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By Tony Dutra
Aug. 19 — A patent on a method for music playback on a portable media device is ineligible for patenting, according to an Aug. 19 opinion by an International Trade Commission judge ( Certain Portable Electronic Devices and Components Thereof, Int'l Trade Comm'n, Inv. No. 337-TA-994, 8/19/16).
The ITC, under 19 U.S.C. §1337, generally considers requests to bar imports of devices. Challenges involving ineligibility of a patented method are not typical at the commission. But the ITC can order an import bar if a feature of the device infringes a patented method.
Creative Technology Ltd.'s U.S. Patent No. 6,928,433 claims a method that automatically files music tracks according to a hierarchical structure of categories.
Administrative Law Judge David P. Shaw's “final initial determination”—which is subject to the ITC commissioners' review—ruled that the portable media player of the patent “merely provides a generic environment in which to carry out the abstract idea of organizing media tracks.”
Singapore-based Creative and its U.S. subsidiary, Creative Labs, Inc. of Milpitas, Calif., sought to stop imports of portable media players and computers by Sony, Samsung, LG Electronics, Lenovo, Motorola Mobility, HTC and Blackberry, among others.
Google Inc.'s Play Music app was at issue in the case because several of the devices supported it. However, the ITC rejected Google's motion to intervene.
The full commission has ruled on two other patent eligibility cases already this year. Certain Activity Tracking Devices, Inv. No. 337-TA-963, Order No. 40 (Mar. 3, 2016); and Certain Automated Teller Machines, ATM Products, Components Thereof, and Products Containing the Same , Inv. No. 337- TA-972, Order No. 21 (June 28, 2016).
In both cases, it affirmed the ALJ's ruling that method patents were ineligible.
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