Search Error! Federal Circuit Invalidates Vringo Search Engine Patents

On August 15, the Federal Circuit, in a nonprecedential opinion, reversed a lower court ruling, denying I/P Engine, Inc., a subsidiary of Vringo, Inc., a $30 million patent infringement jury verdict by invalidating two of its internet search engine patents.

I/P Engine brought suit against AOL Inc., Google, Inc., and others in the Eastern District of Virginia for allegedly infringing its patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 6,314,420 and 6,775,664, which relate to systems and methods for filtering internet search results, using both content-based and collaborative filtering. In November 2012, the district court found I/P Engine’s patents valid and that defendants infringed those patents. The jury awarded I/P Engine over $30 million in damages and a 3.5% running royalty.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit held that the claims of the patents-in-suit were obvious over the prior art, holding that “no reasonable jury could conclude otherwise.” The majority found fundamental flaws in I/P Engine’s arguments that “it would not have been obvious to a person of ordinary skill in the art to filter items for relevance to a user’s query using combined content and collaborative data.” On the contrary, the majority concluded that using a user’s search query for filtering was a technique widely implemented in the prior art, a fact acknowledged in the specifications of both patents-in-suit. The majority also found that “the common sense of a skilled artisan would likewise have suggested retaining the query for use in the filtering process.”

In dissent, Judge Chen voiced concern over the majority’s failure “to accord sufficient deference” to the factual findings of the jury, and found the majority’s use of “common sense to bridge the gap between the prior art and the claims” was not adequately supported by Defendants’ evidence.

Vringo has announced its intent to file a petition seeking en banc review.

Gibbons will continue to monitor the developments in this case.

Estelle J. Tsevdos, Ph.D. is a Director in the Gibbons Intellectual Property Department.
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