At long last, some good news for MoviePass.
On Friday, a federal judge in Los Angeles allowed MoviePass to pursue a patent infringement claim against Sinemia, a rival movie subscription service.
MoviePass sued Sinemia in February 2018, accusing its rival of stealing several patented features of its mobile app. In particular, MoviePass claimed that it had invented a method to confirm a ticket buyer’s identity using cell phone location data.
In his ruling issued Friday, Judge James Otero is clearly skeptical that this qualifies as a genuine invention. In its motion to dismiss, Sinemia argued that MoviePass had simply combined abstract concepts — the confirmation of a transaction and a ticket-buyer’s location. Otero agrees.
“The Asserted Claims in the present case do not improve on an existing technological process, nor do they perform an existing process in a meaningfully different manner,” the judge wrote. “They merely replace the traditional method of confirming a user’s identity with the use of a computer — namely cell phone location information.”
MoviePass argues that its app is nevertheless patentable because it uses those abstract concepts to solve a novel problem. Before MoviePass, a subscription service would have to rely on theater workers to confirm a user’s identity. Otherwise, a subscriber could loan out their phone to non-subscribing friends. That required subscription services to get the cooperation of theaters, which MoviePass does not have. MoviePass’ insight was that people rarely go anywhere without their phones, and that therefore cell phone location could be used as a good-enough proxy for identification.
Again, the judge is not sold on this. But he is not quite willing to dismiss MoviePass’ suit yet.
“While the Court is somewhat skeptical that this ‘inventive concept’ is anything more than well understood, routine, or conventional to a skilled artisan, it nevertheless finds that disposing of this issue at the motion to dismiss stage is inappropriate in light of a pair of recent decisions by the Federal Circuit,” Otero wrote.
Instead, the judge found that “further fact finding is necessary,” and denied Sinemia’s motion to dismiss.
It goes down as a win for MoviePass, which could use it.