Specification Issues : CAFC Alert

When should incorporation by reference language be taken care of?

Tsuyoshi Nakamura | July 11, 2012

Hollmer v. Harari

June 7, 2012

Panel:  Prost, Mayer, O’Malley.  Opinion by Prost

Summary

During the interference proceedings, Harari relied on the disclosure of 07/337,579 (‘579 application) which had been originally incorporated by the earliest 3rd great grandparent application 07/337,566 (‘566 application) of the subject application 09/310,880 (‘880 application).  The ‘566 application included the disputed incorporation statement and had been abandoned.  Two intervening applications copied the same statement and had been patented.  The subject application (‘880 application) included the copy of the statement, but Harari corrected the incorporation statement by preliminary amendment which, according to Hollmer, was new matter because it would newly introduce the disclosure of ‘579 application.  CAFC decided for Harari by applying the relaxed “reasonable examiner” standard (Harari I, 602 F.3d 1348).  However, Harari was not allowed to claim the benefit of the filing date of the ‘566 application because CAFC found that the intervening applications in the chain leading back to the earlier ‘566 application did not comply with the written description requirement due to the ambiguous incorporation statement by applying the strict “person of ordinary skill” standard.

本件は、米国特有の”incorporation by reference”プラクティスに関するものである。インターフェアレンス手続において、Harariは最先の出願(566出願)が”incorporation by reference”によって引用した米国出願(579出願)の開示内容に依存した。566出願は不十分な”incorporation by reference”の記述を含んでいたがそのまま放棄された。566出願の出願日の利益を主張する出願がその後5代に渡って続き、全ての出願は当該不十分な”incorporation by reference”の記述をコピーしていた。Harariは5代目の本願(880出願)を予備補正して”incorporation by reference”の記述を訂正したが、2代目と3代目の中間の出願はそのような訂正を経ずに特許になってしまっていた。本願に関する予備補正が新規事項の追加になるか否かの争いについて、CAFCは、ゆるやかな「審査官の観点」の基準を適用して予備補正が適切であると判断した。一方、本願が特許法第120条の利益を享受して最先の出願日に遡るためには全ての中間の出願が” written description requirement”の要件を満たす必要がある。この要件が不十分な”incorporation by reference”によって妨げられるか否かの争いについて、CAFCは、より厳しい「当業者の観点」の基準を適用して第120条の利益を認めなかった。

[実務上の指針] 最先の出願日に遡るためには、その間にある全ての中間の出願を補正して適切な”incorporation by reference”の記述を含むようにしておくことが必要。


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Presumption of validity attaches to all issued patents, even incorrectly issued patents

Andrew Melick | July 5, 2012

Sciele Pharma Inc. v. Lupin Ltd.

July 2, 2012

Panel: Lourie, Prost, Moore.  Opinion by Moore

Summary

Shionogi (new name for Sciele Pharma) obtained US Patent No. 6,866,866 (“the ‘866 patent”) which included broader claims that were intended to be cancelled in favor of narrower claims in response to a rejection.  Shionogi brought suit against Lupin for infringement of the ‘866 patent including claims that were to be cancelled.  Lupin began selling the alleged infringing product and Shionogi moved for a preliminary injunction.  The District Court granted Shionogi’s request for preliminary injunction and Lupin appealed.  On appeal, the CAFC stated that even though the ‘866 patent issued with the incorrect claims, the ‘866 patent nonetheless had a presumption of validity and that the clear and convincing evidentiary standard applied for invalidating the patent.  The CAFC also stated that there is not a heightened standard just because references were considered by the PTO.  With the proper clear and convincing evidentiary standard applied to the ‘866 patent, the CAFC stated that Lupin has raised a substantial question of invalidity, and thus, the preliminary injunction is vacated.


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Means-Plus-Function: The Achilles’ Heel

Thomas Brown | May 9, 2012

Noah Systems, Inc. v. Intuit, Inc.

April 9, 2012

Panel: Rader, O’Malley and Reyna. Opinion by Judge O’Malley

Summary

This decision illustrates that a patent could become invalidated even after surviving challenges of reexamination, which strengthen the presumption of validity, when a challenger discovers the Achilles’ Heel of a means-plus-function claim element resulting in a summary judgment of invalidity by the CAFC.   Noah appeals the granting, by the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (DC), of Intuit’s Motion for Summary Judgment of Invalidity of USP 5,875,435 (the ‘435 patent) based on indefiniteness for a means-plus-function claim element without the DC hearing evidence of how one of skill in the art would view the specification.  The CAFC affirms by finding that the specification discloses no algorithm when the specification discloses an algorithm that only accomplishes one of two identifiable functions performed by the means-plus-function limitation.


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Every Patent Practitioner’s Nightmare – Prosecution Mistakes That Can’t Be Fixed

Stephen G. Adrian | April 25, 2012

Landmark Screens, LLC, v. Morgan Lewis & Bockius, LLP, and Thomas D. Kohler

April 23, 2012

Panel: Bryson, Clevenger and O’Malley. Opinion by Clevenger.  Concurring opinion by O’Malley.

Summary:

Patent prosecution can be forgiving when a mistake is made. However, given the right set of circumstances, a simple mistake can turn into a nightmare for both the client and attorney. This decision illustrates that a given set of circumstances can lead to a mistake which cannot be fully corrected, which leads to charges of malpractice and fraud against the prosecuting attorney as well as loss of a client. This decision also illustrates that full claim scope can be lost as a result of the mistake.


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Computer-implemented “control means” requires description of step-by-step algorithm even if not key feature of claimed invention

Nicolas Seckel | April 4, 2012

Ergo Licensing, LLC v. Carefusion 303, Inc.

March 26, 2012

Panel: Newman, Linn and Moore.  Opinion by Moore.  Dissent by Newman.

Summary

Another reminder that under US patent law, a “means-plus-function” element recited in a patent claim covers only the corresponding structures described in the specification and their equivalents.  If insufficient or no corresponding structures are described in the specification, the claim is invalid as indefinite.  The rule is strictly applied even if the functional element is only a peripheral aspect of the invention.  Here, the patent claims were directed to a multichannel drug infusion system.  A “control means” was recited (for controlling the motor that adjusts the drug dosage).  The Federal Circuit affirms the invalidity of the claims.  The specification disclosed a “control device,” but no “step-by-step process.” Since the recited function could not be performed by a general computer without special programming, disclosure of an algorithm was required to avoid “pure functional claiming.”


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The Patent Court revisits IPXL doctrine regarding prohibition on hybrid claiming

Rob Raheja | February 29, 2012

HTC Corporation v. IPCom GmbH & Co.

January 30, 2012

Panel:  Bryson, Linn and O’Malley.  Opinion by O’Malley.

Summary

HTC Corporation and HTC America, Inc. sued IPCom GmbH & Co., KG seeking a declaration that it did not infringe claims of IPCom patents. IPCom counterclaimed alleging infringement. HTC moved for summary judgment of invalidity on the ground that claims 1 and 18 of U.S. Patent No. 6,879,830 owned by IPCom were indefinite because (1) they claimed both an apparatus and method steps; and (2) the means-plus-function limitation “arrangement for reactivating,” found in the last paragraph of claims 1 and 18, was indefinite because the patent failed to disclose structure corresponding to the claimed function. On summary judgment, the district court agreed with HTC that claims 1 and 18 were indefinite based on the Federal Circuit’s precedent in IPXL Holdings, L.L.C. v. Amazon.com, Inc prohibiting hybrid claiming of apparatus and method steps in the same claim, but rejected HTC’s argument that the claims were indefinite for failing to disclose the structure corresponding to the means-plus-function limitation. On appeal, the Federal Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment of invalidity based on hybrid claiming, but did not disturb the district court’s finding regarding the means-plus-function limitation. The Federal Circuit held that the district court misconstrued the asserted claims and that the patent did not describe any improper hybrid claiming of apparatus and method steps in the same claim because the claims, when properly construed, were drawn to only an apparatus and the prohibition on hybrid claiming under IPXL was inapplicable to claims 1 and 18.
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More on Typhoon: Knowledge in the Art as a Factor in Determining Sufficiency of Corresponding Algorithm

Dennis Hubbs | January 4, 2012

Since the CAFC was relatively quiet last week due to the holidays, this week we revisit Typhoon, which we discussed in our post last week.  In the second half of this case, the CAFC continued their review of the district court’s claim interpretation.  The CAFC reviewed the MPF claim term “means for cross-referencing responses to said inquiries with possible responses from one of said libraries.”  The CAFC chose to emphasize a 1985 case, Shatterproof Glass, in indicating that the amount of detail required in the specification is related to the existing knowledge in the field of endeavor.


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Means-Plus-Function Claims – “Algorithm” can be expressed in any understandable terms including in prose

Kumiko Ide | December 28, 2011

Typhoon Touch Technologies, Inc. v. Dell, Inc. et al.

CAFC, November 4, 2011

Panel: Rader, Newman, Prost.  Opinion by Newman

Summary

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas held the patents in suit invalid and not infringed.  On appeal, the CAFC affirmed the district court’s rulings concerning the claim terms “memory for storing,” “processor for executing,” “operating in conjunction,” and “keyboardless.”  However, CAFC reversed the district court’s ruling that the claim term “means for cross-referencing” is indefinite for failing to satisfy the requirements of 35 U.S.C. Section 112 ¶ 2.  CAFC disagreed with the district court and held that the term “means for cross-referencing” is supported by the “structure, materials, or acts” in the specification.

地裁は、MPFのクレームにおいて、機能に対応する構造が明細書に記載されていないと判示し、特許法第112条2項に基づき、クレーム用語は不明瞭であり、クレームは無効であると判断した。CAFCは地裁に同意せず、本件では、明細書に十分な構造の開示があったと判示した。まず、コンピューターにより実施するために必要な構造(アルゴリズム(algorithm))が明細書に開示されているか否かを判断するにあたって、アルゴリズムは、数式、文章、フローチャート等、当業者が理解できるのであれば、どのような方法で開示されていても良いと示した。CAFCは、本件において必要なアルゴリズムは、文章により明細書に十分に開示されていたため、MPFの記載は不明瞭でないと判示した。


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Boston Scientific Corp. v. Johnson & Johnson, Cordis Corp. and Wyeth, Fed. Cir. June 7, 2011

Kumiko Ide and Ryan Chirnomas | June 15, 2011

Majority:  Moore, Bryson

概要

化学構造と機能性の相互関係についての記載がなく、化合物の大きな属を記載したクレームは、記載要件を満たしていないと見なされる。出願時、どの属に機能性があり、どの属に機能性がないかについての情報がなく、当該分野において不確実性が存在し、当業者がクレーム発明の範囲を理解することができないような場合は特にそのように見なされる。

出願手続きについてのアドバイス

–          特許請求の範囲は、広いものから狭いものまで含むことを推奨する。可能であれば、大きな属から特定の種のみならず、属と種の間の特定した化学構造を表す下位属も記載することを推奨する。

–          発明について何らかの不確実性が存在する場合、その不確実性について明細書に記載すべきでない。本件では、発明のある面について「現在調査進行中(under active investigation)」と示した特許権者のコメントは、化学構造と機能の相互関係について当該分野において公知であったという主張と矛盾していた。専門家証言も、同じ結果(当該分野において公知であった)になるかもしれないが、明細書にそれと矛盾する記載があった場合、裁判所が特許権者に有利な判決を下すことは難しくなる。


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