Court Denies Amazon’s Motion To Dismiss

On Wednesday in the District of Delaware, Amazon’s motion to dismiss plaintiff VB Assets’ patent complaint was denied because the court found that Amazon failed to tailor its arguments to the asserted claims and that more information was needed before the judge could make a ruling. In the underlying First Amended Complaint, VB Assets alleged their predecessor had pioneered “voice-based search and commerce technology” well before Amazon had in its Echo devices.

Amazon moved to dismiss by asserting that the claims for the patent-in-suit “are invalid as claiming ineligible subject matter.” Amazon pled that the First Amended Complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim. To determine patent-eligible subject matter, the court applied the Alice framework, whereby “the claims are considered in their entirety to ascertain whether their character as a whole is directed to excluded subject matter” and “in searching for an inventive concept, the Court looks at the claim elements and their combination to determine if they transform the ineligible concept into something ‘significantly more.’”

In its order, the court found that the defendants’ “conclusory assertions that claims are representative are not sufficient.” The court did not find Amazon’s argument about the plaintiff’s claim construction convincing because Amazon merely stated what the plaintiff did in its complaint.

In analyzing the claims themselves, the court was skeptical of Amazon’s argument that claim 41 of the ’681 patent is “directed to ‘the abstract idea of responding to a spoken request using shared information.’” The plaintiff claimed that this “is not directed to an abstract idea but instead to an improvement over prior voice recognition computer systems.” The court sided with the plaintiff, adding that Amazon “oversimplified claim 41 and characterized it at an improperly high level of abstraction.”

The court also found that claim 11 of the’ 049 patent was not directed to an abstract idea, but that claim 30 of the ’703 patent is because it “is claiming organizing human activity, an abstract idea.” The court stated that “it claims a result in a functional manner without sufficient description of how the claimed result is achieved.” Claim 1 of the ’097 patent and claim 44 of the ’536 patent were found to be abstract because they cover “providing promotional content in response to natural language utterances and processing natural language responses to promotional content based on pronouns, respectively.”

The court concluded that “there are factual issues that preclude dismissal. As a result, the court has denied Amazon’s motion as to all of the claims addressed, but “there are at least two claims that survive a 101 challenge before me.” The court stated that as the case proceeds and the record develops, the defendant can raise the issues again, but the arguments must “be tailored to asserted claims.”  

Amazon is represented by Ashby & Geddes and Fenwick & West. VB Assets is represented by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.