Court agrees abstract ideas like caller ID and call waiting cannot be patented

By Dawn Geske | Apr 22, 2018

LOS ANGELES – Five cellular wireless carriers have been granted summary judgment in a patent infringement case for their use of call interrupting and notification services.

The carriers, Sprint Nextel Corp., Tracfone Wireless Inc., Verizon Wireless Services LLC; AT&T Mobility II LLC; and T-Mobile USA, are part of a lawsuit battle that claims their use of call waiting and caller ID features infringed upon a patent owned by Morris Reese.

In his lawsuit, Reese claims that the wireless carriers used technology that copied his U.S. Patent No. 6,868,150, according to the summary judgment order. Reese argued that the carriers violated claims 23 and 32 of his patent by indicating that the caller had another call through caller ID and by signaling to the caller that they had another call on the line as a call waiting feature.

The defendants in the case argued that Reese brings no material fact to the case. According to the summary judgment issued by U.S. District Judge Otis D Wright II in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the defendants argued Reese's claims are not patent eligible as the idea of call waiting and caller ID are “abstract ideas” that cannot hold a patent.

The wireless carriers pointed to the idea that Reese’s patent does not automate the “basic human activity” of being interrupted mid-call with another call. They claimed that Reese’s patent used an audible tone to notify callers of another call that has been flagged as a private call by their phone directory

In granting summary judgment, Wright ordered both parties to provide a joint status report by April 23 to determine if additional litigation is required.

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