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July 15, 2022by Jacob Doughty

LG Elecs. v. Immervision, Inc., No. 2021-2037 (Fed. Cir. July 11, 2022), is a recent decision of the Federal Circuit, considering whether errant information in a prior art reference can be relied upon to demonstrate unpatentability.

LGE challenged an Immervision patent directed to capturing digital panoramic images in an IPR. The Immervision patent claimed, inter alia, a method in which, “… the objective lens compresses the center of the image and the edges of the image and expands an intermediate zone of the image located between the center and the edges of the image.”

In challenging the patent, LGE relied on a prior art U.S. patent, Tada, which did not expressly disclose compressing the center and edges of an image and expanding an intermediate zone, but which included tables setting forth various measurements of specific embodiments of the disclosed lens system. LGE retained an expert who performed calculations based on the measurements and concluded that one of the lens systems of Tada (Embodiment 3) compressed the center and edges of an image and expanded an intermediate zone.

Immervision also retained an expert, who, in the course of performing his own calculations, discovered discrepancies in the measurements for Embodiment 3 of Tada. After some detailed examination of other embodiments of Tada and the Japanese patent application from which priority was claimed, Immervision’s expert determined that the measurements for Embodiment 3 shown in Tada erroneously included measurements for a different embodiment.

That is, due to an apparent cutting-and-pasting error in translating the Japanese application on which Tada was based, LGE’s expert’s calculations indicated that the lens system of Embodiment 3 of Tada compressed the center and edges of an image and expanded an intermediate zone. However, if LGE’s expert had used the correct measurements, this would not have been the case.

Based on the testimony of Immervision’s expert, the PTAB concluded that LGE failed to carry its burden in demonstrating unpatentability. LGE appealed.

The Federal Circuit noted that “… the standard for evaluating these types of apparent or ‘obvious typographical error[s],’” is set forth in a decision of its predecessor court, more than 50 years ago, in In re Yale, 434 F.2d 666 (C.C.P.A. 1970). Particularly:

The court in Yale held that where a prior art reference includes an obvious error of a typographical or similar nature that would be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art who would mentally disregard the errant information as a misprint or mentally substitute it for the correct information, the errant information cannot be said to disclose subject matter.

In Yale, the CCPA concluded that a reference could not be relied on for disclosing a compound that appeared in a single instance due to an error (CF3CHClBr was shown as CF3CF2CHClBr in a graph).

LGE argued that the error in Tada could not possibly be an obvious error because it took Immervision’s expert hours of detailed investigation to find. LGE further argued that the error in Tada was not “of a typographical or similar nature.” The Federal Circuit was not persuaded. In affirming the PTAB, the Federal Circuit noted that the length of time and manner in which an error was discovered did not diminish its obviousness. Further, the Federal Circuit further stated that “[t]he distinction between the typographical error in Yale and the copy-and-paste error here is a distinction without a difference.”

In dissent, Judge Newman was more sympathetic to LGE’s position:

I agree with the panel majority that Yale establishes the correct standard to determine if an error would be obvious to a person of ordinary skill in the field. However, I do not agree with the majority’s application of this standard to the facts herein. An “obvious error” should be apparent on its face and should not require the conduct of experiments or a search for possibly conflicting information to determine whether error exists. When a reference contains an erroneous teaching, its value as prior art must be determined.

Takeaway: It is not uncommon for technical documents relied on as prior art (e.g., patent publications, journal articles) to include errors – particularly in descriptions of experimental results. Such errors may undermine an assertion that a property or parameter is inherent – and thus possibly provide an avenue for attacking a prior art rejection or assertion of invalidity.

Judges: Newman (dissenting in part), Stoll, Cunningham


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June 10, 2022by Jacob Doughty

Pavo Sols. v. Kingston Tech. Co., No. 2021-1834 (Fed. Cir. June 3, 2022), is a recent decision of the Federal Circuit considering, inter alia, whether a district court acted appropriately in “judicially correcting” an error in claim language. Kingston was found by the district court to have willfully infringed the judicially corrected claim.

The claim at issue recited:

A flash memory apparatus comprising:

a flash memory main body including a rectangular shaped case within which a memory element is mounted, a[] USB (Universal Serial Bus) terminal piece electrically connected with the memory element and installed at a front end of the case in a projecting manner, and a hinge protuberance formed on at least one side of the case; and

a cover including [a] pair of parallel plate members facing each other and spaced by an interval corresponding to the thickness of the case, the cover having an open front end and a closed rear end with a pair of lateral side openings; the parallel plate members having at least one hinge hole receiving the hinge protuberance on the case for pivoting the case with respect to the flash memory main body, whereby the USB terminal piece is received in an inner space of the cover or exposed outside the cover.

As emphasized above, the claim requires cover features that permit the case to pivot with respect to the flash memory main body.  However, the case is part of the flash memory main body and not part of the cover, so it is unclear how the features of the cover could cause a part of the flash memory main body to pivot with respect to itself (or another part thereof). The district court found that it was apparent from the claim language that “pivoting the case” should be “pivoting the cover” and judicially corrected the language in its claim construction order.

The Federal Circuit noted that it is permissible for a court to correct “an obvious minor typographical or clerical error” in a patent claim “only if (1) the correction is not subject to reasonable debate based on consideration of the claim language and the specification and (2) the prosecution history does not suggest a different interpretation of the claims.”

Kingston argued that the error could not possibly be minor because the correction replaced one structural element with another and broadened the claims. Kingston further argued that alternative corrections were plausible in view of the claim language, specification, and prosecution history.

The Federal Circuit found that its precedent did not prohibit corrections that resulted in changes to recited structure. Further, the Federal Circuit found Kingston’s arguments with respect to broadening and plausible alternative corrections (and the supporting expert testimony) to be insufficient to raise a reasonable debate about claim scope.

Having affirmed the district court’s correction of the claim, the Federal Circuit concluded that the district court’s finding of willful infringement was also appropriate. Specifically, “[w]e hold, however, that reliance on an obvious minor clerical error in the claim language is not a defense to willful infringement.”

Takeaway: When performing a clearance or freedom-to-operate analysis, patent counsel often search for “errors” made in drafting or prosecution of a patent application that could result in a narrow construction or estoppel that will give a client comfort that a finding of infringement is unlikely. However, it is important not to be too strict or literal in this analysis. If the intended meaning of claim term is clear using common sense, it may be risky to base a conclusion of non-infringement on errors in a claim even if they seem significant.

Judges: Lourie, Prost, Chen


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May 6, 2022by Jacob Doughty

Niazi Licensing Corp. v. St. Jude Med. S.C., No. 2021-1864 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 11, 2022), is a recent decision of the Federal Circuit considering, inter alia, the definiteness of descriptive words (or terms of degree) in a claim.

The claim at issue recited:

A double catheter, comprising:

an outer, resilient catheter having shape memory and a hook shaped distal end configured for cannulation of the coronary sinus with at least one curved bend;

an inner, pliable catheter slidably disposed in the outer catheter and of greater length than the outer catheter…

The district court found that the terms “resilient” and “pliable” rendered the claim invalid as indefinite. The Federal Circuit disagreed and reversed.

The Federal Circuit began by noting that, while terms of degree in a claim may inherently result in broader claim scope, a claim is not indefinite just because it is broad. However, terms of degree will render a claim indefinite when the intrinsic evidence (or extrinsic evidence, when relevant and available) provides insufficient guidance as to any objective boundaries for the claim – i.e., when claim scope is “purely subjective.”

With respect to the term “resilient,” the Federal Circuit found that the claim itself provided guidance with respect to the meaning of the term by requiring that the outer catheter have “shape memory.” Dependent claims further indicated exemplary materials that could be used to make the outer catheter. Likewise, the specification indicated that the outer catheter should have “sufficient shape memory to return to its original shape when un-distorted.” Although the Federal Circuit indicated that reliance on extrinsic evidence was not necessary, dictionary definitions were consistent with the claims and specification. Thus, the Federal Circuit concluded that a skilled artisan reading the claims and specification would know of exemplary materials that can be used to make a resilient outer catheter, i.e., one that has shape memory and stiffness such that it can return to its original shape.

As to “pliable,” the claim language was not as illuminating, but the specification indicated that, relative to the outer catheter, the inner catheter “is constructed of a more pliable, soft material such as silicone.” Dictionary definitions, again, were consistent with the specification. The Federal Circuit found that a skilled artisan would have understood that the inner catheter is made of a more flexible material than the outer catheter.

Thus, the Federal Circuit concluded that the intrinsic and extrinsic record provided objective boundaries by which a skilled artisan could determine the scope of the claims. The terms “resilient” and “pliable” were determined not to be “purely subjective terms,” resulting in a variable claim scope depending on the particular eye of any one observer.

Takeaway: Terms of degree in a claim can be troublesome during prosecution – an examiner can easily make a rejection, and a response proving “objective boundaries” can be difficult. However, if a term of degree cannot be deleted, the Niazi decision provides some suggestions for responding to an assertion of indefiniteness. Any indications of the scope of the term from the claims and specification can be supplemented with evidence (literature, opinion declaration, etc.) of how a skilled artisan would view the term. Although not explicitly stated in the Niazi decision, the court’s reasoning suggests that an explanation of why terms do not overlap in scope can be particularly persuasive.

Judges: Taranto, Bryson, Stoll


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April 28, 2022by Richard Treanor

Last month, in Almirall, LLC v. Amneal Pharm., No. 2020-2331 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 14, 2022) the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s holding of obviousness in an inter partes review. In Almirall the main issue in the case was the absence, in the primary reference, of the claimed gelling agent.

Petitioner, in asserting obviousness, used a secondary reference that disclosed both the claimed gelling agent and the gelling agent of the primary reference in a “laundry list” of ten broad types, or classes, of gelling agent useful in the secondary reference. Importantly, Petitioner also included substantial expert testimony characterizing the claimed gelling agent and the gelling agent of the primary reference as being “closely related,” as capable of being “interchangeably used” in the claimed formulations “in the same concentration range,” that such a substitution was “routine and predictable,” and that one of ordinary skill in the art “would not have expected any incompatibilities.”

Patentee, unable to successfully counter this mountain of evidence, was left to argue at the margins, and focused on the non-overlapping concentration ranges of gelling agents used in the primary and secondary references. However, the Court was having none of it:

Ultimately, despite Almirall’s attempts to argue otherwise, this case does not depend on overlapping ranges. It is simply a case of substituting one known gelling agent for another. Each may be effective at a different concentration in different formulations, but that is just a property of the particular known material, subject to conventional experimentation.

Takeaway: The Almirall case is interesting because the initial “hook” that led to the finding of obviousness was one that Examiners use in rejecting claims all the time: a secondary reference with an expansive laundry list of agents that includes both the claimed agent and the agent of the primary reference. The difference between the inter partes review in Almirall and regular prosecution, however, is that during prosecution the Examiner simply alleges interchangeability based on the common listing, without more, while in Almirall Petitioner submitted substantial evidence regarding combinability, interchangeability, and expectation of success. The Almirall case thus provides applicants with a good example of the type of evidence, albeit in the reverse, to submit in traversing such rejections during prosecution.

Judges: Lourie, Chen, Cunningham


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April 21, 2022by Beau Burton

Nine times out of ten a negative limitation satisfies the written description requirement when the specification positively describes the limitation to be excluded or better yet provides a reason to exclude the limitation. The rationale for the former being that a description of the whole, necessarily describes the part remaining. For instance, when the specification discloses a composition that includes an additive selected from A, B, and C, there is support for a composition that does not include A, B, or C.

Satisfying the written description requirement without a positive recitation of the limitation to be excluded is rare; however, Ex parte Kroepke provides an example in which the Patent Trial and Appeal Board found support for a negative limitation based on silence.

The following claim on appeal is illustrative:

A cosmetic or dermatological preparation, wherein the preparation comprises from 0.01 % to 5 % by weight of at least one red light-filtering dye, at least one white pigment, and from 0.0001 % to 10 % by weight of at least one anti-inflammatory active ingredient which comprises at least one aqueous extract of Glycyrrhiza inflata, and wherein the preparation does not contain strontium cations.

Of note here is that the specification did not positively mention strontium cations, group II cations, or even alkaline earth metals. The closest disclosure of cations appears to be from ingredients in the examples such as magnesium sulphate, sodium citrate, and potassium sorbate. However, Appellant did not rely on these cation containing ingredients. Appellant simply argued that the written description requirement was satisfied because the specification included “sixty exemplified (most diverse) preparations, none of which contains strontium cations.”

The Examiner disagreed, finding Appellant’s disclosure “as a whole does not conceptualize that the preparation should or should not contain strontium cation. Further, as to the sixty examples disclosed in the application, no explicit[] disclosure of strontium cation does not mean that exemplified preparations do not contain strontium cation.”

The Board found Appellant’s position more persuasive in view of the Federal Circuit’s recent Almirall, LLC v. Amneal Pharms. LLC decision, which held:

[A] reference need not state a feature’s absence in order to disclose a negative limitation. Instead, it was reasonable for the Board to find that, in the context of Garrett, a skilled artisan would recognize that the reference discloses a complete formulation—excluding the possibility of an additional active ingredient… It is undisputed that Garrett discloses dapsone formulations that lack adapalene. The Board thus did not err in concluding that Garrett discloses the negative adapalene claim limitation.

28 F.4th 265, 273–274 (Fed. Cir. 2022) (citations omitted).

At first glance, Kroepke appears to extend the rationale from Almirall permitting the exclusion of an additional unrecited active ingredient to the exclusion of any unrecited ingredients. However, upon closer inspection, Kroepke fits the same pattern as Almirall. First, the invention in Kroepke related to “preparations that include a combination of a dye and an anti-inflammatory active ingredient, and particularly to preparations for the prophylaxis and treatment of sun-irritated skin that aid the body’s own repair mechanisms.” Second, the prior art relied upon by the Examiner in Kroepke for an obviousness rejection (which was also reversed by the Board), required the mandatory presence of strontium for its anti-irritation function when used in combinations with ingredients such as moisturizers and anti-inflammatory agents. Consequently, both Kroepke and Almirall support the exclusion of an additional active ingredient where there are exemplary and complete formulations that do not include an additional active ingredient.

Takeaway: Kroepke and Almirall illustrate a continued expansion of negative limitations satisfying the written description requirement to an extent that might not be possible in other jurisdictions. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that Kroepke and Almirall fit a specific pattern in which exemplary compositions include an active ingredient, and the negative limitation relates to another active ingredient. It is unlikely that these holdings can be extended to the exclusion of any ingredient that is not recited in an example.

Notably, Appellant never had the chance to raise or argue the facts of the Almirall decision because it was decided only one month prior to the decision in Kroepke. Thus, the Board’s reliance on Almirall shows it is applying the most recent Federal Circuit precedents.

Judges: D.E. Adams, J. N. Fredman, T. Chang


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April 19, 2022by Mamoru Kakuda

2022年4月4日、CAFCは独立クレームの範囲は従属クレームに記載された態様を含むべきであるという原則を適用したクレーム解釈に基づく判決をしました (Littelfuse, Inc. v. Mersen USA EP Corp. (Fed. Cir. April 4, 2022))。


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March 14, 2022by Mamoru Kakuda

2022年2月10日、CAFCは、claim 解釈において、On sale bar の判断において,見積書であっても商業的なオファーであると解釈される場合があるとの判決をしました (Junker v. Medical Components, Inc. (Fed. Cir. Feb. 10, 2022))。