Netflix Secures Partial Victory in Streaming Video Patent Suit

An opinion issued Monday by a San Francisco, Calif. court found in favor of defendant Netflix Inc. in a twelve-patent challenge concerning video streaming technology brought by Broadcom Corporation and Avago Technologies International Sales Pte. Ltd. (together, Broadcom). The court said based on a representative claim of U.S. Patent No. 8,365,183 (the ’183 patent), the intellectual property was invalid because it was directed to patent-ineligible subject matter.

The court previously granted Netflix’s motion to dismiss the same claim but permitted Broadcom a chance to amend its complaint accusing three Netflix technologies of infringement: its Content Delivery Network, its back-end container management platform (Titus), and the software used to encode video.

According to the previous decision, “[t]he ’183 patent teaches a central processor that receives various jobs and then allocates those jobs to other servers in the system based on the capabilities and availabilities of those computers and what is needed for the jobs.”   

This time, Judge James Donato dismissed the claim with prejudice after finding that the patent was directed to an abstract idea and lacked an inventive concept. Netflix argued, and the court agreed that although the representative claim “teaches that the system can improve operational efficiency, the patent is still directed to the abstract idea of allocating tasks across the system.”

Broadcom made “highly general references to the process of using criteria to determine what devices are suitable for a new job and then allocating the work to the devices based on availability,” instead of identifying specific structures that perform and improve the system itself, Judge Donato said.

Secondarily, the court found that the representative claim lacked an inventive concept because it recited ordinary steps of conventional computer technology in a conventional order. Judge Donato deemed Broadcom’s allegations conclusory, as they did not explain what was unconventional about its “funnel approach” to solve the problem of “poor system performance and system failures in a distributed computing system.”

Broadcom and Avago Technologies are represented by Holland & Knight LLP and Hopkins & Carley and Netflix by Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP.