Patent Claim Construction: I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

Patent Claim ConstructionHere are a couple of recent cases involving claim construction issues. In both, the patent owner tried to argue that a term meant something different than what seemed to be the term’s plain meaning.

In re Transaction Holdings Ltd., No. 2011–3061 (Apr. 23, 2012) (Judges Bryson, Schall, and Prost) (nonprecedential)

This case combines an appeal from the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) and an appeal from the district court. Automated Transactions sued several defendants for infringement of its ATM patent. That patent ended up in reexamination, and while the district court action was stayed until the reexam was completed, Automated got four more patents based on the original patent in the lawsuit. It added those patents to its complaint.

In the end, the BPAI affirmed the examiner’s rejection of Automated’s claims and, once the stay was lifted, the district court granted summary judgment of non-infringement. The district court found that all of the asserted claims covered only ATMs that connect to the bank through the Internet. The defendants connected through private networks, so they didn’t infringe.

Automated tried to argue that the term “Internet” didn’t mean just the Internet. It should include private networks, too. The Federal Circuit looked at the specification and arguments that Automated made in the reexam, and found the district court’s interpretation reasonable. Since “Internet” means, well, just the “Internet,” it doesn’t include private networks. The court affirmed the grant of summary judgment of noninfringement.

ZapMedia Services, Inc. v. Apple, Inc., No. 2011–1546 (Apr. 25, 2012) (Judges Lourie, Linn, and Prost) (nonprecedential)

ZapMedia sued Apple for patent infringement, alleging that iTunes infringes ZapMedia’s patent. The patent covered downloading to “authorized” devices. iTunes lets you download to unauthorized devices, so the district court granted summary judgment of noninfringement.

ZapMedia basically tried to argue that the limitation that “the plurality of referenced media assets can be accessed by any one of the authorized plurality of media player devices” didn’t really mean that the claim was limited to systems that only download to authorized devices. The Federal Circuit didn’t buy it; it said that the specification prosecution history showed that the patent was limited to a system that includes authorized devices and only downloaded to those authorized devices. The court agreed with Apple and upheld the district court’s grant of summary judgment.

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