Twitter Fails to Defeat Social Network Suit

Twitter, Inc. was denied summary judgment of the claims brought by a social networking patent holder, VS Technologies, LLC.  In a decision rendered by Senior United States District Judge Henry Coke Morgan, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the claims by VS Technologies were permitted to proceed to trial which is scheduled to begin October 24, 2011.

The subject patent was issued to VS Technologies on June 18, 2002.  The patent’s abstract described the invention as a “method and system for creating an interactive virtual community of famous people.”  Twitter claimed that the “invention” did not constitute patentable subject matter, that it was not tied to a particular machine or apparatus, that it was not transformative, and that it was nothing more than an abstract idea that was entirely obvious.

Judge Morgan emphasized that the patent described multiple and discrete steps that constituted the particular method for the creation of the virtual community.  He found that those steps were required to be followed to achieve the interactive communication and that those processes were to be accomplished with the practical application of a computer and the internet.  He, thus, found that the “machine or apparatus” test was met.

Judge Morgan also found that summary judgment would be inappropriate based on the principle of transformation.  A process may be patent-eligible if it transforms a particular article into a different state or thing.  Judge Morgan reasoned that “a machine is involved in the process, and that process involves taking raw information and putting it into a format which enables people who are knowledgeable or skilled in a particular area to interact with others and discuss relevant topics in their particular field.”  He held that a jury could find that the subject patent was (1) tied to a machine or apparatus, or (2) transformed a particular article into a different state or thing.