To date, the Supreme Court has granted certiorari (commonly referred to as cert) to five patent-related cases this term, which will result in three oral arguments likely to be decided before the end of the term. Two of the cases were consolidated into a single argument, while another case was subject to a Grant-Vacate-and-Remand (GVR) order, meaning the previous decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) has been vacated by the Supreme Court and the case must be reconsidered by the CAFC. There are also over 20 pending Petitions for Writ of Certiorari, which may result in additional patent matters being heard by the Court this term.
In a decision likely to be lauded by patent applicants and owners, the Federal Circuit recently issued an opinion that affirms its staunch position that the bar to prove a patent owner made a disclaimer that impacts the claim scope is high. The opinion provides some useful quotes that prosecutors and litigators representing applicants and owners will likely be interested in calling upon when presenting argument against assertions that a previously taken position amounts to a disclaimer or disavowal by the applicant/owner.
Recently the Federal Circuit, sitting en banc, upheld the International Trade Commission’s (ITC) interpretation of 19 U.S.C. § 1337 to allow the ITC to prevent goods from being imported into the United States when the infringement does not occur until after importation. Although the panel was split 6-4, the primary practical justification for the majority’s decision stemmed from the determination that if the decision came out the other way, it would effectively make § 1337, and thus ITC cases, inapplicable to any induced infringement claims, as well as potentially all method claims. The case involved the importation of fingerprint scanning devices by the Korean company Suprema, Inc., which were then combined with software by Suprema’s American business partner Mentalix, Inc., before the scanners were actually sold in the U.S. The sole claim of the plaintiff Cross Match Technologies, Inc. that was at issue in the en banc appeal (claim 19) was directed to a method for capturing and processing a fingerprint image.
Summary: Two recent Federal Circuit cases serve as a reminder that the means-plus-function doctrine should be at the forefront of practitioners’ minds when drafting or evaluating patent claims, particularly in the case of computer-implemented inventions. These cases also demonstrate yet another weapon for invalidating functionally-claimed software patents.
Maximizing the protection and value of intellectual property assets is often the cornerstone of a business's success and even survival. In this blog, Nutter's Intellectual Property attorneys provide news updates and practical tips in patent portfolio development, IP litigation, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and licensing.