is an associate at Mattingly & Malur, PC. He focuses on patent prosecution and patent portfolio development for startups and large companies, both foreign and domestic. He is experienced in handling patent matters in various technologies including networking, storage systems, mobile devices, biometric identification, cloud storage, digital rights management, digital and analog circuits, electron microscopy, solar cell technologies, particle therapy systems, wireless communications, construction machines, and other various mechanical technologies.
Before going to law school Mr. Mattingly worked as a registered patent agent for Mattingly & Malur. During law school he was a staff member on the University of Baltimore Intellectual Property Law Journal and served as a judicial intern with the Honorable Clayton Greene, Jr. on the Court of Appeals of Maryland.
The opinion focused on whether adequate structure corresponding to the “coordinating” function is disclosed in the specification. After determining that a special purpose computer is required to perform the function, the court searched for an algorithm for performing the function, but did not find one. The court rejected Williamson’s argument that the distributed learning control module controls communications among the various computer systems and that the “coordinating” function provides a presenter with streaming media selection functionality. The disclosures relied upon by Williamson were thought of by the court as merely functions of the distributed learning control module and opined that the specification does not set forth an algorithm for performing the claimed functions.
Functional claim language is increasingly being used by practitioners to capture the metes and bounds of an invention, especially in computer-implemented inventions. Sometimes using functional language in a claim limitation is unavoidable. Functional language does not, in and of itself, render a claim improper. However, as recently experienced in Williamson v. Citrix (en banc) and Robert Bosch, using functional language carries a significant risk of having the claim invalidated as indefinite following a determination that the claim invokes § 112(f) even when the patentee does not intend to have the claim treated under § 112(f).
Section 273 uses language that is untested in the court system. Clarity with respect to statutory construction is especially important to those who wish to take advantage of a prior use but will only later find out when tested during litigation that their use does not qualify under the statute. As argued by Sen. Roy Blunt, “assurances are all the more important for U.S. companies in the biotechnology field with extraordinarily long lead times for commercialization of its products.”  Therefore the scope of protection and reliance upon the defense is concerning to those who might enjoy this defense which may lead to a detrimental reliance on the part of those would be prior users.
Prior user rights also implicate free rider problems with respect to a subsequent patent that an inventor obtains covering the subject matter of the secret prior user. At the point of publication the prior user no longer maintains a trade secret. At the point of issuance, the patentee and the prior user relatively co-exist with each other in the market. The patentee excludes others from the market except for the prior user. The prior user then enjoys the benefits and advantages associated with the patentee excluding others from operating in the market, while being free from liability to the patentee. In this regard, the prior user enjoys the period of time operating the technology in secret in addition to 20 years of excluding others provided by the competitor.