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First-Class Monitoring, LLC v. United Parcel Service of America, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Marshall Division

July 22, 2019

FIRST-CLASS MONITORING, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE OF AMERICA, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM C. BRYSON, UNITED STATES CIRCUIT JUDGE

         This is a patent infringement action brought by plaintiff First-Class Monitoring, LLC (“FCM”) against defendant United Parcel Service of America, Inc. (“UPS”). Before the Court is UPS's motion to dismiss the complaint based on patent ineligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Dkt. No. 19. Following briefing and oral argument before the Court on July 10, 2019, the Court GRANTS the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff FCM is the assignee and owner of U.S. Patent No. 6, 014, 089 (“the '089 patent”), which is entitled “Method for Transmitting Data Using a Digital Control Channel of a Wireless Network, ” and which is directed to methods for transmitting data, such as utility meter readings, to a remote device using a personal communications system. Dkt. No. 1, at 2. The '089 patent issued from U.S. Application No. 08/920, 085. '089 patent, Cover Sheet. That application was a continuation-in-part of U.S. Application No. 08/740, 361, now U.S. Patent No. 6, 150, 955 (“the '955 patent”). The '955 patent is directed to a meter reader (such as a utility meter reader) and apparatus and methods for wirelessly transmitting the meter readings to a remote device. '955 patent, Cover Sheet. On March 28, 2019, FCM filed a complaint against UPS, alleging infringement of at least claim 8 of the '089 patent. Dkt. No. 1, at 3. Subsequently, FCM served its preliminary infringement contentions, asserting claims 6 and 8 of the '089 patent. Dkt. No. 23, at 1.

         I. The '089 Patent

         The '089 patent relates to “an apparatus and associated method for transmitting, receiving, storing, processing and digitally re-transmitting . . . information” from a data collection device to a remote receiving device via any personal communication system that employs a digital control channel. '089 patent, col. 1, ll. 12-22. The specification of the '089 patent discusses two general embodiments of the invention. The first embodiment “describes the use of the digital control channel to transmit data from one device to another using a drop and add packet technique.” The second embodiment describes “the use of the short message portion of the personal communications system transmission protocol to transmit data from one device to another.” Id., col. 11, ll. 31-36.

         1. First Embodiment: the Drop and Add Packet Technique

         The specification explains that under existing wireless network technologies, such as Global Standards for Mobile Communications (GSM), Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) Technology, Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), Frequency Division Multiple Access (FDMA), and Personal Access Communications System (PACS), “there are 8 logical channels per radio frequency channel which are available for communication” between devices. Id., col. 6, ll. 44-46; see id., col. 1, ll. 17-22. Of the 8 logical channels, “7 channels are used for voice/data transmission and 1 channel is used as a control channel.” Id., col. 6, ll. 46-48. According to the specification, the control channel “is normally used by the GSM, PACS, PDMA, CDMA or TDMA network to verify the caller's identification and billing information.” Id., col. 6, ll. 48-50. Given those limited functions, there are periods of time when the control channel is not is use. During periods when the control channel is not being used for those purposes, it “is capable of transmitting data over the network system without interfering with other control channel transmission.” Id., col. 6, ll. 54-59.

         Data transmission during periods of non-use is accomplished using the “drop and add packet” technique. That technique repurposes the mechanism by which data is transmitted over the control channel. The '089 specification explains that because the control channel is generally underutilized, many of the transmission packets sent over the control channel contain no wireless network transmission information. Those packets are known as “dummy packets.” The invention described in the first embodiment entails removing dummy packets that contain no transmission information and replacing them with “diverted transmission” packets. The diverted transmission packets contain data and instructions that can be used to enable the remote device to control individual data collection devices. In addition, the diverted transmission packets can contain data that the data collection devices collect and then transmit back to the remote device. Id., col. 5, ll. 53-61; col. 6, ll. 29-36.

         2. Second Embodiment: the Short Message Portion of the Personal Communication System Transmission Protocol

         Beginning with column 11, the '089 specification describes an alternative embodiment for transmitting, receiving, storing, processing, and digitally re-transmitting information directly to a remote receiving device. That embodiment “employs the use of the short message portion of a personal communications system transmission protocol.” Id., col. 11, ll. 34-35. The short message service uses a portion of the control channel of a personal communications system “to send a protocol specific number of characters of data to and from a mobile subscriber (MS).” Id., col. 11, ll. 59-60.

         In that embodiment, when a request for data is made, a remote device “encodes the request in the short message service portion of the control channel.” Id., col. 12, ll. 12-14. That data is “assembled into the control channel data sequence using various known techniques.” Id., col. 12, ll. 15-17. The specification discusses one assembly technique in detail, but emphasizes that “other techniques of assembling the control channel may be used.” Id., col. 12, ll. 43-44.

         3. The Asserted Claims

         The asserted claims of the '089 patent recite methods for transmitting a data sequence via the short message portion of a control channel. See id., claims 1, 6-8. Claim 1, from which asserted claim 6 depends, recites the following:

1. A method for transmitting a data sequence via a personal communications system transmission protocol comprising the steps of:
composing at least one data packet including a request for data said at least one data packet including said request for data being in a form which conforms to conventional short message data packets;
transmitting said at least one data packet including said request for data from an access point to a data collection unit via a short message service portion of a control channel of the personal communications system transmission protocol as one or more short messages, wherein said step of transmitting said at least one data packet including said request for data includes the step of inserting said at least one data packet including said request for data into the control channel;
receiving said at least one data packet including said request for data at said data collection unit; interpreting said request or data from said access point by said data collection unit;
compiling data from said data collection unit, said compiled data being requested in said request for data;
composing at least one data packet including, said compiled data, said at least one data packet including compiled data being in a form which conforms conventional short message data packets;
transmitting said at least one data packet including said compiled data from said data collection unit to said access point via said short message service portion of the control channel of the personal communications system transmission protocol as one or more short messages, wherein said step of transmitting said at least one data packet including said compiled data includes the step of ...

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