Posts Tagged: "patent claims"

Was the Federal Circuit Trying to Save Us from Ourselves in Williamson v. Citrix?

In Williamson v. Citrix, the Federal Circuit overruled its own precedent that there is a “strong” presumption that claim limitations that do not use the term “means” are not means-plus-function limitations. This change has been decried by practitioners who purposefully avoid the word “means” in order to avoid means-plus-function treatment of their functionally claimed elements. Means-plus-function claiming is an opportunity to be embraced, not a trap to be avoided. Invoking §112(f) and the associated scope of a means-plus-function limitation is largely in the control of the patent drafter.

Avoiding Invocation of Functional Claim Language in Computer-Implemented Inventions

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).

Federal Circuit Limits Divided Infringement in Akamai v. Limelight

The opinion provides guidance in terms of when divided infringement actually imposes liability for patent infringement. When a mastermind offloads one or more steps of a claimed method to another entity, then the actions of that other entity are vicariously attributed to the mastermind only if the relationship is one of a principal-agent or joint enterprise, or if there is a contract between the parties requiring or mandating the other entity to perform the offloaded method step. Whether other terms that limit the vicarious nature of a contract might impose liability will have to be litigated in the future.

Enablement – Did the public receive all it contracted to receive?

A claim drafted too broadly may not be enabled and hence be invalid. Yet, the temptation to claim broadly often leads the patentee to ignore this risk.

The Disclosure Revolution – A Report from the Front, 2014

The Disclosure Revolution is an ongoing process that has transformed patent law over the last couple of decades. While courts continue to say, “The claims define the invention,” decision after decision rewrites broad claim terms to conform to the scope of disclosure. A single embodiment once served as an example supporting enabled claims bounded only by the prior art; now, a single embodiment signals the inventor’s intend to limit the invention to the embodiment itself, rather than to claim terms… Overall, 2014 will likely be remembered primarily for Alice and its eventual progeny. In addition to its impact on the law per se, the economic effects may prove enormous. An entire segment of the patent community stands vulnerable to a slowdown, or shutdown, of patenting activity in the business methods and software fields. Other areas, including definiteness, will feel the effects of 2014, but in a far more incremental fashion.

The Patent Drafting Disclosure Revolution: Don’t Ask Alice

No question exists that patent eligibility under Section 101 has been, and remains, the most active question in patent law. Watching the rapid flow of cases back and forth between the Federal Circuit and the Supreme Court exceeds the excitement generated by most TV shows in sheer entertainment value. The only question open for discussion is whether we are watching “Game of Thrones,” “Survivor”, or “Modern Family.” Actually, the best choice may be “Lost”.

Patent Drafting: Getting the Broadest Supportable Claim Scope

‘Broad’ in this context means ‘broadest supportable’ coverage, limited only by the technology in terms of supportability and by the prior art in terms of outer reach. A failure to achieve such breadth is generally attributable to overclaiming, where one runs afoul of the prior art; underclaiming, where the drafter stop short of claiming all he could; or faulty claiming, where the drafter attempts to achieve breadth, but support issues or drafting errors restrict claim scope. Sound principles, instilled by effective training, cannot substitute for adequate knowledge of the prior art. They can provide the knowledge and thus the confidence to claim out to the limits defined by that art.

How to Protect Your Patent from Post Grant Proceedings

Patent owners must modify their strategies during prosecution to make their patents and portfolios less susceptible to post grant challenges. This strategy must take into account the cost of filing a petition by a challenger. Patent owners must obtain enough claims and enough patents to make it extremely expensive for a challenger to go down the path toward an administrative patent trial where the deck is stacked against the patentee. This will require patent owners to obtain patent claims with numerous dependent claims that cover as many variations as possible, but also to ensure that the dependent claims build on one another little by little so as to create a claim set that refers back to as many previous claims as possible. Such a claim mosaic will raise the filing fee that must be paid to institute a post grant challenge.

Rules of Patent Drafting: The Disclosure Revolution

The claim drafting wizard is gone, but no one notices that his passing is not a normal, stylistic change, going from gray flannel to bellbottoms to designer jeans. Step back and survey the patent world as a whole, and one sees a fundamental shift in thinking over the last two decades. It is not just the claim drafting wizard but the entire idea of patent claims that is gone. We still observe the old forms—every patent brief and judge’s opinion begins, “The claims define the invention.” And then something happens. Perhaps it turns out that the single embodiment was the true expression of the invention. Or a line in the Summary suggested that the invention would not work unless the widget were painted red, so that was added to the claims. Or a line in the prosecution history could be read to suggest that the widget needed to be painted blue. Or any of the other reasons for not simply reading and applying the claims.

Congressional Testimony: Lee on USPTO Patent Operations

Lee will tell Congress that the USPTO is on pace during FY 2014 to receive nearly 600,000 patent applications, which represents an increase of more than 5% as compared to FY 2013. The PTO backlog of unexamined patent applications is less than 620,000 which is down from more than 750,000 in 2009 (a 17.3 percent decrease)… On a cynical note, I will observe that reducing the backlog will become much easier for the USPTO, as will meeting pendency goals, based upon the United States Supreme Court’s breathtaking decision in Alice v. CLS Bank. While not a subject of this hearing, as more and more becomes per se unpatentable as the result of 35 U.S.C. 101, the USPTO should easily be able to meet these goals, particularly in light of the reality that over 50% of patents issued by the USPTO related to software innovations.

Understanding Patent Claims

In order to obtain exclusive rights on an invention the law requires that the patent applicant particularly point out and distinctly claim the subject matter which the inventor regards as his or her invention. Any patent, or patent application, contains a variety of different sections that contain different information. Generally speaking, a patent is divided into a specification, drawings and patent claims. Only the patent claims define the exclusive right granted to the patent applicant; the rest of the patent is there to facilitate understanding of the claimed invention. Therefore, patent claims are in many respects the most important part of the patent application because it is the claims that define the invention for which the Patent Office has granted protection.

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.

SCOTUS Overrules “Insolubly Ambigous” Indefiniteness Standard

The district court determined that the term was indefinite, the Federal Circuit reversed. According to the Federal Circuit, a claim is indefinite “only when it is not amenable to construction or insolubly ambiguous.” Under that standard, the majority determined, the ’753 patent survived and was not indefinite. The Supreme Court characterized this test as the Federal Circuit tolerating “some ambiguous claims but not others.”

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.

Surprisingly Short Patent Claims in Published Applications

But there are no doubt some bizarre patent applications that have published over the years, such as a method of walking through walls like a ghost. See Knowing When You Have Too Much Time on Your Hands. So you never know quite what you will get with a patent application, although the jokesters are typically kept at a minimum given the expense of filing a patent application… The real problem is that the failure to include claims or realistic breadth means that there will be no meaningful examination provided by the examiner in the first of two substantives reviews. If such obviously overbroad claims are the ones that are in the file at the time of first examination it will be virtually impossible to obtain a patent without at least one, perhaps multiple, additional filings and amendments, all of which cost time and money for the inventor/applicant. The old saying “garbage in, garbage out” comes to mind.