In a lengthy and detailed opinion, EDVA Judge Hannah Lauck has dismissed a suit alleging infringement of seven patents relating to coordinating drivers to transport vehicles between locations, holding that the patents were not eligible for patent protection under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and Alice Corp. Pty. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 573 U.S. 208 (2014). DriverDo, LLC , d/b/a Draiver v. Social Auto Transport, Inc., d/b/a HopDrive, Civil Action No. 3:23cv265-MHL, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58460 (E.D.Va. March 29, 2024).

In Colonial River Wealth Advisors, LLC v. Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., No. 3:22cv717, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3058 (E.D. Va. Jan. 5, 2024), Judge Young granted the prevailing defendant’s fee petition, awarded $227,357 in attorneys’ fees, and concluded that block billing records provided by the defendant’s counsel “sufficiently permit[ed] the Court to assess the hours expended and the nature of the work completed.” Judge Young rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the block billing practices made it impossible to determine which attorneys’ fees were reasonable. Judge Young acknowledged that, though no per se rule against block billing exists, “in some instances, block billing may inhibit a court from accurately assessing the reasonableness of a fee request,” where lumped fee entries lacked sufficient detail and obscured the amount of time actually spent on the billed-for tasks. When block billing prevents the assessment of the reasonableness of the fees, a reduction of the fee award is appropriate. But in the case of the defendant’s fee petition, Judge Young was able to assess the reasonableness of the fee request, given the level of detail in the defendant’s counsel’s time entry descriptions. Using one example, the court noted that one 8.3 hour entry encompassed 11 discrete tasks, including review of a 309-page deposition transcript, the document production of another party, documents for use in upcoming deposition, and motion to quash various subpoenas. The court found it not unreasonable for the defendant’s counsel to have spent 8.3 hours on those tasks.

One issue a patent owner faces when attempting to enforce its patent is the notice given to a potential infringer. By sending a demand letter to a potential infringer, a patentee runs the risk of creating a basis for a declaratory judgment action for noninfringement. If the demand letter accuses the recipient of infringement, for example, the accused infringer can file a declaratory judgment action in a federal district court of its choosing, thus depriving the patentee of the ability to choose where suit is filed.

In a September 22 decision, District Judge David J. Novak denied the bulk of a motion to dismiss a suit alleging that a general contractor had infringed an architectural firm’s copyright on design plans for a brewery and tasting room to be built in Williamsburg. Michael Pellis Architecture PLC v. M.L. Bell Construction LLC, Civil Action No. 3:22CV470 (DJN), 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 169697 (E.D.Va. Sept. 22, 2023)

On September 18, in identical opinions issued in separate cases against Google and Apple, EDVA District Judge Michael Nachmanoff ruled that four patents directed toward geolocation of mobile devices claimed patent-ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Geoscope Technologies PTE, LTD. v. Apple Inc., Case No. 1:22CV1373, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165795 (E.D.Va. Sept. 18, 2023); Geoscope Technologies PTE, LTD. v. Google LLC, Case No. 1:22CV1331, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165802 (E.D.Va. Sept. 18, 2023).