United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division
PITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant Zoho Corporation's
(“Zoho”) motion to dismiss, (Dkt. 15), along with
responsive briefing, (Dkts. 16, 18). At the parties'
request, the Court heard argument on the motion on April 25,
2019, (see Dkt. 33), after which the parties filed
supplemental briefing, (Dkts. 34, 35). Having considered the
parties' briefs and arguments, the record, and the
relevant law, the Court finds that the motion should be
a patent infringement suit concerning teleconferencing and
application sharing. (Am. Compl., Dkt. 14, at 4-16).
Plaintiff Visible Connections, LLC (“Visible”)
alleges that Zoho has infringed two patents: U.S. Patent No.
6, 665, 392 (the “‘392 Patent”) and 7, 284,
203 (the “‘203 Patent”). (Id.).
The ‘392 Patent describes a method for operationally
associating a conference call participant's telephone
connection to a conference call system with a data connection
via the internet. (Id. at 5-6). According to
Visible, the ‘392 Patent improves upon prior art by
allowing participants to establish this connection without
pre-registering and without requiring the host to send each
participant a unique access code. (Id. at 7-9).
‘203 Patent, meanwhile, describes a method for
real-time application sharing. (Id. at 13).
According to Visible, the ‘203 Patent improves on prior
art by allowing sharing without preexisting knowledge of
associated conferencing programs and by providing data about
participants to the host. (Id. at 13-14).
a company that provides conferencing software to businesses.
(Id. at 17). Visible alleges that Zoho's
software infringes both patents, both directly and
indirectly. (Id. at 25-45). Zoho now asks the Court
to dismiss all of Visible's claims pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the ground that the
‘392 and ‘203 Patents are invalid under 35 U.S.C.
§ 101 for failing to claim patentable subject matter.
(Mot. Dismiss, Dkt. 15, at 2).
to Rule 12(b)(6), a court may dismiss a complaint for
“failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In deciding a 12(b)(6)
motion, a “court accepts ‘all well-pleaded facts
as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.'” In re Katrina Canal Breaches
Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Martin K. Eby Constr. Co. v. Dallas Area Rapid
Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004)). “To
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint
‘does not need detailed factual allegations,' but
must provide the plaintiff's grounds for entitlement to
relief-including factual allegations that when assumed to be
true ‘raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.'” Cuvillier v. Taylor, 503 F.3d
397, 401 (5th Cir. 2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). That is, “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
has facial plausibility “when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. “The tenet that a court
must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a
complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”
Id. A court ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion may rely on
the complaint, its proper attachments, “documents
incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of
which a court may take judicial notice.” Dorsey v.
Portfolio Equities, Inc., 540 F.3d 333, 338 (5th Cir.
2008) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). A
court may also consider documents that a defendant attaches
to a motion to dismiss “if they are referred to in the
plaintiff's complaint and are central to her
claim.” Causey v. Sewell Cadillac-Chevrolet,
Inc., 394 F.3d 285, 288 (5th Cir. 2004). But because the
court reviews only the well-pleaded facts in the complaint,
it may not consider new factual allegations made outside the
complaint. Dorsey, 540 F.3d at 338. “[A]
motion to dismiss under 12(b)(6) ‘is viewed with
disfavor and is rarely granted.'” Turner v.
Pleasant, 663 F.3d 770, 775 (5th Cir. 2011) (quoting
Harrington v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 563
F.3d 141, 147 (5th Cir. 2009)).
a claim is drawn to patent-eligible subject matter under
Section 101 is a “threshold inquiry.” In re
Bilski, 545 F.3d 943, 950-51 (Fed. Cir. 2008),
aff'd sub nom. Bilski v. Kappos, 561 U.S. 593
(2010). If a claim is not drawn to patent-eligible subject
matter, it “must be rejected even if it meets all the
other legal requirements of patentability.”
Id. Section 101 allows inventors to obtain patents
on “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture,
or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement
thereof.” 35 U.S.C. § 101. However, “this
provision contains an important implicit exception:” an
inventor may not patent laws of nature, natural phenomena, or
abstract ideas. Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank
Int'l, 573 U.S. 208, 216 (2014). Zoho argues that
Visible's patents are patent-ineligible because they are
directed to abstract ideas. (See, e.g., Mot.
Dismiss, Dkt. 15, at 2-3).
determine whether a patent claim violates this exception to
the terms of § 101, the Supreme Court has set forth a
two-step framework in which a court determines: (1) whether
the claim is “directed to a patent-ineligible
concept”-a law of nature, natural phenomenon, or
abstract idea-and, if so, (2) whether the elements of the
claim, considered “both individually and ‘as an
ordered combination, '” add enough to
“‘transform the nature of the claim' into a
patent-eligible application.” Alice Corp., 573
U.S. at 217 (quoting Mayo Collaborative Servs. v.
Prometheus Labs., Inc., 566 U.S. 66, 78 (2012)). In the
context of an abstract-idea challenge to a patent claim, as
here, those two steps are typically understood as the
“abstract idea” step and the “inventive
concept” step. Interval Licensing LLC v. AOL,
Inc., 896 F.3d 1335, 1342 (Fed. Cir. 2018) (citing
Affinity Labs of Tex., LLC v. DIRECTV, LLC, 838 F.3d
1253, 1257-58 (Fed. Cir. 2016)).
patent eligibility under Section 101 is “ultimately a
question of law, ” it “may contain underlying
issues of fact.” Berkheimer v. HP Inc., 881
F.3d 1360, 1365 (Fed. Cir. 2018). Accordingly, patent
eligibility can be determined at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage, but
only when “there are no factual allegations that, taken
as true, prevent resolving the eligibility question as a
matter of law.” Aatrix Software, Inc. v. Green
Shades Software, Inc., 882 F.3d 1121, 1125 (Fed. Cir.
2018). Because a “patent is presumed valid, . . . the
burden of establishing invalidity of a claim rests on the
party asserting invalidity by clear and convincing
evidence.” Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. v. LG
Elecs., Inc., 880 F.3d 1356, 1364 (Fed. Cir. 2018)
(citing 35 U.S.C. § 282; Microsoft Corp. v. i4i Ltd.
P'ship, 564 U.S. 91, 95 (2011)).
parties disagree vigorously about whether Visible's
patents fail step one of the Alice inquiry, based
both on the nature of the claims themselves and on the
synthesis and application of Federal Circuit precedent. (Mot.
Dismiss, Dkt. 15, at 10-13, 17-18; Resp. Mot. Dismiss, Dkt.
16, at 9-11, 17). The Court need not resolve this dispute
now, because even if each patent is directed to an abstract