Post-Alice Plaintiffs Beware: The Northern District of California Awards Attorneys’ Fees in Exceptional Case

Abstract ideas are not patentable pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 101. And, in Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014) the Supreme Court set forth a framework to determine whether a patent is directed to an unpatentable abstract idea. Following Alice, defendants frequently move to dismiss patent infringement actions based on Section 101. That is exactly what recently happened in Cellspin Soft, Inc., v. Fitbit, Inc. in the Northern District of California. In that case, the 14 defendants filed a joint motion to dismiss pursuant to Section 101, arguing that the patents were directed to the “abstract concept” of acquiring, transferring, and publishing data and that the claims recited only “generic computer technology” to carry out the abstract idea, and thus lacked a requisite “transformative step” which would render the abstract idea patentable. The District Court agreed and entered judgment in the defendants’ favor. Following their successful motion to dismiss, the defendants moved, again successfully, for attorneys’ fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285. In patent infringement actions, courts have discretion, pursuant to Section 285, to award attorneys’ fees in an “exceptional case.” And, the district court found that the Cellspin case was just that. In...