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Who’s in Control?- Judge Furman Finds Artist Control of Playlist Not Patentable Subject Matter Under Section 101

On January 24, 2023, District Judge Jesse M. Furman (S.D.N.Y.) granted Defendant Block, Inc.’s (“Block”) motion to dismiss on the ground that the claims of U.S. Patent No. 9,009,113 (“the ’113 patent”) were directed to an abstract idea not eligible for patent protection. EscapeX IP LLC (“EscapeX”) accused Block of infringing the ’113 patent, which describes “a process for allowing artists to update ‘dynamic albums’ that are stored on user devices.” The patent claims a method for “receiving instructions from an artist to update a dynamic album stored on a user device.”

The Court applied the two-part test under Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 573 U.S. 208 (2014) to assess patent eligibility for the claims of the ’113 patent. At step one, the Court summarized that the claims of the ’113 patent are “directed to the idea of remotely updating content to a user device.” The Court noted that the ’113 patent provides the artist with control over the media content provided to a user device; however, this was not sufficient to maintain patent protection. “The ’113 patent does not improve any computer function or enhance some aspect of computer hardware or software.” Instead, the Court found that the patent merely directed one computing system to send instructions to another device to implement those instructions. “Because the focus of the ’113 patent is the abstract idea of remotely updating stored content, it is ineligible at Alice step one.” The Court also found that the ’113 patent claims’ focus on “results” and not “a specific method” supported the conclusion that the claims are directed to an abstract idea.

At Alice step two, the Court found that there was no “inventive concept” to render the claims of the ’113 patent eligible for patent protection. EscapeX argued that the inventive concept is “providing artist control of a dynamic album on a user’s device.” The Court found that this was little more than communicating between computing devices, and instead defined the invention as merely the abstract idea of “providing a computer system with remote control over content on user devices.”

The case is EscapeX IP LLC v. Block, Inc., Case. No. 22-cv-3575 (JFM) (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 24, 2023)