Alarm.com Prevails in Smart Home Patent Dispute With Vivint
The Federal Circuit confirmed a ruling by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board that invalidated claims in a Vivint patent on a method for remotely controlling smart home devices.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Alarm.com has prevailed in a patent dispute with Vivint following a federal appeals court decision that invalidates claims by Vivint on technology for remotely controlling home appliances using a smartphone.
In announcing its decision on July 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) correctly found that Vivint’s patent — one of several it had accused Alarm.com of infringing — was invalid as obvious in view of earlier inventions. Although the court determined the PTAB’s analysis included some errors, it did not change the outcome.
In June 2015, Vivint filed its first amended complaint in the District of Utah alleging that Alarm.com infringed six patents on home automation technology. Among those, Vivint cited U.S. Patent 6,924,727, titled “Method for Remote Control of Home-Located Electronic Devices and a Management Facility” (2005).
Alarm.com successfully challenged several of the patents under the procedure, called “inter partes” review, which is Latin for “between the parties.” The district court stayed the infringement case pending the outcome. Last year, the stay was lifted and Vivint agreed not to pursue claims on the patent at issue in the July 26 ruling, as well as another patent. The case is pending, with discovery scheduled to close next month.
The Federal Circuit’s decision states that Vivint’s patent covers a method of allowing users to remotely control devices such as lighting fixtures, air conditioners and refrigerators from outside the home using smartphones or laptops.
The patent purports to improve on earlier systems of remotely controlling devices in the home, which required a home server with high processing power, by using a simple server, according to the ruling.
The PTAB found in its final written decision that the claimed invention would have been obvious in view of two earlier patents on internet-based home communications systems.
On appeal, Vivint argued the PTAB incorrectly construed a key claim term by departing from the term’s plain meaning, but the Federal Circuit ruled the board’s claim construction was reasonable.
The appeals court said the patent claims were correctly found to be obvious based on one of the earlier patents cited by the board. The issued hinged on whether that patent disclosed the “terminal identifier” found in Vivint’s patent, which refers to a way for the home network to identify the remote device, such as a smartphone.
The Federal Circuit concluded the prior art patent has the same functionality as the terminal identifier in Vivint’s patent.
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