The United States District Court For The Southern District Of New York Finds That Patent Claims Directed To Picking An Outfit Are Not Patentable
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  • The United States District Court For The Southern District Of New York Finds That Patent Claims Directed To Picking An Outfit Are Not Patentable

    On February 21, 2023, Magistrate Judge Aaron of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York recommended that the District Court grant defendant’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss patent claims, finding that the claims of the asserted patent were directed to patent-ineligible subject matter.  Stylitics, Inc. v. Findmine, Inc., Case No. 1-22-cv-02983 (S.D.N.Y. February 21, 2023).

    Plaintiff Stylitics, Inc. (“Stylitics”) developed and patented a software tool called “Auto-Styler,” which generates and displays collages of outfits, each consisting of multiple attractively arranged and appropriately sized complementary products.  Defendant Findmine, Inc. (“Findmine”) developed a similar tool called “Complete the Look” to secure a contract with one of Stylitics’s customers.

    Stylitics sued Findmine for infringement of its patent relating to the Auto-Styler product (the “Auto-Styler Patent”), which was directed to automatically generating a plurality of outfits that conform to one or more styles and presenting the generated outfits to a user.  Findmine responded by filing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion asserting that the Auto-Styler Patent is invalid for failing to claim patent-eligible subject matter pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 101, arguing that the claims are directed to automating tasks that long have been done by human stylists.  In its opposition, Stylitics argued that the claims are directed to specific improvements for a retailer’s online store.  In particular, Stylitics argued that the claims of the patent focus on use of a style definition and its customized digital presentation of the recommended outfit in a single interface, which Stylitics asserted are improvements over prior art systems.

    Section 101 of the Patent Act authorizes inventors to obtain patents for “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.”  35 U.S.C. § 101.  To assess patent eligibility, the Supreme Court in Alice articulated a two-part test.  Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 573 U.S. 208, 216 (2014).  First, courts must “determine whether the claims at issue are directed to a patent-ineligible concept,” such as an abstract idea.  Id. at 218.  If so, then courts must determine whether any of the claims “transform that abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention.”  Id. at 221.

    Magistrate Judge Aaron applied the Alice test, finding that the claims were directed to the abstract idea of styling a clothing outfit, and that the idea of using a set of criteria to decide what clothing items to pair together, and presenting the outfit in an appealing way, is the essence of what a stylist does; something that human stylists have been doing for generations.  Moreover, the Court found that the claims describe steps taken on a computer in functional terms that lack specificity or technical detail.  The Court then proceeded to step two of the Alice test, finding that the claims seek to automate the in-store experience of curating outfits by a stylist, and that the claims follow the same process that a stylist in a retail store would use to select and display a clothing outfit.  The Court therefore concluded that the claims do not recite patentable-eligible subject matter.