Hybrid Claims

January 19th, 2010

The recently decided case of Schindler Elevator Corp. v. Otis Elevator Co., 2009-1146 (Fed. Cir. January 15, 2010) concerned a claim that read as follows:

1. An elevator installation having a plurality of elevators comprising:
a recognition device for recognizing elevator calls entered at an entry location by an information transmitter carried by an elevator user, initializing the entry location as a starting floor of a journey;

a control device receiving the recognized elevator call and allocating an elevator to respond to the elevator call, through a predetermined allocating algorithm;

a call acknowledging device comprising one of a display device and an acoustic device to acknowledge recognition of the elevator call and to communicate a proposed destination floor to the elevator user;
the recognition device, mounted in the access area in the vicinity of the elevators and spatially located away from elevator doors, actuating the information transmitter and comprising a unit that independently reads data transmitted from the information transmitter carried by the elevator user and a storage device coupled between the unit and the control device;

the recognition device one of transmitting proposed destination floor data, based upon the data transmitted from the information transmitter, to the control device, and, transmitting elevator user specific data, based upon individual features of the elevator user stored in the storage device, to the control device.

The Federal Circuit panel construed two claim limitations. Namely, it construed “information transmitter” to mean “a device that communicates with a recognition device via electromagnetic waves, after being actuated by that recognition device, without requiring any sort of personal action by the passenger.” And, the Federal Circuit construed the term “recognition device” to mean “a device that actuates and reads data transmitted by an information transmitter without requiring any sort of personal action by the passenger.” The strikeout shows the modification made to the District Court judge’s claim construction of the two terms.

Much of the oral argument concerned a discussion of what a user could or could not do. This was sometimes confusing because all the claims at issue were apparatus claims — not method claims. So, it seemed odd to be focusing on actions by the user. Nevertheless, the Federal Circuit states at one point in the opinion:

First, “the context in which a term is used in the asserted claim can be highly instructive.” Id. In claim 1, the term “information transmitter” itself suggests that the transmitter is a thing, separate and apart from an “elevator user” (a separate limitation), which transmits information. The claim also provides that “elevator calls [are] entered at an entry location by an information transmitter.” Thus, at least with regard to the transmission of information and the entry of calls, it is the information transmitter—not the elevator user—that performs these tasks. Similarly, the claim provides that a “recognition device . . . actuat[es] the information transmitter” and that “a unit . . . independently reads data transmitted from the information transmitter.” Accordingly, the tasks of actuating the transmitter and reading data are performed by the recognition device and the unit, respectively, not by the elevator user. The claim also explicitly provides that the transmitter is “carried by an elevator user.” Carrying a transmitter is thus a type of “personal action” that is expressly required in the claims. Nowhere does claim 1 limit the act of carrying to any specific manner of carrying.

(emphasis added)

Thus, the Federal Circuit noted that an elevator user is a separate claim limitation and that “carrying a transmitter” by a user is required by the claims. Moreover, the attorney for the plaintiff-appellant emphasized this step during oral argument: [Listen].

This would seem to suggest that at least claim 1 of Schindler’s patent is a hybrid claim that includes both structural elements and a method step that is performed by a user. How should this claim be treated under the Federal Circuit’s precedential opinion IPXL Holdings v. Amazon.com, 433 F.3d 1377 (Fed. Cir. 2005)?

In IPXL Holdings, the Federal Circuit held that a hybrid claim that included both structural elements and elements performed by a user of the system was indefinite under 35 USC section 112. The basis for the holding was that when a claim is written in this format it is unclear whether infringement occurs when one creates a system that allows a user to use the structure, or whether infringement occurs when the user actually uses the structure. The IPXL panel stated:

     The district court found that claim 25 is indefinite under 35 U.S.C. § 112, as it attempts to claim both a system and a method for using that system. Section 112, paragraph 2, requires that the claims of a patent “particularly point[] out and distinctly claim[] the subject matter which the applicant regards as his invention.” 35 U.S.C. § 112 (2000). A claim is considered indefinite if it does not reasonably apprise those skilled in the art of its scope. Amgen, Inc. v. Chugai Pharm. Co., 927 F.2d 1200, 1217 (Fed. Cir. 1991).
     Whether a single claim covering both an apparatus and a method of use of that apparatus is invalid is an issue of first impression in this court. The Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (“Board”) of the PTO, however, has made it clear that reciting both an apparatus and a method of using that apparatus renders a claim indefinite under section 112, paragraph 2. Ex parte Lyell, 17 USPQ2d 1548 (BPAI 1990). As the Board noted in Lyell, “the statutory class of invention is important in determining patentability and infringement.” Id. at 1550 (citing In re Kuehl, 475 F.2d 658, 665 (CCPA 1973); Rubber Co. v. Goodyear, 76 U.S. 788, 796 (1870)). The Board correctly surmised that, as a result of the combination of two separate statutory classes of invention, a manufacturer or seller of the claimed apparatus would not know from the claim whether it might also be liable for contributory infringement because a buyer or user of the apparatus later performs the claimed method of using the apparatus. Id. Thus, such a claim “is not sufficiently precise to provide competitors with an accurate determination of the ‘metes and bounds’ of protection involved” and is “ambiguous and properly rejected” under section 112, paragraph 2. Id. at 1550-51. This rule is well recognized and has been incorporated into the PTO’s Manual of Patent Examination Procedure. § 2173.05(p)(II) (1999) (“A single claim which claims both an apparatus and the method steps of using the apparatus is indefinite under 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph.”); see also Robert C. Faber, Landis on Mechanics of Patent Claim Drafting § 60A (2001) (“Never mix claim types to different classes of invention in a single claim.”).
     Claim 25 recites both the system of claim 2 and a method for using that system. The claim reads:

The system of claim 2 [including an input means] wherein the predicted transaction information comprises both a transaction type and transaction parameters associated with that transaction type, and the user uses the input means to either change the predicted transaction information or accept the displayed transaction type and transaction parameters.
‘055 patent, col. 22, ll. 8-13 (emphasis added).

     Thus, it is unclear whether infringement of claim 25 occurs when one creates a system that allows the user to change the predicted transaction information or accept the displayed transaction, or whether infringement occurs when the user actually uses the input means to change transaction information or uses the input means to accept a displayed transaction. Because claim 25 recites both a system and the method for using that system, it does not apprise a person of ordinary skill in the art of its scope, and it is invalid under section 112, paragraph 2.

It will be interesting to see on remand to the District Court whether Otis Elevator pursues an indefiniteness argument under section 112.

You can read the Federal Circuit’s opinion here: [Read].

You can listen to the entire oral argument here: [Listen].

Book Review: “Drafting Patents for Litigation and Licensing”

January 18th, 2010

Reproduced by permission. ©2009 Colorado Bar Association,                                   

38 The Colorado Lawyer 76 (December 2009). All rights reserved. 


Book Reviews




Drafting Patents for Litigation and Licensing


By ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law, Bradley C. Wright, ed.

776 pp.; $325

BNA Books, 2008

P.O. Box 7814, Edison, NJ 08818-7814

(800) 960-1220l; www.bnabooks.com


 Reviewed by William F. Vobach

   William F. Vobach is a patent attorney and a partner with the intellectual property firm of Swanson and Bratschun in Little­ton. He is co-editor of the Intellectual Property and Technology Law section of The Colorado Lawyer and a contributing author on “Patent Law” in the CBA’s The Practitioner’s Guide to Colo­rado Business Organizations—(303)268-0066, bvobach@sbiplaw.com



    Drafting Patents for Litigation and Licensing is an excellent book for anyone involved in the practice of writing patent applications, preparing patent non-infringement and invalidity opinions, or liti­gating patents. It will be less helpful to business attorneys who are not actively involved in counseling clients about patent law. How­ever, for those attorneys who already have a general understanding of patent law and desire to learn more, this book will serve as a good reference.

      Although patent attorneys are aware of the dichotomy between patent preparation and patent enforcement, not all attorneys might recognize a dichotomy exists. Although a patent application typi­cally costs an inventor several thousands of dollars in attorney fees to prepare, millions of dollars typically will be spent when the patent is enforced. Thus, a significantly greater amount of money goes into enforcing an issued patent during litigation as compared to preparing the initial patent application. It therefore benefits all patent attorneys to be aware of the pitfalls that confront an attor­ney preparing a patent application. For example, it benefits not on­ly those attorneys preparing patent applications so as to avoid these pitfalls, but also patent litigators looking for new arguments to at­tack an asserted patent.

      This book focuses primarily on the preparation of patent appli­cations and the pitfalls that can confront a patent attorney during the application process. In the first chapter, the current state of the law of claim construction is discussed. Then, a very useful chapter discusses the problems that can occur when drafting a patent ap­plication. The next chapter draws on the lessons learned from claim construction cases to propose a process that the attorney can employ when preparing a new patent application. I found these first three chapters of the book to be an excellent refresher on the recent developments and trends in patent law. Moreover, I have continued to refer back to them while I have prepared opinions or drafted patent applications.

     The next third of the book deals with technical areas of patent law and the issues that are unique to each area. There are chapters focusing on mechanical patents; electrical patents; chemical and pharmaceutical patents; biotechnology patents; software, e-com­merce, Internet, and business method patents; and design patents. The chapters are authored by specialists in their respective area of patent law and therefore are well tailored to address issues that con­front practitioners in each technical specialty area. The chapter on design patents is one of the better treatments of this area of the law that I have seen.

     The third section of the book discusses other topics of interest to patent attorneys, such as continuation practice, drafting patent applications with a view toward Europe, and combining patent prosecution with other forms of representation. The subject mat­ter in these chapters, including the discussion about a firm serving as both opinion counsel and litigation counsel, is particularly well presented. Among the authors is David Hricik, who is one of the leading scholars on ethical issues confronting patent attorneys.

     Due to the frequency with which changes occur in patent law, there have already been some significant changes in the law that will have to be updated when the book is supplemented. However, there is no avoiding this issue in books of this nature and I would not put off ordering the book until a supplement is released. Even without a supplement, the book will be valuable for many years to come. 

      I can highly recommend this book to all patent practitioners—both patent prosecutors and patent litigators alike. The authors se­lected to write each chapter clearly know their subjects and do an excellent job of presenting the material. The book is well crafted to assist those in the practice of drafting, litigating, or licensing patents to assist their clients in assessing the strengths and weak­nesses of a patent.


Review of Legal Resources is published to apprise attorneys of books and other resources that may be of interest to them. Readers wishing to make review suggestions, provide review copies, or write reviews should contact Leona Martínez at leonamartinez@cobar.org. For a list of titles available for review at press time, see the notice on page 124 entitled “Read a book. Write a review.”

Readers who have questions about any reviewed material should contact the reviewer. Please contact the publisher to obtain a copy of the book.

CBA members can purchase any ABA publication at a 20 percent discount through the CBA’s Department of Law Practice Management (LPM). Some materials may be available for checkout through the LPM Lending Library. For more information about LPM purchases and the LPM Lending Library, contact Michelle Gersic at (303) 824-5342, (800) 332-6736, or mgersic@cobar.org.


 The Colorado Lawyer | December 2009 | Vol. 38, No. 12 






Water cooler talk

January 11th, 2010

Are registered patent attorneys more successful litigators than those attorneys who are not registered?  I imagine the answer you get to that question will depend on whom you ask.  In looking at the number of registered attorneys arguing patent cases at the Federal Circuit, however, I found the breakdown between registered attorneys and unregistered attorneys extremely interesting.  There is a clear pattern of there being a greater percentage of unregistered attorneys arguing on behalf of appellees.  And, a clear pattern of there being a greater percentage of registered attorneys arguing on behalf of appellants.




So, as fodder for discussion around the water cooler, what do these statistics mean, if anything?  Does the higher percentage of unregistered attorneys representing appellees mean that unregistered attorneys are better trial lawyers, can think more like jurors or judges, are highly skilled appellate lawyers at general practice firms?   Does the higher percentage of registered attorneys representing appellants mean that when the stakes are high, parties bring in a hired-gun appellate lawyer with a registration number?  What about the high reversal rates at the Federal Circuit — what do they suggest about the ultimate outcome of a case?   Do the trends have anything to do with movement of patent litigation and patent litigators away from boutique patent firms to large general practice firms?  I don’t know the answer to these questions — but, I do find the opposing trends interesting.

Microsoft Requests Rehearing En Banc in I4I case

January 9th, 2010

Microsoft has now filed its request for a rehearing en banc in the I4I v. Microsoft appeal:  [Read].

What does “connect” mean?

January 6th, 2010

If you have ever written mechanical patents or spent time analyzing them, you have probably run across the issue of how broadly should the word “connect” be interpreted.  (Similarly, you have probably contemplated the meaning of “coupled with.”)  The case of Restaurant Technologies, Inc. v. Jersey Shore Chicken, 2009-1176, (Fed. Cir. January 6, 2010) broached this issue with respect to the word “interconnecting.”   The patent at issue concerned a chicken fryer.*

The claim term at issue read:

(e) piping network interconnecting said first and second containers, said filter unit and said first and second couplings.

One of the interesting aspects of the oral argument was when Peter Lancaster of Dorsey and Whitney’s Minneapolis office made the argument that the defendant’s own patent (stipulated to describe the accused device) described the elements of the allegedly infringing product as “connected.”  [Listen].  In my review of the court’s opinion, I did not see that the panel ever addressed that argument.

The panel also noted that the doctrine of equivalents would not cover indirectly connected elements — elements are either connected or not connected.

Furthermore, the court was correct in limiting possible equivalents as a matter of law, finding that claim 8, paragraph (e), “warrant[s] few or no equivalents because there are no insubstantial or trivial changes that could be made to this limitation; the specified components are either connected or not connected to one another by a piping network.” Summary Judgment Opinion, 2007 WL 4081737 at *19.  Based on the claim construction, the court was correct in finding that Oilmatic was entitled to summary judgment of noninfringement.

You can listen to the entire oral argument here:  [Listen].

You can read the court’s opinion here: [Read].

*Appropriately, the inventors for the chicken fryer patent at issue hail from Kentucky.

Do you speak American?

January 3rd, 2010

PBS has an interesting website on American English at http://www.pbs.org/speak/ that they title “Do you speak American?”  One fun page at the site is an interactive quiz to see if you can match a speaker to a region of the country: [Link].

Another page explains how various presidents have coined new words throughout the years, such as “administration,” “lunatic fringe,” and “misunderestimate”: [Link].

The article refers to one who coins new words as a neologist.  My reaction to reading that was “Oh, they meant to say lexicographer.”  But, it turns out that PBS has the better word.    According to my dictionary, a lexicographer is “a writer, editor, or compiler of a dictionary.”  However, neologize means “to make or use new words or create new meanings for existing words.”  It would seem that a lexicographer is merely a person who records established definitions rather than the more creative neologist who coins entirely original meanings for words.

A lesser known corollary to the lexicographer [sic: neologist] rule is that a patentee is also entitled to be his or her own grammarian.  See Chicago Steel Foundry Co. v. Burnside Steel Foundry Co., 132 F.2d 812, 814-15 (7th Cir. 1943), cited in Jonsson v. Stanley Works, 903 F.2d 812, 820-21 (Fed. Cir. 1990).

*By the way, while playing SCRABBLE over the holidays, I tried to explain to my family that as a patent attorney, I was entitled to be my own lexicographer [sic: neologist] when proposing new words on the board.  They didn’t buy it.

Lodestar Analysis: “Did you have a party?”

December 30th, 2009

One of the nice personality traits of the judges of the Federal Circuit is that they have healthy senses of humor.  Judge Plager’s rather wry sense of humor demonstrated itself in two recent oral arguments.

In the oral argument for IN RE ELECTRO-MECHANICAL INDUSTRIES, 2008-1530, (Fed. Cir. Dec. 22, 2009), the court was trying to determine why the district court judge had increased the award of attorneys’ fees in a bankruptcy estimation proceeding.  Judges Moore and Plager were intently discussing with plaintiff’s counsel the Lodestar analysis for contingency cases and inquiring about his reaction at the time that the district court judge significantly enhanced the attorneys’ fee award.  As you’ll hear, Judge Plager then asked “I bet you had a party, didn’t you?” [Listen].   For the record, I’m pretty sure that whether one had a party is not the current standard of review of a Lodestar analysis.

In the oral argument of another recent case, In re Medicis Pharmaceutical Corporation, 2009-1291, (Fed. Cir. Dec. 14, 2009), the Associate Solictor for the PTO made a conscientious effort during oral argument to correct a statement that was in his brief.  Judge Plager’s tongue-in-cheek remark was “Which raises the question ‘Were you lying then, or are you lying now?’ ” [Listen].

How many references are too many?

December 28th, 2009

The Federal Circuit recently decided In re Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp., 2009-1291, (Fed. Cir. December 14, 2009), an appeal from the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences.  An interesting issue that arose during oral argument was how many references may the PTO reasonably combine in making a 103 rejection.

Many patent attorneys have been frustrated at one time or another by an examiner seemingly hell-bent on rejecting a claim by combining an endless number of references so that all the elements of the claim could be accounted for in a 103 rejection.  Therefore, it was interesting to hear this exchange between Judge Rader and the Associate Solicitor for the PTO during the oral argument of In re Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp. as to how many references are too many: [Listen].  Judge Rader commented that when you start combining three references together rather than two, that suggests the person of ordinary skill has to have an awful lot of understanding.

Those who have researched this issue in the past are probably familiar with the MPEP section 2145, V. which states:

Reliance on a large number of references in a rejection does not, without more, weigh against the obviousness of the claimed invention. In re Gorman, 933 F.2d 982, 18 USPQ2d 1885 (Fed. Cir. 1991) (Court affirmed a rejection of a detailed claim to a candy sucker shaped like a thumb on a stick based on thirteen prior art references.).

In light of the Supreme Court’s decision in KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex, Inc., 550 U.S. 398 (2007),  perhaps it would be clarifying for the Federal Circuit to consider Judge Rader’s position in a forthcoming opinion.

 At another point during the oral argument, Judge Rader commented about long-felt need.  The patent (which was on appeal from the Board after a reexamination) concerned a facial cleansing product.  And, Judge Rader noted that since the need for a good facial cleansing product has probably been in existence since the origin of mankind, that shouldn’t that be a significant factor to consider in the obviousness analysis: [Listen].

The panel issued a Rule 36 affirmance of the Board decision.

Happy Holidays

December 25th, 2009

Happy Holidays from the 717 MADISON PLACE blog! 

My firm celebrated the holidays this year at the Space House in the foothills overlooking Denver, Colorado.   You might recognize the Space House as having been featured in the Woody Allen movie Sleeper.



Colorado is not only home to the likes of the Space House and the Balloon Boy but also one of the highest per capita populations of entrepreneurs focused on the aerospace industry.  This has spawned the formation of a relatively new organization known as “The Eighth Continent Project” that supports entrepreneurship in the aerospace industry at the national level.  If you represent such a company, you and your clients might want to learn more about The Eighth Continent Project at www.8Cproject.com.

Logan, Jr. v. Hormel Foods

December 24th, 2009

In the spirit of the holidays, I thought it might be fun to revisit a 2007 decision that involved spiral sliced ham.  The claim at issue in this case read:

A boneless sliced meat having its meat arranged in the form of a continuous spiral cut about an axis of the meat, the axis being created by temporary insertion of a support member in the meat, wherein the depth of said cut is limited to leave an uncut core of meat, said core being of sufficient cross-section to cause the boneless sliced meat to retain its shape when the support member is removed.
One of the issues addressed in the oral argument was whether the support member had to be inserted the  entire length of the meat in order to support it.  While the court did not address the patent’s use of “the present invention” language in its written opinion, Judge Moore did inquire about this language with defendant-appellee’s counsel [Listen] and during rebuttal with plaintiff-appellant’s counsel [Listen].
As you will note there is an interesting exchange between Judge Lourie and plaintiff-appellant’s counsel about the overuse of the expression “preferred embodiment.”  Judge Lourie remarks that the term “preferred embodiment” is the most over-used expression in the patent world and is inapplicable when only a single embodiment is disclosed. 

You can listen to the entire oral argument here: [Listen].

You can read the court’s opinion here: [Read].