer components to well-known business practices,' . . . or ‘a purely conventional computer implementation of a mathematical formula,' or ‘generalized steps to be performed on a computer using conventional computer activity, '” it is directed to an abstract idea. In re TLI Commc'ns LLC Patent Litig., 823 F.3d 607, 612 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (quoting Enfish, 822 F.3d at 1338).

         The Federal Circuit has found that computer-implemented claims for collecting and analyzing data to find specific events may be patent-ineligible abstract ideas. In FairWarning IP, LLC v. Iatric Sys., Inc., for example, the Federal Circuit considered a patent that “relate[d] to a system and method of detecting fraud and/or misuse in a computer environment based on analyzing data.” 839 F.3d 1089, 1093 (Fed. Cir. 2016). The patented method “collect[ed] information regarding accesses of a patient's personal health information, analyze[d] the information according to one of several rules . . . to determine if the activity indicates improper access, and provide[d] notification if it determine[d] that improper access ha[d] occurred.” Id. In holding that the patent was an ineligible abstract idea, the court emphasized that “the ‘realm of abstract ideas' includes ‘collecting information, including when limited to particular content, '” and that “analyzing information by steps people go through in their minds, or by mathematical algorithms, without more, [are] essentially mental processes within the abstract-idea category.” Id. (quoting Elec. Power Grp., LLC v. Alstom S.A., 830 F.3d 1350, 1353 (Fed. Cir. 2016)). The court also explained that “merely presenting the results of abstract processes of collecting and analyzing information, without more (such as identifying a particular tool for presentation), is abstract as an ancillary part of such collection and analysis.” Id. (quoting Elec. Power, 830 F.3d at 1353). The court concluded that because the claims at issue were “directed to collecting and analyzing information to detect misuse and notifying a user when misuse is detected, ” the claims were patent ineligible. Id. at 1094.

         Similarly, in Berkheimer v. HP Inc., the Federal Circuit found at step 1 that the claims of a patent for a digital asset management system were “directed to the abstract ideas of parsing, comparing, storing and editing data, ” and were similar to other claims the court had found directed to an abstract idea in prior cases. 881 F.3d 1360, 1366 (Fed. Cir. 2018) (citing In re TLI Commc'ns LLC Patent Litig., 823 F.3d at 613 (claims recited method for recording images, transmitting the images and classification information, and storing the images based on the classification information directed to the abstract idea of “classifying and storing digital images in an organized manner”), and Content Extraction, 776 F.3d at 1347 (claims recited method of extracting data from hard copy documents, recognizing specific information from the data and storing the information directed to the abstract idea of collection data, recognizing certain data within the collected data set, and storing that recognized data in a memory)).

         Review of the '207 patent shows that the claims add conventional computer components to the abstract idea that AF can be distinguished by focusing on the variability of the irregular heartbeat. The specifications describe “systems and techniques” with various methods for monitoring that variability. '207 Patent 11 col. 1:46-12, col. 3:5 [#25-1]. The patent claims at issue in this case thus appear to be similarly directed to collecting and analyzing information to detect particular anomalies, and notifying the user when the anomaly is detected.

         Plaintiffs respond that the '207 patent is not directed to an abstract idea because it “represents an improvement to the function of cardiac monitoring devices.” Pls.' Opp'n 14 [#40]. They argue that “[t]hrough the use of specifically programmed rules, termed ‘determination logic,' coupled with beat detecting technology and an event generator, the invention improves a function specific to cardiac monitoring devices, namely the processing and ...

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