Airlines in hot seat – Continental, JetBlue and others likely make use of CEATS patent

Patent Calls' independent analyst report found that Continental is likely infringing CEATS patent claims.
By: Patent Calls, Inc.
April 19, 2010 - PRLog -- Choosing your seat on an airplane has been a common practice on most airlines for the past few years. A company behind the innovation, CEATS, Inc. is now going after major transportation company Continental Airlines, claiming patent infringement.  However Continental may not be CEATS’ only stop, as other airlines such as JetBlue are also likely making use of the CEATS’ technology.

The complaint, filed on April 5, 2010 states that Continental is infringing five patents belonging to CEATS. The patents are 7,454,361; 7,548,870; 7,660,728; 7,660,729 and 7,664,663. The patents pertain to a system and method for selecting, reserving or displaying individual seats for a purchaser.

CEATS - CyberSEATS for Entertainment Arts Travel Sports - was created in the early 1990’s and not only allows seat selection for airlines but also works with theaters, cruise ships, hotels, and stadiums, as well as other places where a person may want to select and reserve a place ahead of time. CEATS owns 13 patents and three pending patents.

Patent Calls, Inc. conducted an independent analyst report on patent 7,454,361 (‘361) and found that not only were Continental and other airlines apparently infringing the ‘361 patent but ticket brokers, smartphone makers and computer manufacturers were also likely infringers.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were over 8 million flights in 2009 carrying 618,113,048 passengers in the United States alone. This means big business for CEATS patented technology related to the troubled airline industry because most major airlines, including Continental, allow users to select specific seats online for their flights, though Southwest Airlines is a notable exception; Southwest only allows passengers to select their seats when they actually board the plane. JetBlue is another notable airline that allows customers to select specific premium seats for an additional fee.

Entertainment ticketing, dominated by market leader Ticketmaster, has largely avoided giving users the opportunity to select specific seats, though are now prominently offering the capability for the National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs, as specifically noted within Patent Calls’ analysis.

One potential soft landing for Continental, is the Patent Calls’ analyst note that it is likely that venue operators and ticketing agents were using similar type of seat selection capabilities internally, prior to the ‘361 patent. That the ‘361 patent simply removed the middle-man - operators and agents - and allowed the customer to select their own seating when purchasing tickets online may be a basis for invalidity arguments.

Interestingly, Patent Calls’ independent analysis found that smart cell phone manufacturers are likely also using elements of the claims of the ‘361 patent, because the independent claim includes using a mouse to select a seat.  Even though the popular iPhone does not use a physical mouse, many smartphones do make use of a mouse, including BlackBerry smartphones.

The Patent Calls report states, “It seems that it could be argued that some of the cell phone manufacturers have a mouse type device that the user uses to select the seat. For example, the Blackberry Pearl has a trackball that the user uses to navigate on a website as well as selecting an item.  Thus, a user using a Blackberry Pearl to select an available seat on Ticketmaster, would likely be using the elements of the claims of the subject patent.”

Patent Calls, Inc. reached out to CEATS and Continental for comment, neither responded by press time.

Only a judge and jury can make the final decision on whether or not Continental Airlines is infringing the ‘361 patent. However, Patent Calls independent analyst report concludes that Continental Airlines is using elements of the ‘361 patent claims by allowing a user to select their individual seats online.

CEATS is asking for preliminary and permanent injunction, damages, enhanced damages for willful infringement, attorney’s fees, costs, witness fees, and other expenses.

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Patent Calls is a unique and trusted source for meaningful and independent information regarding patents. We offer our clients timely, in-depth and unbiased reviews and analysis of the technologies described within patents. Only a judge or jury can ultimately determine infringement. Patent Calls takes the mystery out of patents.
Source:Patent Calls, Inc.
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Tags:Continental Airlines, Ceats, Ticketmaster, Patent Calls, Patent Infringement, BLACKBERRY, Smartphone, iPhone, Southwest
Industry:Business, Internet, Technology
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