Uber & Alice: Could One Patent Really Take Down This Ridesharing Giant?

Uber & Alice: Could One Patent Really Take Down This Ridesharing Giant?

Douglas B. Wentzel

General Motors’ recent acquisition of ridesharing company Sidecar, licensing of its intellectual property, and half a billion dollar investment in Lyft each suggest that Uber’s likelihood of being sued for patent infringement is on the rise. General Motors now has the rights to assert U.S. Patent 6,356,838—“System and method for determining an efficient transportation route.” Uber’s infringement liability ultimately depends on the validity of this patent, which includes claims to computer-implemented methods and systems for procuring on-demand automobile-based transportation services. U.S. Patent 6,356,838 includes at least one means-plus function claim, and its claims as a whole implicate the Mayo/Alice twostep framework due to their computer implementation, making it an interesting specimen for analysis. This Article finds that Claims 12 and 18 of U.S. Patent 6,356,838 are patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and that Uber infringes each of these claims. The analysis performed and discussed herein evidences a patent-eligibility framework that generates uncertainty for patentees, creates instability in the relevant computer-implemented technology markets, and reduces the value of United States intellectual property. Ultimately, something must be done to address uncertainty and instability inherent in the Mayo/Alice framework if the United States intellectual property is to retain its status as the most valuable global currency.

98 J. Pat. & Trademark Off. Soc’y 856 (2016)

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