Written Description : CAFC Alert

Instruction from PTO on Software Composition Claims

Scott Daniels | August 28, 2013

Ex parte Mewherter, 2012-007962 (PTAB, 2013)

The Patent Office rarely designates decisions of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board as being “precedential,” but when it does, practitioners take note.  The Patent Office’s designation last week of Ex parte Mewherter, 2012-007692 as falling in that category will be of particular interest to those handling software patent applications. 
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Amending to exclude a species via a negative limitation may violate the written description requirement

Lee Wright | August 7, 2013

In re Bimeda Research & Development Limited

July 25, 2013

Panel:  Rader, Clevenger, Prost.  Opinion by Clevenger.  Concurrence by Rader.

Summary: 

The court held a negative limitation to exclude a genus does not provide 112, first paragraph written description support to claim a negative limitation that excludes a species, which species was never mentioned in the application.


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CAFC Draws a Line in the Sand as to Adding “Boundary” Lines; PTO recants earlier design practice

Ryan Chirnomas | April 3, 2013

In re Owens

March 26, 2013

Panel:  Prost, Moore and Wallach.  Opinion by Prost.

Summary

Although a practice previously endorsed by the USPTO, the CAFC now holds that the addition of a “boundary” line to a design application constitutes the addition of new matter.  Since the parent application gave no indication of one portion of the design being separable from the remainder, the CAFC held that there was no “possession” of the later modification in the original application.


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Applicant’s failure to request claim construction under §112, 6th paragraph may invoke waiver of such claim construction

Yoshiya Nakamura | January 23, 2013

In re Avid Identification Systems, Inc.

January 8, 2013

Panel:  Lourie, Clevenger and Bryson.  Opinion by Lourie.  Dissent by Clevenger.

Summary:

The Examiner rejected claims of a patent at issue, and the PTO board maintained the rejection finding that a means-plus function limitation was found in prior art where its broadest reasonable meaning was given.  CAFC affirmed the PTO decision, and denied the Applicants’ request for a claim construction under § 112, 6th paragraph, instead of the broadest reasonable interpretation.  CAFC reasoned that the Applicants waived that claim construction by failing to raise the issue during the procedure in the PTO.  The dissenting opinion pointed out that the claim construction according to § 112, 6th paragraph is mandatory as the statutory requirement where the claim term clearly invokes the application of § 112, 6th paragraph.

出願人はクレームが自明であるとして拒絶した特許庁審判部の判断を不服として、CAFCに控訴した。問題のクレームには、ミーンズプラスファンクション(”means for”の用語を用いた限定 )を記載がある。そのような記載があると通常、特許法112条第6パラグラフの適用があり、その機能限定は明細書に開示されている構造もしくはそれと均等な構造を記載していると限定解釈される。しかしながら、本件では、特許庁審査官および審判部は、そのミーンズプラスファンクションの限定を、一般的な構造限定のときのように合理的な範囲で最も広い意味(broadest reasonable meaning)の基準を用いて解釈した。この広い解釈に基づいてその機能限定は先行技術に記載されていると特許庁は判断した。この経緯に関してCAFCは、出願人は特許庁の手続きにおいて112条第6パラグラフの適用を自ら主張しなかったためその機会を放棄したと判断し、出願人の主張を退けた。CAFC裁判官の1人は、112条第6パラグラフの適用は制定法上の要求であり、出願人や審査官が同法に基づく限定解釈を要求しなくても先ずその解釈を採用すべきであるとの反対意見を述べた。


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Method Claim Survives Over MPF Claim’s Demise Under Aristocrat

John Kong | November 28, 2012

ePlus, Inc. v. Lawson Software, Inc.

November 21, 2012

Dyk, Prost, O’Malley.  Opinion by Prost.

Summary:

This case serves as a reminder of the importance of having different claim types.  ePlus’ jury verdict of infringement of two systems claims was vacated because the Federal Circuit found one means-plus-function element recited therein to lack the requisite corresponding structure being disclosed in the specification, thereby rendering the claims indefinite under 35 USC §112, second paragraph.  However, the infringement of a similar method claim reciting the same function as the means-plus-function element was affirmed.


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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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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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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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