Archive for May, 2010

Judge Rader on Judicial Confirmation Hearings

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

With the nominations of Judge Kathleen O’Malley and Edward DuMont to the Federal Circuit as well as Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the United States Supreme Court, I thought that this C-Span video from way back in 1994 of Judge Randall Rader discussing confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee might be of interest:

Riding Circuit

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Chief Judge Michel reported in his State of the Court address on May 20, 2010 that the Federal Circuit will be sitting in Atlanta, Georgia this November.  The Federal Circuit usually makes at least one visit outside of D.C. each year.  If you are curious when the last time was that the Federal Circuit sat in your city, you can view the list here: [Link].

Court of Errors

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

I thought this was a humorous comment by Judge Plager during the oral argument of Orion IP, LLC v. Hyundai Motor America, 2009-1130 (Fed. Cir. May 17, 2010), : “We’re a court of errors. We don’t make ’em –we correct ’em.” [Listen].

Does Wall Street Follow Oral Arguments?

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010
Tivo 5-Year Stock Price

Tivo 5-Year Stock Price

I’ve been curious whether there is any indication that institutional investors follow the oral arguments of patent cases at the Federal Circuit. The litigation between Tivo and Echostar finally presented an opportunity to explore this further.

As you can see from the chart above and the following court events in the Tivo/Echostar litigation, the price of Tivo’s stock has reacted quite significantly to the Tivo/Echostar litigation:

A: August 17, 2006, Judge Folsom issues an injunction against Echostar.

B: October 4, 2007, the Federal Circuit hears oral argument in the appeal of the injunction.

C: January 31, 2008, the Federal Circuit reverses-in-part (hardware infringement) and affirms-in-part (software infringement, damages, injunction) Judge Folsom’s decision.

D: June 2, 2009, Judge Folsom issues a contempt ruling in regard to Echostar’s design around design.

E: November 2, 2009, the Federal Circuit hears oral argument in the appeal of the contempt ruling.

F: March 4, 2010, a three member panel affirms the contempt ruling.

G: May 14, 2010, the Federal Circuit grants en banc review of contempt ruling.

A better graphic would show that Tivo’s stock price reacted significantly following events A, C, D, F, and G. It did not appear to react significantly in response to the oral arguments. Obviously, this offers just a couple of data points; but, it may indicate that institutional investors are not taking full advantage of their opportunities to evaluate patent litigation.

Regardless of the outcome of the Tivo/Echostar litigation, Tivo’s stock performance is a strong reminder that some investors value the power of patents.

(For the record, none of the above should be considered investment advice.)

In re Zurko re-emphasized

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

With the CAFC’s decision in Perfect Web Technologies, Inc. v. InfoUSA, Inc., 2009-1105 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 2, 2009), it struck me that the court was easing away from its precedent in In re Zurko, 258 F.3d1379 (Fed. Cir. 2001) that required some factual underpinning for an assertion of “common sense.”  Indeed, in the oral argument of Perfect Web, the panel (Judges Linn, Dyk, and Prost) seemed curious about the applicability of In re Zurko in light of the Supreme Court’s KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex, Inc., 550 U.S. 398 (2007) decision:  [Listen].

Yesterday, a panel of the court in In re Ravi Vaidyanathan, 2009-1404 (Fed. Cir. 2010) re-emphasized the principles of In re Zurko.  Judge Newman writing for herself and Chief Judge Michel wrote:

We agree with the Solicitor that an explicit statement of the level of ordinary skill is not always necessary in evaluating the obviousness of a new technologic advance. But whether or not stated explicitly, the perspective of a person of ordinary skill must frame the obviousness inquiry, and assertions of what such a person of ordinary skill would have found to be obvious require sufficient explanation to permit meaningful appellate review. In this case, not only the Board but also the examiner announced their conclusions of obviousness without providing any evidentiary support or reasoning for why a person of ordinary skill in the field of the invention would have deemed it obvious to select and combine various steps from different references, in the manner of the applicant. This court explained in In re Zurko, 258 F.3d 1379 (Fed. Cir. 2001), that the entry of the PTO into the deferential review of the Administrative Procedure Act requires the agency to provide support for its findings:


With respect to core factual findings in a determination of patentability, . . . the Board cannot simply reach conclusions based on its own understanding or experience—or on its assessment of what would be basic knowledge or common sense. Rather, the Board must point to some concrete evidence in the record in support of these findings. To hold otherwise would render the process of appellate review for substantial evidence on the record a meaningless exercise.

Id. at 1386.


The PTO Solicitor argues that the Court in KSR held that a combination of elements from different prior art references is likely to be unpatentable if it would involve nothing more than “the predictable use of prior art elements according to their established functions,” KSR, 550 U.S. at 417, and that the Board applied this reasoning to the combination of Biggers and Johnson. KSR also clarified that recourse to “common sense,” viewed through the perspective of a person of ordinary skill, is not barred in the obviousness inquiry. As the applicant states, while KSR relaxed some of the formalism of earlier decisions requiring a “teaching, suggestion, or motivation” to combine prior art references, it did not remove the need to anchor the analysis in explanation of how a person of ordinary skill would select and apply the teachings of the references. See, e.g., id. at 417 (“If a person of ordinary skill can implement a predictable variation, §103 likely bars its patentability. For the same reason, if a technique has been used to improve one device, and a person of ordinary skill in the art would recognize that it would improve similar devices in the same way, using the technique is obvious unless its actual application is beyond his or her skill.”).


The applicant complains that the Board simply reasoned from the hindsight knowledge of his successful invention; he stresses that, unlike the facts in KSR, the various steps that he combined were not known to be combinable, and the result of increased precision in missile guidance to the target was not previously known or predictable.


Obviousness is determined as a matter of foresight, not hindsight. See id. at 421 (citing Graham, 383 U.S. at 36). KSR did not free the PTO’s examination process from explaining its reasoning. In making an obviousness rejection, the examiner should not rely on conclusory statements that a particular feature of the invention would have been obvious or was well known. Instead, the examiner should elaborate, discussing the evidence or reasoning that leads the examiner to such a conclusion. Generally, the examiner cites prior art references to demonstrate the state of knowledge. See 37 C.F.R. §1.104(c)(2) (“In rejecting claims for want of novelty or obviousness, the examiner must cite the best references at his or her command.”); Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) §706.02 (8th ed., rev. July 2008) (“Prior art rejections should ordinarily be confined strictly to the best available art. [citing exceptions] Such rejec-tions should be backed up by the best other art rejections available.”). If it is not possible for the examiner to provide this type of information, the examiner might choose instead to provide an affidavit detailing the examiner’s own personal knowledge (as a person approximating one of ordinary skill in the art) of the technology in question. See 37 C.F.R. §1.104(d)(2) (“When a rejection in an application is based on facts within the personal knowledge of an employee of the Office, the data shall be as specific as possible, and the reference must be supported, when called for by the applicant, by the affidavit of such employee, and such affidavit shall be subject to contradiction or explanation by the affidavits of the applicant and other persons.”). Where, as here, prior art references are cited to support an obviousness rejection, the references themselves need not in every case provide a “specific hint or suggestion” of the alteration needed to arrive at the claimed invention; the examiner’s analysis “may include recourse to logic, judgment, and common sense available to a person of ordinary skill that do not necessarily require explication in any reference or expert opinion.” Perfect Web Techs. v. InfoUSA, Inc., 587 F.3d 1324, 1329 (Fed. Cir. 2009). In these cases the examiner should at least explain the logic or common sense that leads the examiner to believe the claim would have been obvious. Anything less than this results in a record that is insulated from meaningful appellate review. Zurko, 258 F.3d at 1386. If the examiner is able to render a claim obvious simply by saying it is so, neither the Board nor this court is capable of reviewing that determination. See KSR, 550 U.S. at 418, citing In re Kahn, 441 F.3d 977, 988 (Fed. Cir. 2006) (“[R]ejections on obviousness grounds cannot be sustained by mere conclusory statements; instead, there must be some articulated reasoning with some rational underpinning to support the legal conclusion of obviousness.”).

It is interesting to note that Judge Dyk, who seemed somewhat concerned about the viability of In re Zurko after KSR during the oral argument of Perfect Web, merely concurred in the judgment of the panel in In re Vaidyanathan rather than joining in the opinion.  I wonder if that signals that  there is more to come in regard to the viability of In re Zurko

My two cents: In re Zurko is the public’s best defense against  the arbitrary use of a “common sense” analysis under KSR.

You can read the court’s decision in In re Vaidyanathan here:  [Read].

You can read the court’s decision in Perfect Web Technologies, Inc. v. InfoUSA, Inc. here: [Read].

You can read the court’s decision in In re Zurko here: [Read].

The First Patent Related to Software

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

I’ve been reading the new book “Patent Law for Computer Scientists: Steps to Protect Computer Implemented Inventions” (Springer publishing 2010) which was written by European Patent Examiners Daniel Closa, Alex Gardiner, Falk Giemsa, and Jörg Machek.  One of the interesting observations that they make in the book is that the first  patent ever granted that related to software is GB1039141  granted in 1966 and titled “A Computer Arranged for the Automatic Solution of Linear Programming Problems.”  The assignee — British Petroleum Company.

Details of AIPLA Electronics and Computer Law Road Show

Monday, May 17th, 2010

The AIPLA has posted its list of speakers for the Electronics and Computer Law Road Show in Denver, CO on June 24th.  Judge Linn will be speaking along with some of my favorite speakers in Steve Kunin, Tom Irving, David Hricik, Carl Moy, and others.

Details of the program are available here:  [Brochure].

Federal Circuit Nominees’ Public Questionnaires

Friday, May 14th, 2010

As part of the confirmation process, judicial nominees submit a public questionnaire to the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

This is a link to the public questionnaire for Judge Kathleen O’Malley’s nomination to the Federal Circuit:  [Link].

This is a link to the public questionnaire for Edward C. DuMont’s nomination to the Federal Circuit: [Link].

No dates have been set yet for Judge O’Malley’s or Mr. DuMont’s hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Wikipedia and the Federal Circuit

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
The magnetic field around an infinite Halbach array of cube magnets

The magnetic field around an infinite Halbach array of cube magnets

The website recently ran an article about the case of United States v. Bari, 09-1074-cr (2d. Cir March 22, 2010) in which the defendant in a criminal case challenged the district court judge’s decision as being in violation of Rule 605 of the Federal Rules of Evidence.  The district court judge had apparently conducted a Google search to confirm his intuition on a “matter of common knowledge” (i.e., how many rain hats were available in the marketplace).

The judges of the Federal Circuit have been known to remark on the use of the internet.  For example, some have been heard to reference Google searches,, and Wikipedia.  In Intamin Ltd. v. Magnetar Technologies, Inc., 483 F.3d 1328 (2007), Judge Rader references Wikipedia as teaching the basic operation of a Halbach array.  [Listen]

You can read the Intamin decision from 2007 and learn more about Halbach arrays here: [Read].

You can read the U.S. v. Bari decision here: [Read].

Benefits of a Broad Interpretation of 35 U.S.C. §101

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Aoil-covered-wildlife4s the nation begins to appreciate the impact of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Supreme Court prepares to wade in on the issue of patentable subject matter in Bilski v. Kappos, one can’t help but be reminded of the Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303 (1980) case.  In that case the Supreme Court dealt with the scope of  section 101 and whether a living organism constituted patentable subject matter.  Dr. Chakrabarty’s invention dealt with an oil digesting bacteria that could digest about two-thirds of the hydrocarbons found in a typical oil spill.  With its landmark decision, the Supreme Court declared Dr. Chakrabarty’s invention patentable.  That bacteria would later be used to remediate the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez and presumably will be used on the oil spill in the Gulf, as well.

Dr. Chakrabarty’s invention and the Diamond v. Chakarabarty decision underscore the benefits of an expansive interpretation of 35 U.S.C. §101 — an interpretation that encourages innovation and promotes the disclosure of new ideas. 

You can listen to the oral argument in Diamond v. Chakrabarty here: [Listen].

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

Nominee Edward C. DuMont’s Oral Argument at the Federal Circuit

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Edward C. DuMont of WilmerHale is President Obama’s nominee to replace Chief Judge Michel.  I posted previously that I had not been able to find any cases where Mr. DuMont had argued before the Federal Circuit.  Well, I stumbled across one.  He argued on behalf of the intervenor in the recent oral argument for the en banc appeal  in Princo Corp. v. ITC on March 3, 2010.  The en banc opinion has not yet issued.

You can listen to Mr. DuMont’s argument before the en banc panel of the Federal Circuit here: [Listen].

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

Divided Infringement Standard Still Evolving

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

In the oral argument of SiRF Technology v. ITC, 2009-1262 (Fed. Cir. April 12, 2010), there was an interesting discussion of the evolving standard for divided infringement.  Despite the court’s earlier decisions in BMC Resources, Inc. v. Paymentech, L.P., 498 F.3d 1373 (Fed. Cir. 2007) and Muniauction, Inc. v. Thomson Corp., 532 F.3d 1318 (Fed. Cir. 2008), one gets the impression that some of the judges feel that divided infringement is still an evolving doctrine and that there is some flexibility for de minimis involvement of an unrelated third party in a method claim.   Judge Dyk  remarks in the following sound bite: “[A]s a matter of patent policy, why shouldn’t somebody be able to draft a claim that includes as one of the steps ‘here’s all the available information’ and the last step is turning the machine on and that’s done by somebody else . . . . ”  He followed up by asking:  “Assuming that the earlier cases don’t answer this particular question, where is the appropriate place to draw the line?”  In addition, Judge Clevenger remarks that control of a third party analogous to principles of respondeat superior is one test for determining whether a third party was under the direction and control of a joint infringer, but it might not be the only test:   [Listen].

The panel was able to avoid the issue in this case because the panel determined that by virtue of its claim construction that there was no third party involvement — rather, SiRF was deemed to have performed all the limitations of the method.  The panel said:

Appellants contend that the Commission erred in concluding that SiRF directly infringes claims 1 and 2 of the ’651 patent7 and claims 1, 2, and 5 of the ’000 patent.8 The resolution of this issue depends in part on claim construction, which is an issue of law and is subject to de novo review. See Cybor Corp. v. FAS Techs., Inc., 138 F.3d 1448, 1456 (Fed. Cir. 1998) (en banc).


Appellants argue that the claims are only infringed when actions are taken by SiRF’s customers and by the end users of the GPS devices; that SiRF accordingly can infringe the patents only when it is a joint infringer together with the customers and the end users; and that the requirements for joint infringement are not satisfied because SiRF does not control or direct the customers or end users. See Muniauction, Inc. v. Thomson Corp., 532 F.3d 1318, 1329 (Fed. Cir. 2008). The Commission found joint infringement. We do not reach the question of joint infringement because we do not read the relevant claims as requiring that any of the specified actions be taken by SiRF’s customers or by the end users of the GPS devices. This is not a situation where a method claim specifies performance of a step by a third party, or in which a third party actually performs some of the designated steps, and thus control or direction of the performance of that step by the accused infringer is required.9 Rather, the method claims at issue here are drawn to actions which can be performed and are performed by a single party. As they do not require that any of the steps be performed here by the customers or the end users, and the disputed steps are not in fact performed by third parties, we conclude that SiRF directly infringes.


First, at issue are the second, “communicati[ng]” step of claim 1 of the ’651 patent and the third, “transmitting” step of the ’000 patent. The second step of claim 1 of the ’651 patent provides for “communication [sic] the satellite ephemeris to a mobile GPS receiver at a second location.” ’651 patent col.10 ll.64-65. The third step of claim 1 of the ’000 patent provides for “transmitting the formatted data to a remote receiver.” ’000 patent col.6 l.47. Appellants argue that the performance of these steps necessarily involves actions by SiRF’s customers and by the end users of the GPS devices. They argue that in order for the data to be “communicat[ed]” or “transmit[ed]” to the GPS receiver, the data must travel first from SiRF’s server to the servers of its customers (the intermediate distributors and GPS product manufacturers). Then, SiRF’s customers must forward this data to the mobile GPS receivers, and the end users of the GPS devices must download the data from the customers’ servers.


Neither the claim language nor the patent specification requires that the communication/transmission be direct. In fact, indirect communication is specifically contemplated. See ’651 patent col.3 ll.42-48 (“The link may be a landline, or other direct communications path . . . . Alternatively, this link may have several parts . . . .”) (label numbers omitted). Therefore, we construe these limitations as encompassing “communicating, whether direct or indirect” and “transmitting, whether direct or indirect.”


With respect to infringement, under this construction it is clear that SiRF performs the step of communicating/transmitting the files to the end users’ devices because SiRF initiates the process of transmitting and communicating, and the files are actually transmitted to the end users. The entire “end-to-end service,” as SiRF’s marketing describes it, J.A. 16,206, was designed by SiRF so that the EE files would be transmitted to end-user GPS devices containing SiRF chips and software. Indeed, the EE files generated by SiRF only work in the end-user devices of those devices containing SiRF chips and SiRF software. Here, it is true that the “communicati[ng]” or “transmitting” can only occur if the customer forwards the data to the end user and the end user downloads the data. However, the actions of “forwarding” or “downloading” are not required by the claims, and, therefore, the fact that other parties perform these actions does not preclude a finding of direct infringement. By analogy, if a claim for a method of making a telephone call included the limitation: “placing a telephone call to a telephone at a second location,” the fact that the call must first be routed through a switched telephone network, and then eventually to the eventual recipient, would not prevent this claim limitation from being satisfied. Therefore, we conclude SiRF indirectly transmits or communicates the files to the GPS receivers and thereby meets these claim limitations.


Second, at issue are the third step of claim 1 of the ’651 patent, which requires “processing [the] satellite signals received at the mobile GPS receiver,” ’651 patent col.10 ll.66-67 and the fourth step of claim 1 of the ’000 patent, which requires “representing [the] formatted data in a second format supported by the remote receiver,” ’000 patent col.6 ll.48-49. With respect to the ’651 patent, the ALJ noted that the processing “occurs at the mobile GPS receiver.” Initial Determination, slip op. at 140-42. With respect to the ’000 patent, the ALJ noted that “[t]he parties are in agreement that [this limitation] is to be construed as ‘converting the data received in the first format to a second format supported by the remote receiver.’” Id. at 125-26. The parties agree that the “processing” and “representing” steps must take place in the mobile GPS device.


Appellants argue that SiRF does not perform this step because though the GPS receivers employ SiRF chips and InstantFix software, end users must actually initiate the process of downloading the EE data by connecting the device to the Internet and activating the InstantFix functionality. Then, the end user must either enable the “auto update” feature or enable the “manual update” feature in order for EE files to be transmitted to the receiver. Appellants argue that this action by an end user negates performance by SiRF of the “processing” or “representing” claim limitations.


Appellants’ argument misreads the claim limitations. There exists no method step in any of the disputed claims that requires “enabling” or “activating” the devices that perform these claim limitations. Nor is there a step which requires “downloading” the data into the GPS receiver. Appellants, in essence, ask us to read such limitations into the claims. We decline to do so. See, e.g., Burke, Inc. v. Bruno Indep. Living Aids, Inc., 183 F.3d 1334, 1340-41 (Fed. Cir. 1999). We therefore construe the “processing” and “representing” steps of the asserted claims as taking place in a GPS receiver that is enabled and ready to process data.


When properly construed, it is clear that SiRF infringes as its devices and software dictate the performance of the “processing” and “representing” steps. Once the technology is enabled, SiRF’s SiRFstarIII chip and software, designed and built by SiRF, automatically perform the disputed steps of the claims at issue because the SiRFstarIII chips are programmed by SiRF to use the InstantFix ephemeris data automatically if it has been transmitted to the remote device. Neither SiRF’s customers (the equipment manufacturers and software developers) nor the end users of the GPS receivers can modify the use of the EE files by SiRF’s software or the functionality of the SiRFstarIII chip. Once the GPS receiver is enabled and ready to process the data, only SiRF’s actions are involved in “processing” or “representing” the data.


SiRF performs all of the claim limitations of claim 1 of the ’651 patent and claim 1 of the ’000 patent, and therefore directly infringes the asserted claims.

7 Claim 1 of the ’651 patent reads as follows:

1. A method of receiving global positioning system (GPS) satellite signals comprising:

receiving satellite ephemeris at a first location;

communication [sic] the satellite ephemeris to a mobile GPS receiver at a second location; and

processing satellite signals received at the mobile GPS receiver using the ephemeris to reduce code and frequency uncertainty in the mobile GPS receiver to improve acquisition sensitivity of the mobile GPS receiver.


8 Claim 1 of the ’000 patent reads as follows:

1. A method of creating and distributing compact satellite orbit models comprising:

receiving satellite signals from at least one satellite and at least one receiving station;

extracting at least a portion of the satellite tracking data from said satellite signal, representing said data in a first format;

transmitting the formatted data to a remote receiver; and

at the remote receiver, representing said formatted data in a second format supported by the remote receiver.


9 For example, in Muniauction, the method at issue required actions to be taken by both a “bidder” and an “issuer.” See 532 F.3d at 1322. In BMC Resources, Inc. v. Paymentech, L.P., 498 F.3d 1373, 1378 (Fed. Cir. 2007), the parties “agree[d] [that] Paymentech [the accused infringer] does not perform every step of the method at issue in this case.”  



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

You can read the decision here: [Read].