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T-Rex Property, AB v. Cedar Fair, L.P.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 2, 2017

T-Rex Property, AB, Plaintiff,
v.
Cedar Fair, L.P., Defendant.

          David P. Swenson, Esq., and Peter Thomas, Esq., Farney Daniels PC, counsel for Plaintiff.

          Bryan A. Schwartz, Esq., and Steven M. Auvil, Esq., Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP; and Kathryn N. Hibbard, Esq., Greene Espel PLLP, counsel for Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DONOVAN W. FRANK United States District Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss brought by Defendant Cedar Fair, L.P. (“Cedar Fair” or “Defendant”) (Doc. No. 19). For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         This is a patent infringement case involving U.S. Patent No. RE39, 470 (the “'470 Patent”), entitled “Digital Information System”; U.S. Patent No. 7, 382, 334 (the “'334 Patent”), entitled “Digital Information System”; and U.S. Patent No. 6, 430, 603 (the “‘603 Patent”), entitled “System for Direct Placement of Commercial Advertising, Public Service Announcements and Other Content on Electronic Billboard Displays” (collectively, the “Patents-in-Suit”). (Doc. No. 1 (“Compl.”) ¶¶ 27-76 & Exs. A-C.)[1] On June 20, 2016, Plaintiff T-Rex Property AB (“T-Rex” or Plaintiff”) sued Cedar Fair for infringement of certain claims of the Patents-in-Suit. In lieu of filing an answer, Cedar Fair moved to dismiss the Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that each claim of the Patents-in-Suit is invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and, in particular, under Alice Corp. Pty Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int'l, 134 S.Ct. 2347 (2014).

         A. The Parties

         T-Rex is a Swedish corporation founded by Mats Hylin and Mats Dahlgren, two of the named inventors of the '470 Patent and the '334 Patent. T-Rex is involved in the field of digital signage, which is an alternative to physical advertising, such as advertising using paper copy on billboards.

         Cedar Fair operates regional amusement and resort parks. (Compl. ¶ 5.) In its Complaint, T-Rex alleges that Cedar Fair operates devices and systems, including its “FunTV network of digital screens that are located throughout the guest areas of its amusement parks, including ride and restaurant queues and in high traffic areas, ” that infringe the asserted claims. (Compl. ¶¶ 30, 50, 68.)

         B. The Patents-in-Suit

         Each of the asserted patents generally relates to digital information systems for displaying information on at least one display means, such as a screen, projector, or electronic billboard. (See, e.g., '334 Patent at Abstract; '470 Patent at Abstract.) T-Rex asserts that the inventions reflected in the Patents-in-Suit are aimed at addressing an unmet need among advertisers for increased speed, flexibility, and the ability to dynamically change digital messages. In addition, T-Rex asserts that the Patents-in-Suit are directed to a concrete system for collecting display instructions from external content providers, organizing the display content at a central computer, and then displaying the content on electronic displays such that mediators are able to dynamically control the displays in real time.

         1. The '470 Patent

         The '470 Patent is directed to a digital information system (method and apparatus) for displaying information in places frequented by the general public, such as railway stations, subway stations, and airport waiting areas. ('470 Patent at c. 1, ll:15-25.) The patent identifies a problem with static display systems that are used and controlled on the display site and where the information displayed cannot be updated or changed quickly. (Id. at c. 2, ll:5-33.) The '470 Patent, in contrast, is directed to a “flexible system” that allows for the control, in real time, of the display of “pictures, images, messages and announcements to be configured in accordance with modern digital technology, therewith providing rapid communication.” (Id. at c. 2, ll:40-52.) A further object of the invention is to enable information to be changed as often as desired, in real time, and in places that are mutually far apart. (Id. at c. 2, ll: 50-55.) To achieve this end, the alleged invention of the '470 Patent operates via a central computer that is divided into three servers, one of which receives information from “external information mediators, ” via modems. (Id. at c. 6, ll:65-67.) An “information mediator” might be, for example, an advertising agency who wishes to use the system for commercial purposes. (Id. at c. 5, ll:18-21.) The central computer uses instructions received by the “information mediator” to send to the displays. (Id. at c. 7, ll:1-9.) In this action, Plaintiff asserts claims 25 and 26[2] of the '470 Patent, which read as follows:

25. A method of selectively displaying digital information at one or more of a plurality of locations, said method comprising:
receiving control instructions from at least one external information mediator;
using said control instructions to generate an exposure list, said exposure list specifying three or more of the following items:
i) what information content is to be displayed;
ii) at which of said plurality of locations said information content is to be displayed;
iii) when said information content is to be displayed for each location at which content is to be displayed; and
iv) how long said information content is to be displayed for each location at which ...

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