As society progresses into the 21st Century, online dating has been more and more prevalent. To protect their “intellectual property”, some dating websites have gone as far as to patent their online match making systems. A recent Southern District of New York case, FindTheBest.com, Inc. v. Lumen View Technology, LLC, has addressed the validity of these patents.
The central issue in this case was the patentability of Lumen View Technology’s (“Lumen”) U.S. No. 8,069,073 patent. This patent taught a method of matching couples through an online service in which individuals answered a set of pre-determine questions, and were paired off based on their answers “closeness of fit.”
In determining the validity of the patent, the court looked to 35 U.S.C. §101. In doing so, the court held the ‘073 patent was invalid, because it was not “new”.
Essentially, the court decided that the services offered by the ‘073 patent were just a computerized version of an art which has existed for millennia: matchmaking.
As the ‘073 patent did not improve the process of matchmaking, but only changed the medium which over which the matchmaking occurred, the patent did not meet the standards set out in §101.
Further, the algorithm by which the database matched couples was merely a mathematical formula, and thus not patentable. Mathematical formulas are considered a state of nature, and are never patentable.
The central takeaway from this case is that you can’t put an old technique in new packaging and call it “new.” Any invention or idea which has previously manifested can’t be “re-patented” when the same process is completed by a computer or put on the internet.