Wireless Agents LLC v. Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB

Wireless Agents LLC v. Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB was decided in a non-precedential opinion back in 2006.  Despite the date and non-precedential effect, I find it to be a very interesting opinion and oral argument.  From a patent drafting perspective, it touches on a whole host of different issues: (1) narrow summary; (2) “present invention” language; (3) criticizing the prior art in the specification; (4) boilerplate; (5) non-essential claim language; (6) plain meaning of claim terms; (7) clear disavowal;  and more.

The case concerned an appeal of a district court’s refusal to grant a preliminary injunction.  The claim language at issue was the term “alphanumeric keyboard.”  The Federal Circuit determined that the term “alphanumeric keyboard” did not include a twelve key keypad that allowed keying of all the letters of the alphabet and the numbers 0-9. 

The claim at issue read as follows: 

A hand-held, electronic computing device having a physical configuration comprising:

a body portion;

a display portion pivotally coupled to the body portion;

a constantly visible display carried by the display portion;

an alphanumeric keyboard carried by the body portion;

wherein the alphanumeric keyboard is at least partially concealed by the display portion when not in use; and

wherein the display portion pivots relative to the body portion in a plane that is generally parallel with the alphanumeric keyboard.

Perhaps the strongest factor in favor of limiting the meaning of “alphanumeric keyboard” was the number of times that the inventor criticized or distinguished keypads in the prior art. The panel seemed to focus on this during oral argument — note also Judge Rader’s stress on the phrase the “present invention” during questioning: [Listen], [Listen], and [Listen].

Interestingly, the attorney for the patent owner argued that the “alphanumeric keyboard” language wasn’t related to the object of the invention: [Listen].

For those who remember the Federal Circuit’s odd claim construction decision in E-Pass v. 3COM, it was interesting to hear Judge Rader’s comments about that case and his dismissal of it as a pre-Phillips dictionary case:  [Listen].

You can read the court’s opinion in Wireless Agents [Here].

You can listen/download the oral argument [Here].

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