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Ikea Lawsuit Moves Forward

Ikea’s North American unit will have to confront claims by an in-store product location technology provider that its mobile app and website infringe on four of its patents, a Wisconsin federal judge ordered Friday.

Last June, Innovaport LLC sued the Swedish furniture and home goods company for patent infringement related to various features within its technology. Ikea North America Services has denied all the plaintiff’s allegations.

The recent order denies Ikea’s bid to dismiss the lawsuit, saying it’s too early to determine whether the patents cover abstract ideas. Judge Brett H. Ludwig wrote that “Innovaport plausibly alleges that its patents contain inventive concepts” and the claims should be allowed to move forward.

The case surrounds what the lawsuit describes as a “novel methods of providing product location to customers,” which involves a user interface such as a kiosk, website, or mobile app which informs customers whether a given product is located in a specific store. From there, the technology can further link the specified product with other product information that a customer may be interested in.

“A customer may open Ikea’s website or mobile phone application and search for a specific product within Ikea’s database of products,” the suit said. “The search query returns relevant ‘hits’ that informs customers if the searched for product is located within a specific store, as well as additional product related information (e.g., the price of the product). The searched for product is further linked with at least one additional product (e.g., more like this, others also viewed, or frequently bought together) that a customer may also want to buy.”

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The four patents in question are titled ‘260, ‘933, ‘690 and ‘670, all of which are designed to provide the user with product location information within a store. The first alleged patent infringement, ‘260, involves indirect communication with a central hub that includes both product location information and additional product-related information. This information includes the quantity of a first product within the store, the price of the product, the availability of the product within the store, and information linking the product with another product in a cross-referential manner.

Innovaport’s suit said that the Ikea mobile app communicates with a similar hub wirelessly. The communication includes receiving search requests for specific products (i.e., inquiry signals from a user interface). A query is sent to the database to obtain product location information in response to the search. Information regarding the product, including its price and quantity in the store, and its location, is provided to the customer’s mobile phone application.

The second alleged infringement, ‘933, involved additional features concerning search function and the past location inquiry of a customer, which enabled the app to “remember” the customer’s selected or local store. Innovaport said that its technology required a user interface to send an input signal, which is received by an information storage device—alleging that the Ikea app infringed on the tech to develop its search capabilities, display product information and suggested products.

Ikea is also accused of violating patent ‘690. The third patent centers on the product location inquiry itself, with Innovaport alleging that Ikea’s mobile app receives this inquiry once a shopper searches for a product within a specific store.

“Claim 1 (the Innovaport patent) requires that the product location inquiry signal cause a query of the information storage device to obtain portions of the product location and additional product-related information,” the suit said. “The product location inquiry signal that is sent by the Ikea mobile phone application must cause a query of the information storage device to obtain portions of the product location and additional product-related information because…the search inquiry on the mobile phone application results in a query of the information storage device to obtain portions of the product location information (e.g., whether the product is located in-store) and additional product-related information (e.g., price of the product) in response to the search query.”

Innovaport’s last patent, ‘670, largely focuses on information storage devices, and the databases included within them. The company says that one information storage device is configured to be indirectly in communication with at least one other device that includes at least one user interface. These devices are also configured to be at least indirectly in communication with a mobile device.

Ikea must have an information storage device that includes a database because Ikea must have some method of organizing its inventory,” the suit said. “The information storage device must be at least indirectly in communication with a mobile device with a user interface because customers use the mobile phone application to search for products. The search results state whether a product is located in a store. The mobile phone therefore must be in communication with a database of an information storage device because the number of products left in the inventory must be readily ascertainable in order to determine whether a product is still located within a store.”

In July, a similar suit from Innovaport against Lowe’s Home Centers was dismissed after both parties agreed to a settlement.