Posts Tagged: "claim construction"

Plaintiff Waives Infringement Under Proper Claim Construction

The Federal Circuit issued a decision in CardSoft v. Verifone, which the Court overturned the district court’s claim construction. Overturning a district court’s claim construction is hardly unusual, and perhaps more typical than it really should be, but that is another story for another day. What was unique about this particular case was that the Federal Circuit also went on to rule that CardSoft had waived any argument that the defendants had infringed under what they determined to ultimately be the correct claim construction.

USPTO Launches Glossary Pilot to Promote Patent Claim Clarity

Pilot participation requires an applicant to include a glossary section in the patent application specification to define terms used in the patent claim. Applications accepted into the pilot will get expedited processing, be placed on an examiner’s special docket prior to the first office action and have special status up to issuance of a first office action.

Will the Supreme Court Weigh in on Claim Construction Appeals?

While the Lighting Ballast majority upheld the Cybor standard, even Judge Newman, who penned the opinion, seemed to recognize that the decision was on shaky legal footing, relying heavily on stare decisis and the fact that Cybor has been the law for over a decade in sustaining the rule. The majority stated, “the court is not now deciding whether to adopt a de novo standard in 1998. Today we decide whether to cast aside the standard that has been in place for fifteen years.” Opponents of the de novo standard of review in claim construction cases, as set forth in Cybor, might still have another day in court. The Federal Circuit’s ruling could be taken up by the United States Supreme Court next term, especially if the Solicitor General recommends granting the petition for certiorari that is sure to arrive at the Court in the next few months. In a prior case, Retractable Technologies v. Becton, Dickinson, and Co., the Solicitor General recommended to the Supreme Court that “in an appropriate case, this Court’s intervention might be warranted to determine the proper standard of appellate review of district court factual determinations that bear on the interpretation of disputed patent claims.” Here’s a look at the three basic arguments made to the Federal Circuit, and that would likely be made again before the Supreme Court, should it decide to hear the case.

Conjunctions and/or Patent Claims

The U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas construed the word “or” in clause (e) of Claim 1 to mean “a choice between either one of two alternatives, but not both.” This claim construction was significant because the accused device performed an analysis of both the strongest and fastest signals (i.e., a user could not select between a magnitude or frequency mode). Therefore, because the accused device always performed both options, the court held that it did not infringe the ‘246 patent.

Federal Circuit Puzzles Over Claim Construction Deference

The en banc Federal Circuit on September 13, 2013, heard oral argument on whether to overrule its en banc decision in Cybor Corp. v. FAS Technologies, Inc., 138 F.3d 1448 (Fed. Cir. 1998), and hold that claim construction can involve issues of fact reviewable for clear error, and that it is not entirely an issue of law subject only to de novo review. On appeal is the district court decision that a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand the claim term “voltage source means” to correspond to a rectifier or other voltage supply device. It thus rejected ULT’s argument that the term invokes Section 112 ¶6 and that the claim is invalid for indefiniteness for lack of specific structure in the specification. A Federal Circuit panel reversed in a nonprecedential decision, concluding from a de novo review that “voltage source means” does invoke Section 112 ¶6 and that the claim is invalid for indefiniteness. That panel decision was vacated when the appellate court decided to consider the claim construction issue en banc.

Claim Construction: A Game of Chance at the Federal Circuit

Where the Federal Circuit is reviewing a validity decision from the district courts, the Federal Circuit reviews the claim construction de novo. The Federal Circuit also chooses not the most likely meaning, but the broadest reasonable meaning for disputed claim language. That is, the claim construction most likely to invalidate the claim in question. Now, we ask whether the same fate is likely to befall claims that are being asserted in a patent infringement action. Asked differently, does the Federal Circuit choose the claim construction most likely to lead to a conclusion of no infringement? Saffran v. Johnson & Johnson seems to suggest that the answer is sadly, yes.

Heightened Judicial Deference for Patent Claim Constructions?

Patent litigants have long expected an appeal to follow nearly every jury verdict and that a key question (if not the key question) on appeal will be the district court’s construction of one or more disputed claim terms. Syntrix’s recent infringement verdict against Illumina would be seen as no exception if not for what happened the very next day — the Federal Circuit’s decision to rehear en banc the panel’s decision in Lighting Ballast Control LLC v. Philips Electronics N. Am. Corp. to consider whether to reset the standard of review for claim construction, long recognized as a question of law reviewed de novo on appeal.

Harris Corp. v. Fed Ex: “Black Box” Claim Construction by Split Federal Circuit Panel Leaves us in the Dark

Over a dissent by Judge Wallach, Judges Clevenger and Lourie strictly interpreted the “antecedent basis” in the claims, resulting in a reversal of the trial judge’s claim interpretation, and a remand for him to reconsider his patent infringement judgment. It would probably have helped the patentee if the description had included broadening statements regarding the type of data that may be generated, stored and transmitted. Claim language is given the “broadest reasonable interpretation” during examination at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but a Federal Court’s “entirely reasonable” interpretation will often be significantly narrower, even when the claim has a “comprising” transition and generic terminology.

Does the term “Invention” in the Specification Limit the Claims?

There are some that will tell you that the use of the term “invention” or “present invention” in the specification will limit the claims. This misguided belief suggests that merely using the word “invention” or the phrase “present invention” in the specification creates a problem for the claims. I have heard this numerous times over the years. Every time I hear this it is like fingers on a chalkboard.

Against the Broadest Reasonable Interpretation of Patent Claims

Even if the BRI rule made sense in 1932—and it is not clear to me that it ever made sense—the rule no longer makes sense. Dramatic changes in the field of patents have undermined even the alleged reasons for the BRI rule. The solution to the problem of the BRI rule is to replace it with the only rule that is natural and makes sense. After 80 years of inventors suffering under the BRI rule, it is time for Congress or the Supreme Court to say: regardless of whether the patent application has been granted, the claims mean the exact same thing. Always.

The Mysterious Disappearance of Functionality Considerations in Apple v. Samsung Design Patent Claim Construction

The functionality issue, as it relates to design patent claim scope, mysteriously vanished from the district court’s application of design patent law between the December 2011 issuance of the Order denying preliminary injunction and the August 2012 issuance of the Final Jury Instructions. By failing to expressly identify non-ornamental (functional) features of Apple’s design patents and instruct the jury that such features were not to be considered in its infringement analysis, the district court materially, and perhaps fatally, prejudiced Samsung’s non-infringement defenses. The district court unleashed a “free range jury” that was unconstrained in its ability to forage for patentable subject matter that could be used to evaluate infringement among the functional features disclosed in Apple’s design patents.

Ordinary Plain Meaning: Defining Terms in a Patent Application

The question of whether a term is defined adequately is really a legal question, so the views and opinions of those who are not well versed in the law are hardly probative. Inventors invent and patent attorneys describe those inventions to satisfy the legal requirements. If inventors could describe their inventions to meet the legal requirements they wouldn’t need patent attorneys, but we all know that inventors who represent themselves make numerous errors and always obtain far more narrow protection than they would have been entitled to receive. They just don’t understand the law well enough and are not qualified to offer opinions on matters of law.

Court Slams Frivolous & Vexatious Litigation with $4.7 MM in Fees

In what seems to be a continuing trend, the United Stats Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is continuing to show increasingly little tolerance for abusive patent litigation tactics. In the most recent pronouncement along these lines the Federal Circuit, per Judge O’Malley (with Judges Newman and Prost joining), ruled the district court appropriately awarded the defendant $3,873,865.01 in attorney fees and expenses under § 285, as well as $809,788.02 in expert fees.

CAFC Refuses to Clarify Claims Construction Law, Deference

I have wondered out loud whether the Judges of the Federal Circuit realize that the outcome is unpredictable until the panel has been announced. It seems that at least some do. How is that defensible? How do others not on the Court not see a problem? The law needs to be certain and predictable and at the Federal Circuit far too many times it is neither. Claims construction is but one of the areas as clear as mud. The Federal Circuit was created to bring certainty to the law, but what has transpired over the course of the last 10 years or so seems to be anything but certainty and stability. For crying out loud a patent is a property right and for any property rights regime to flourish it must be stable and certain! In the words of this generation: OMG!

The Doctrine of Claim Differentiation: Who Got It Right in Retractable Technologies?

Whether the term “body” encompassed “multi-piece” structures became the crux of the claim construction issues in Retractable Technologies. The District Court for Eastern Texas, apparently applying the doctrine of claim differentiation, construed independent Claims 1 and 43 to cover a “body” which might be a “multi-piece” structure. Accordingly, the District Court denied post-trial motions by the alleged infringer (Becton Dickinson or “BD”) to overturn the jury verdict that BD infringed these Claims of the ‘224 patent. Judge Lourie (writing for the panel majority) reversed the District Court, ruling that the term “body” was limited to a “one-piece” structure in light of the ‘224 patent specification.