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Picking an Outfit Is Not Patentable: Judge Aaron Recommends Invention Ineligible Under Section 101

On February 21, 2023, United States Magistrate Judge Stewart D. Aaron (S.D.N.Y.) recommended that Defendant FindMine, Inc.’s (“FindMine”) motion to dismiss the complaint of Plaintiff Stylitics, Inc. (“Stylitics”) be granted for failure to claim patent-eligible subject matter. Stylitics asserted that FindMine infringed U.S. Patent No. 11,100,552 (“the ’552 patent) by using “Stylitics Auto-Styler to display hundreds of thousands of shoppable outfit collages on its websites.” The ’552 patent is directed to “an automated styler or so-called auto-styler . . .  for automatically generating a plurality of outfits that conform to one or more styles, and for presenting the generated outfits in a single presentation so that users may readily visualize different styles that can be created from pairing items. . . in an outfit.”  FindMine argued that the claims of the ’552 patent are directed “to the patent-ineligible abstract idea of recommending a clothing outfit.” Stylitics argued that the claims of the ’552 patent are eligible for patent protection because they are directed to specific improvements for a retailer’s online store.

In applying the Supreme Court’s two-part Alice test, the Court found that the independent claims were directed to the abstract idea of styling a clothing outfit: “The idea of using a set of criteria to decide what clothing items to pair together and presenting the outfit in an appealing way is the essence of what a stylist does and something that human stylists have been doing for generations.” The Court found that this was a “mental process” that was not eligible for patent protection. The Court also agreed with FindMine that “arranging clothing items on a computer instead of on a child’s bed, hanger, mannequin, or in a printed advertisement does not make the abstract idea patent eligible.” There was also no detail in the claims to provide the requisite “specificity or technical detail” to pass step one of the Alice test.

The Court then addressed step two of the Alice test to determine if the claims contain an inventive concept to demonstrate patent eligibility. The Court found that the process described by the claims of the ’552 patent “long has been performed manually by stylists, albeit in a less efficient way.” “The claims follow the same process that a stylist in a retail store would use to select and display a clothing outfit.” The Court also found that there are no specific improvements to computer functionality in the claims. Quite simply, the ’552 patent “seeks to automate the in-store experience of having a stylist offer clothing recommendations and/or curate an outfit for display.” The Court found that the dependent claims were substantially similar and linked to the same abstract idea, and thus were also not eligible for patent protection. As such, the Court found that the ’552 patent “is invalid for failing to claim patent-eligible subject matter and recommends that Defendant’s motion to dismiss be granted on that basis.”

The case is Stylitics, Inc. v. Findmine, Inc., Case No. 22-cv-02983 (PGG) (SDA) (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 21, 2023)