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MyMail, Ltd. v. Oovoo, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

August 16, 2019

MYMAIL, LTD., Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
OOVOO, LLC, IAC SEARCH & MEDIA, INC., Defendants-Appellees

          Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in Nos. 5:17-cv-04487-LHK, 5:17-cv-04488-LHK, Judge Lucy H. Koh.

          Eric William Buether, Buether Joe & Carpenter LLC, Dallas, TX, argued for plaintiff-appellant. Also represented by Blake William Buether.

          Robert Louis Hails, Jr., Baker & Hostetler LLP, Washington, DC, argued for defendants-appellees. Also represented by T. Cy Walker; Kevin Patrick Flynn, Cincinnati, OH; Jared A. Brandyberry, Denver, CO.

          Before Lourie, O'Malley, and Reyna, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          REYNA, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         MyMail, Ltd. appeals the decision of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granting ooVoo, LLC's and IAC Search & Media, Inc.'s motions for judgment on the pleadings. Because we determine that the district court erred by declining to resolve the parties' claim construction dispute before adjudging patent eligibility, we vacate and remand.

         Background

         MyMail, Ltd. ("MyMail") is the assignee of U.S. Patent Nos. 8, 275, 863 ("the '863 patent") and 9, 021, 070 ("the '070 patent") (collectively, the "MyMail patents"). On November 18, 2016, MyMail filed suit against ooVoo, LLC ("ooVoo") in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas for infringement of the MyMail patents. About a month later, MyMail asserted its patents against IAC Search & Media, Inc. ("IAC"), also in the Eastern District of Texas. ooVoo and IAC each moved to dismiss their respective actions for improper venue. After the Supreme Court's opinion in TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, 137 S.Ct. 1514 (2017), all parties agreed to transfer the lawsuits to the Northern District of California. On July 12, 2017, both cases were transferred.

         On October 31, 2017, ooVoo and IAC each filed identical motions for judgment on the pleadings, asserting that the MyMail patents are directed to patent-ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. MyMail opposed both motions, arguing that the claimed inventions are patent eligible, as evidenced in part by a construction of the term "toolbar" rendered by the Eastern District of Texas in an earlier proceeding involving the '070 patent. MyMail encouraged the court to adopt the Eastern District of Texas's construction of "toolbar" as part of its § 101 analysis. ooVoo and IAC opposed the adoption of that construction. But the district court in this case did not construe "toolbar" or any other terms of the MyMail patent claims. Nor did the court address the parties' dispute. Instead, on March 16, 2018, the district court issued orders granting ooVoo's and IAC's motions for judgment on the pleadings, holding the MyMail patents invalid under § 101. MyMail timely appealed both orders and this court consolidated the appeals.

         I. The MyMail Patents

         The MyMail patents are directed to methods of modifying toolbars that are displayed on Internet-connected devices such as personal computers. MyMail asserts claims 1-5, 9-13, 16-17, 19-20, and 23 of the '863 patent and claims 1-13 and 15-22 of the '070 patent (the "MyMail patent claims"). The parties agree that claim 1 of the '863 patent and claim 1 of the '070 patent are representative of the claimed subject matter for each patent, respectively.[1]The representative claims for both patents are reproduced below.

         Claim 1 of the '863 patent recites:

1. A method of modifying a toolbar, comprising the steps of:
a user Internet device displaying a toolbar comprising one or more buttons, the toolbar defined by toolbar data stored in one or more toolbar-defining databases, the toolbar data comprising a plurality of attributes, each attribute associated with a button of the toolbar, wherein for each button of the toolbar, at least one of the plurality of attributes identifying a function to be performed when the button is actuated by the user Internet device;
the user Internet device automatically sending a revision level of the one or more toolbar-defining databases to a predetermined network address;
a server at the predetermined network address determining, from the revision level, the user Internet device should receive the toolbar update data;
the user Internet device receiving toolbar update data from the Internet;
the user Internet device initiating without user interaction an operation to update the toolbar data in accordance with the toolbar update data received;
the user Internet device updating, by the operation, the toolbar data in accordance with the toolbar update data, thereby producing updated toolbar data, the updating comprising at least one of the following steps (a) and (b), each respectively comprising:
(a)writing at least one new attribute to the original toolbar data, wherein the writing at least one new attribute to the toolbar data comprises changing the one or more buttons of the toolbar by adding a button; and
(b) updating at least one attribute of the toolbar data; and the user Internet device displaying the toolbar as defined by ...

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