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Snap Targets Blackberry ‘Action Spot’ Patents as Abstract

Aug. 5, 2019, 8:13 PM

Snap Inc. is arguing in federal court that claims in two BlackBerry patents involving the identification of “action spots” of interest to users should be voided.

The company asked the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California for a summary judgment that claims in Snap’s U.S. Patent Nos. 8,326,327 and 8,825,084 are invalid because they cover abstract ideas.

The move, the latest in an ongoing patent fight involving Snap, BlackBerry, and Facebook Inc., illustrates how companies may fight infringement allegations by pushing courts to invalidate patent claims.

Snap said the patents don’t cover anything new because locating and mapping activity matching an individual’s interest “has existed since the ancient times through smoke signals.”

Claims in the two BlackBerry patents “recite an abstract concept—locating and mapping activity of interest to an individual—using result-oriented limitations and conventional computing components, without sufficient limitation on how this result is achieved,” Snap argued.

BlackBerry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Snap pointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s decision in Trading Techs. Int’l, Inc. v. IBG LLC, which states “the collection, organization, and display of two sets of information on a generic display device is abstract,” as “a general rule.”

Those steps, Snap said, “undergird the abstract idea to which the action spot claims are directed.”

Under a two-step patent eligibility test the U.S. Supreme Court laid out in 2014 in Alice v. CLS Bank, a patented invention found to be directed at an abstract idea or law of nature is ineligible for patent protection unless it details an inventive concept taking it beyond the abstract.

BlackBerry’s asserted claims fail to add “significantly more’ to the abstract idea of locating and mapping activity to transform it into a patent-eligible application of that idea,” Snap said.

BlackBerry in 2018 sued Snap, claiming its Snapchat social media platform infringed its patents. Proceedings were consolidated with a BlackBerry suit against Facebook for pretrial purposes in September 2018.

Separately, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board Aug. 5 agreed to review one of the BlackBerry patents through a process that considers validity in light of older patents or published materials, known as prior art. Facebook challenged the patent.

Paul Hastings LLP is representing Snap. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan LLP represents BlackBerry.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ian Lopez in Washington at ilopez@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com