AZA Win Over Google in Patent Infringement Dispute Stands
February 26, 2019

HOUSTON – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit refused requests from Google LLC to revisit the court’s ruling in a dispute over three spreadsheet patents asserted by Data Engine Technologies LLC, a unit of Acacia Research Corp.

In asking that the appellate court reconsider its ruling, Google called the court’s previous decision “dangerous” and said it could have far-reaching consequences.

In October 2018, the Federal Circuit ruled for AZA’s client in a precedent-setting decision. The appellate bench said that a Delaware court was incorrect when it tossed out the claims against Google for its use of Data Engine’s patented notebook-tab type improvements to spreadsheets that made them more user-friendly.

Google has argued the patents are invalid because they only cover abstract ideas that can’t be patented. But the appellate court said the three patents provided “a highly intuitive, user-friendly interface with familiar notebook tabs for navigating the three-dimensional worksheet environment.”

“Our client is pleased to see the Federal Circuit is not wavering in its recognition of the spreadsheet patents. The case has become important because the court applied the guidelines set forth in the major patent decision Alice v. CLS Bank,” said Amir Alavi, a partner at AZA, or Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Mensing. He represents Data Engine Technologies in the appeal along with AZA associates Ifti Ahmed and Alisa Lipski.

Data Engine sued Google in 2014, alleging that Google Sheets infringed on the spreadsheet patents. The spreadsheet tabs were invented in 1992 and won many awards for their innovation. Google argued they were just like tabs in notebooks or file folders, but the appellate court said using a real-world analogy does not negate the patent eligibility of the invention.

This case was covered by the national legal news service Law360 in “Full Fed. Circ. Won’t Review ‘Dangerous’ Alice Reversal” (subscription required) and “Fed. Circ. Undoes Google’s Alice Win On Spreadsheet Patents” (subscription required). Law360 also dubbed the lawyers for Google “legal lambs” for losing their bid for reconsideration.

The case is Data Engine Technologies LLC v. Google LLC, number 2017-1135, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

AZA, or Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Mensing, is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, intellectual property, and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized by Chambers USA 2018 among the best in Texas commercial law; by U.S. News – Best Lawyers’ Best Law Firms as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms for seven years running including 2019; and previously by Law360 as a Texas Powerhouse law firm. National corporate counsel named AZA one of the country’s best in client service among law firms serving the Fortune 1000.


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