Lowe’s Cos. Inc. has settled a lawsuit brought by a company that claimed the home improvement retailer sold security cameras that infringed of its patents. Iron Gate, holder of U.S. Patent No. 7,203,693, sued Lowe’s in the Southern District of New York, alleging infringement.

According to the patent, “none of the existing multimedia data indexing techniques permit indexing to be accomplished substantially concurrently or contemporaneously with the capture of the multimedia data.”  The claimed invention “introduces a new paradigm of converting a real world event in real time into a rich multimedia database by processing data from multiple sensors observing the event.”  This results in purported improvements of “(i) immersion in a virtual environment where the viewer can choose to view any part of the event from any desired viewpoint at any desired speed; (ii) the ability to visualize statistics and implicit information that is hidden in media data; (iii) the ability to search for, retrieve, compare and analyze content including video sequences, virtual replays and a variety of new visualizations; and (iv) the ability to access this information in real time over diverse networks.”  In an illustrative example, the patent describes video capture of a tennis match, through which sensor and pre-existing data may include “match-set-game hierarchy data, camera parameter data, player and tournament information, baseline, service line, net information, score / winner / ace information, and 3D environment models.”

Lowe’s contended that the invention was directed to the non-patentable abstract idea of “organizing data using an index so that newly obtained data can be associated with pre-existing data for purposes of subsequent retrieval.”  According to Lowe’s, such activity could be performed mentally, the claim did not include anything in addition to this concept other than generic computer components, and the invention did not improve over the prior art. Iron Gate rebutted by arguing that the patent involves “a specific methodology for real-time retrieval of data by processing motion data from a sensor in real time, indexing data from the sensor contemporaneously with its capture based on the processed real-time sensor data and pre-existing data, and generating an index by cross-indexing based on that data.”  This, according to Iron Gate, was an improvement to data access and storage technology, and provides a solution to the problem of real-time retrieval of multimedia data.

The Court found that the patent was not directed to “the addition of conventional computer components to well-known business practices, computer implementation of a mathematical formula, generalized steps (existing outside of the realm of computers) to be performed through conventional computer activity, or other concepts that can be formulated and implemented entirely within the human mind”. The Court refused to make any factual findings regarding whether the claimed invention could be performed in the human mind at this early stage of the proceedings, but it left open the possibility that Lowe’s could bring this challenge again at a later date. Observing that “it is easier to separate the two steps in recitation than in application and that the two steps could arguably be collapsed into a single one,” the Court found that “many of the same aspects that support the determination that the ‘693 Patent is not directed to an abstract idea and the claims nonetheless contain an inventive concept. Thus, the claims were determined to be patent-eligible, and Lowe’s motion was denied.

Keywords: Patent, Patent Infringement, Invention, Innovation, Technology, Database.