from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Texas in Nos. 2:16-cv-00529-RWS,
2:16-cv-00530-RWS, Judge Robert Schroeder, III.
R. Bennett, Direction IP Law, Chicago, IL, argued for
Ricardo Bonilla, Fish & Richardson PC, Dallas, TX, argued
for defendant-appellee. Also represented by David Brandon
Conrad, Neil J. McNabnay.
Reyna, Wallach, and Hughes, Circuit Judges.
HUGHES, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Tech LLC sued BuySeasons, Inc. for infringement of several
patents related to systems and methods for indexing
information stored in wide access databases. BuySeasons
sought dismissal of the suit based on its contention that
none of the asserted patent claims were patent-eligible under
35 U.S.C. § 101. The district court ultimately agreed
with BuySeasons and held all asserted claims invalid as
ineligible under § 101. We agree with the district court
that the asserted claims are ineligible and, thus, affirm.
three of BSG Tech's asserted patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 6,
035, 294, 6, 243, 699, and 6, 195, 652, have substantially
overlapping specifications and are directed to a
"self-evolving generic index" for organizing
information stored in a database. '294 patent col. 3 ll.
24-25. This indexing software organizes information about
various items using classifications, parameters, and values.
Id. at col. 4 ll. 28-42, col. 6 ll. 38-61. For
example, information about a car could be organized as a
series of classifications, such as a first
"Automobile" classification, a second "Used
Vehicle" classification, and a third "Sports
Utility Vehicle" classification. Id. at col. 4
ll. 31-34. Alternatively, items could be described using
parameters and values. A parameter is a set of qualities that
an item could possess, while a value is the specific quality
that the item possesses. For instance, items in the database
could be classified using the "color" parameter,
while each item in the database will have a specific color
value like "red" or "blue." Id.
at col. 3 ll. 30-45.
art indices also organized information using classifications,
parameters, and values. According to the patents'
specifications, prior "specialty indices" organized
information about specific types of products or services. For
example, a real estate specialty index could use property
classifications like commercial or residential; organize
properties using parameters like location or square footage;
and store data corresponding to the values of those
parameters. Id. at col. 1 ll. 49-57. Database users
could more finely control their searches for particular data
entries by using parameters and values to limit search
results. Id. at col. 2 ll. 60-62. The specifications
also describe "hierarchical indices" that sorted
information about products and services by tiers of
increasingly narrow classifications. Id. at col. 2
ll. 30-42. Using this type of index, a user searching for the
geographical location of a service could find services in Los
Angeles by continuously narrowing from broader categories
like North America, United States, California, and Southern
California. Id. at col. 2 ll. 39-42.
Tech alleges that these prior art indices suffered from
several shortcomings. Specialty indices enabled refined
searching through use of parameter combinations, but the
parameters used to describe one item were often inapplicable
to other items. Id. at col. 1 ll. 60-67. For
example, parameters that helpfully differentiate real estate
properties, like square footage, would be useless for
categorizing cars. Id. at col. 1 ll. 53-67. As a
result, these specialty indices could not handle information
about wide ranges of products and services. Id.
While hierarchical indices could organize information about
wide ranges of products and services by sorting them into
distinct categories, these indices did not allow users
"to select small subsets of records, and to sort the
selected records, based upon parameters." Id.
at col. 2 ll. 30-48.
patents teach that the "self-evolving" aspect of
the claimed invention addresses these shortcomings by
enabling users to "add new parameters for use in
describing items." Id. at col. 3 ll. 26-27.
Although users are free to add any new parameter to the
index, the claimed invention seeks to guide user inputs to
maintain consistency in how different users describe items.
To guide users, the system provides them with information
about parameters and values that previous users chose when
describing similar items. Id. at col. 5 ll. 21-25.
For instance, a user inputting information about a car could
be presented with historical usage information showing that
prior users commonly described car items using year, model,
and price parameters. The usage information would include
information about the relative frequency at which various
parameters or values were used. Id. at col. 5 ll.
claims at issue are directed toward systems and methods of
indexing that combine some or all of these features. In the
Eastern District of Texas, BSG Tech sued BuySeasons for
infringement of the '699, '294, and '652 patents.
BSG Tech asserted four claims from the '699 patent. Claim
A method of indexing and retrieving data being posted by a
plurality of users to a wide area network, comprising:
providing the users with a mechanism for posting the data as
providing the users with listings of previously used
parameters and previously used values for use in posting the
providing the users with summary comparison usage information
corresponding to the previously used parameters and values
for use in posting the data; and
providing subsequent users with the listings of previously
used parameters and values, and corresponding summary
comparison usage information for use in searching the network
for an item of interest.
'699 patent col. 10 l. 64-col. 11 l. 10. Claims 2, 3, and
4 depend from claim 1 and further require, respectively, the
user to add a new parameter, the user to add a new value, and
providing the user with a classification system for ...