Kris Rhu Harrity TeamKris Rhu Harrity Team

Case Summary of Zeroclick, LLC. v. Apple Inc.

By Kris Rhu
June 26, 2018- Case Summary of Zeroclick, LLC. v. Apple Inc.

Zeroclick sued Apple alleging that Apple infringed claims 2 and 52 of U.S. Patent No. 7,818,691 and claim 19 of U.S. Patent No. 8,549,443, which relate to modifications of graphical user interfaces (GUIs) that allow the GUIs to be controlled using pre-defined pointer or touch movements instead of mouse clicks.  Apple responded by asserting invalidity of those claims.  The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California found that the claims recited means-plus-function terms for which the specification did not have sufficient structure, and therefore, were invalid for indefiniteness.  However, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) vacated and remanded, holding that the district court did not undertake the relevant inquiry when making factual findings to support its conclusion that the claims recited means-plus-function terms.

Claim 2 of the ’691 patent recites:

2. A graphical user interface (GUI), which may comprise an update of an existing program, that may fully operate a GUI by a two step method of movement of a pointer (0) to operate one or more functions within the GUI,
wherein, said existing program is any existing program that can operate the movement of the pointer (0) over a screen (300) and has one or more functions operated by one or more other methods apart from said two step method,and/or one or more functions operated by said one or more other methods in said existing program can be updated to operate by said two step method,
wherein said GUI executes one or more functions within the GUI by the completion of the following said two step method:
first said pointer (0) is immediately adjacent or passes within a control area (1), which is an area of the screen (300) that may be any size including from a pixel on the screen (300) to occupying the whole screen (300), and
second by the completion of a subsequent movement of said pointer (0) according to a specified movement generates a ‘click’ event, thereby triggering one or more functions within the GUI.

Claim 52 is directed to the “method of operating a graphical user interface” described in claim 2.

Claim 19 of the ’443 patent recites:

  1. A device capable of executing software comprising:

a touch-sensitive screen configured to detect being touched by a user’s finger without requiring an exertion of pressure on the screen;a processor connected to the touch-sensitive screen and configured to receive from the screen information regarding locations touched by the user’s finger;executable user interface code stored in a memory connected to the processor;the user interface code executable by the processor;the user interface code being configured to detect one or more locations touched by a movement of the user’s finger on the screen without requiring the exertion of pressure and determine therefrom a selected operation; andthe user interface code is further configured to cause one or more selected operations, which includes one or more functions available to the user interface code of the device, to deactivate while the user’s finger is touching one or more locations on the screen.

During claim construction, the district court found that the limitation “program that can operate the movement of the pointer (0)” in claim 2 of the ‘691 patent is a means-plus-function term.  Specifically, it found “program” to be a means that performs the function of operating the movement of the pointer.  The district court also found that “user interface code being configured to detect one or more locations touched by a movement of the user’s finger on the screen without requiring the exertion of pressure and determine therefrom a selected operation” in claim 19 of the ‘443 patent is a means-plus-function term.  Specifically, it found “user interface code” to be a means that performs the functions of detecting one or more locations touched by a movement of the user’s finger on the screen without requiring the exertion of pressure and determining therefrom a selected operation.

The CAFC cited Williamson v. Citrix Online, LLC, which stated that the failure to use the word “means” creates a rebuttable presumption that 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6 does not apply, but that the presumption can be overcome “if the challenger demonstrates that the claim term fails to recite sufficiently definite structure or else recites function without reciting sufficient structure for performing that function.”  792 F.3d 1339, 1348 (Fed. Cir. 2015) (en banc).  Williamson further stated that the essential inquiry in determining whether a claim limitation involves § 112, ¶ 6 is “whether the words of the claim are understood by persons of ordinary skill in the art to have a sufficiently definite meaning as the name for structure.” Id.  The CAFC found that the district court failed to undertake this inquiry and make related factual findings.

The CAFC noted that the claims did not include the word “means,” which invokes the presumption.  The CAFC also noted that Apple provided no evidentiary support for their position that the claim limitations must be construed under § 112, ¶ 6, and therefore, failed to rebut the presumption.  By relying on Apple’s arguments without evidentiary support, the district court legally erred by not giving effect to the unrebutted presumption.

The CAFC further found that the district court effectively treated the features “program” and “user interface code” as nonce words that operate as a substitute for “means,” and found such treatment to be erroneous for three reasons: 1) just because the disputed limitations incorporate functional language does not necessarily convert those words into means for performing those functions.  There are plenty of devices that take the names of the functions they perform (e.g. brake, clamp, screwdriver); 2) the district court removed those terms from their context, which otherwise strongly suggests the plain and ordinary meaning of the terms.  Claim 2 of the ‘691 patent recites a “graphical user interface” which may “comprise an update of an existing program” using a two-step method.  Claim 19 of the ‘443 patent tethers “user interface code” to the code “stored in a memory connected to the processor.”  That processor, in turn, is configured to perform the indicated functions.  Thus, a person of ordinary skill in the art could reasonably discern from the claims that the words “program” and “user interface code” are not used as generic terms, but rather as specific references to conventional GUI programs or code existing previously.  The written description further bolsters this conclusion because it describes the distinction drawn between GUIs in the prior art and the improvement to such interfaces in the claimed invention; and 3) the district court made no findings that compel the conclusion that a conventional GUI program or code is commonly used as a substitute for “means.”

This opinion illustrates the importance of avoiding the use of the word “means” in order to create a rebuttable presumption that 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6 does not apply to a claim.  The opinion also illustrates the importance of tethering software-esque terms like “program” or “code,” or other terms that may not inherently have structure, to a specific structure in the claims and/or providing context to such claim limitations.  Such strategies can help prevent claim limitations from being construed under 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6.

Download Summary of Zeroclick LLC. v. Apple Inc. 

James Olsen, Harrity TeamJames Olsen, Harrity Team

Case Summary of Medtronic, Inc. v. Barry

By James Olsen
June 17, 2018- Case Summary of Medtronic, Inc. v. Barry, C.A. No. 2017-1169 (Fed. Cir. June 11, 2018)

Background
This is an appeal from two related decisions of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeals Board (Board) in inter partes review (IPR) proceedings.  The Board concluded that the petitioner, Medtronic, Inc., had not proven that the challenged patent claims are unpatentable.  The Federal Circuit affirmed-in-part and vacated-in-part the decision.

Dr. Mark Barry sued Medtronic for patent infringement in the Eastern District of Texas.  Barry alleged that Medtronic’s products infringed U.S. Patent Nos. 7,670,358 (the 358 Patent) and 7,776,072 (the 072 Patent).  Medtronic petitioned for, and the Board instituted, IPR proceedings for all claims in both patents.

During the IPR proceedings, Medtronic asserted that the claims of the patents were obvious over three references: (1) U.S. Patent Application No. 2005/0245928 (the 928 Application), (2) a book chapter which appears in Masters Techniques in Orthopaedic Surgery: The Spine (2d ed.) (MTOS); and (3) a video entitled “Thoracic Pedicle Screws for Idiopathic Scoliosis” and slides entitled “Free Hand Thoracic Screw Placement and Clinical Use in Scoliosis and Kyphosis Surgery” (Video and Slides).  The Board determined that the claims of the patents were not obvious over the 928 Application and MTOS, and that the Video and Slides were not prior art since they were not publicly accessible.

The primary dispute is whether the Video and Slides were publicly accessible, and thus, prior art to the 358 patent and the 072 patent.

Patents at Issue
The 358 patent relates to a method for ameliorating aberrant spinal column deviation conditions, such as scoliosis.  The 072 patent is a continuation-in-part of the application that led to the 358 patent and shares substantially the same specification.

Analysis
The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s determination that the claims of the patents were not obvious over the 928 Application and MTOS.  However, Federal Circuit held that the Board erred in concluding that the Video and Slides were not accessible to the public.

On appeal, the parties disputed whether the Video and Slides constituted printed publications within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. § 102(b).  A CD containing the Video was distributed at three separate programs in 2003: (1) a meeting of the “Spinal Deformity Study Group” (SDSG) in Scottsdale, Arizona, (the Scottsdale program); (2) the Advanced Concepts in Spinal Deformity Surgery meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado (the Colorado Springs program); and (3) the Spinal Deformity Study Symposium meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.  Binders containing relevant portions of the Slides were also distributed at the Colorado Springs and St. Louis programs.  The earliest of the three 2003 programs, the Scottsdale program, was limited to 20 SDSG members (e.g., experts within the field of spinal deformity), and the other two programs were attended by 20 and 55 surgeons at the Colorado Springs and St. Louis programs, respectively.

The Federal Circuit found that the determination of whether a document is a “printed publication” under 35 U.S.C. § 102(b) involves a case-by-case inquiry into the facts and circumstances surrounding the reference’s disclosure to members of the public (citing In re Klopfenstein, 380 F.3d 1345, 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2004)).  A reference will be considered publicly accessible if it was disseminated or otherwise made available to the extent that persons interested and ordinarily skilled in the subject matter or art exercising reasonable diligence can locate it.

The Federal Circuit held that the question becomes whether such materials were sufficiently disseminated at the time of their distribution at the conferences.  The Federal Circuit pointed to Massachusetts Institute of Technology v. AB Fortia (MIT), where a paper that was orally presented at a conference to a group of cell culturists interested in the subject matter was considered a “printed publication.” 774 F.2d 1104, 1109 (Fed. Cir. 1985).  In that case, between 50 and 500 persons having ordinary skill in the art were told of the existence of the paper and informed of its contents by the oral presentation, the document was disseminated without restriction to at least six persons, and whether the copies were freely distributed to interested members of the public was a key consideration in the analysis.

The Federal Circuit also pointed to Cordis Corp. v. Boston Scientific Corp., 561 F.3d 1319 (Fed. Cir. 2009), where the issue pertained to whether a set of research papers distributed by a doctor to certain colleagues and two commercial entities rendered the documents printed publications.  In that case, the Federal Circuit concluded that such documents were not publicly accessible since academic norms gave rise to an expectation that disclosures would remain confidential, and there was an expectation of confidentiality between the doctor and each of the two commercial entities.

Finally, the Federal Circuit identified In re Klopfenstein, 380 F.3d 1345, 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2004), where a reference in dispute was a printed slide presentation that was displayed prominently for three days at a conference to a wide variety of participants.  The reference was shown with no stated expectation that the information would not be copied or reproduced by those viewing it, but copies were never distributed to the public and never indexed.  In that the case, the Federal Circuit identified the relevant factors to include: (1) the length of time the display was exhibited, (2) the expertise of the target audience (to determine how easily those who viewed the material could retain the information), (3) the existence (or lack thereof) of reasonable expectations that the material displayed would not be copied, and (4) the simplicity or ease with which the material displayed could have been copied.  After reviewing these factors, the Federal Circuit determined that the reference was sufficiently publicly accessible to count as a “printed publication” for the purposes of § 102(b).

The Federal Circuit held that the size and nature of the meetings and whether they are open to people interested in the subject matter of the material disclosed are important considerations.  The Federal Circuit further held that another consideration is whether there is an expectation of confidentiality between the distributor and the recipients of the materials.

The Federal Circuit found that the Board did not fully consider all of the relevant factors.  For example, the Board did not address the potentially-critical difference between the SDSG meeting in Arizona and the programs in Colorado Springs and St. Louis, which were not limited to members of the SDSG but instead were attended by at least 75 other surgeons, collectively.  The Board’s analysis was silent on the distribution that occurred in the two non-SDSG programs.  Further, even if the Board were correct in its assumption that Medtronic only gave the Video and Slides to the SDSG members, it did not address whether the disclosures would remain confidential.

Accordingly, the Federal Circuit held that whether dissemination of the Video and Slides to a set of supremely-skilled experts in a technical field precludes finding such materials to be printed publications warrants further development in the record.  For these reasons, the Federal Circuit vacated the Board’s finding that the Video and Slides are not printed publications and remanded for further proceedings.

Practice Insights
Consider counseling inventors and clients regarding the appropriate factors to consider when presenting materials at conferences and distributing materials without a legal obligation of confidentiality.  It may be wise to file a provisional patent application before presenting or distributing materials related to an invention.  Also, one may enter non-disclosure agreements with parties viewing a presentation or receiving distributed materials.

Download Medtronic, Inc. v. Barry.

Harrity & Harrity is Named to the 2018 IAM Patent 1000 List

Harrity & Harrity has been named to the 2018 IAM Patent 1000, along with partners John Harrity and Paul Harrity.  According to the publication, “As well as in preparation and prosecution, Harrity & Harrity excels at competitive intelligence and pre-litigation patent analysis.  It delivers high-quality results promptly and within budget and can handle any type of technology and any degree of complexity in invention disclosures with ease.”  Read our profile in its entirety HERE.

Elaine Spector, Harrity TeamElaine Spector, Harrity Team

Case Summary of Vanda Pharma v. West-Ward Pharma

By Elaine Spector
May 18, 2018- Case Summary of Vanda Pharma v. West-Ward Pharma

Background
This is an appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit from the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware holding the asserted claims of U.S. Patent No. 8,586,610 (the ‘610 patent) to be infringed and not invalid. The Federal Circuit affirmed.

West-Ward filed an Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) that substantially copied Vanda’s New Drug Application, which Vanda was able to obtain approval from the FDA for treatment of patients with schizophrenia. After the ‘610 patent issued, Vanda filed an infringement action against West-Ward in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. After a bench trial, the district court held that the asserted claims were not invalid under §101, §103, or §112 for lack of written description.

The primary dispute is whether the claims are patent eligible in view of Mayo v. Prometheus, or are they instead directed to a law of nature.

Patent at Issue
The ‘610 patent relates to a schizophrenia treatment using iloperidone. The claims require a dosage according to a patient’s metabolization rate of iloperidone (“CYP2D6 activity”).

Comparison of Vanda to Mayo claims

Vanda

Mayo

A method for treating a patient with iloperidone, wherein the patient is suffering from schizophrenia, the method comprising the steps of:A method of optimizing therapeutic efficacy for treatment of an immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder, comprising:
determining whether the patient is a CYP2D6 poor metabolizer by: obtaining or having obtained a biological sample from the patient; and performing or having performed a genotyping assay on the biological sample to determine if the patient has a CYP2D6 poor metabolizer genotype;(a) administering a drug providing 6-thioguanine to a subject having said immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder; and
and if the patient has a CYP2D6 poor metabolizer genotype, then internally administering iloperidone to the patient in an amount of 12 mg/day or less,(b) determining the level of 6-thioguanine in said subject having said immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder,
and if the patient does not have a CYP2D6 poor metabolizer genotype, then internally administering iloperidone to the patient in an amount that is greater than 12 mg/day, up to 24 mg/day,wherein the level of 6-thioguanine less than about 230 pmol per 8×108 red blood cells indicates a need to increase the amount of said drug subsequently administered to said subject and
wherein a risk of QTc prolongation for a patient having a CYP2D6 poor metabolizer genotype is lower following the internal administration of 12 mg/day or less than it would be if the iloperidone were administered in an amount of greater than 12 mg/day, up to 24 mg/day.wherein the level of 6-thioguanine greater than about 400 pmol per 8×108 red blood cells indicates a need to decrease the amount of said drug subsequently administered to said subject.

Analysis

The Federal Circuit analyzed the findings of the lower court and noted that “[t]he [district] court did conclude that ‘the asserted claims depend upon laws of nature,’ specifically, ‘the relationship between iloperidone, CYP2D6 metabolism, and QTc prolongation.”  Id at 7.  But the Federal Circuit continued by explaining that the ‘610 patent “addresses natural relationships to which the claims add conducting CYP2D6 genotyping tests to determine the appropriate dose of iloperidone to reduce QTc-related risks.”  Id.

 The Federal Circuit held that the claims at issue were not directed to one of the patent-ineligible concepts.  Since the claims were directed to patent-eligible subject matter, no step two inquiry Alice inquiry is needed.  The Federal Circuit explained, that “at step one, ‘it is not enough to merely identify a patent-ineligible concept underlying the claim; we must determine whether the patent-ineligible concept is what the claim is ‘directed to.’’”  Id. at 28 (quoting Rapid Litig. Mgmt. Ltd. v. CellzDirect, Inc., 827 F.3d 1042, 1050 (Fed. Cir. 2016).

In distinguishing Mayo, the Federal Circuit explained that the “claims in Mayo were not directed to a novel method of treating a disease.  Instead, the claims were directed to a diagnostic method based on the ‘relationships between concentrations of certain metabolites in the blood and the likelihood that a dosage of thiopurine drug will prove ineffective or cause harm.’ Id.  This ‘relation is a consequence of the ways in which the thiopurine compounds are metabolized by the body- entirely natural processes.  And so a patent that simply describes the relations sets forth a natural law.”  Id. at 29 (quoting Mayo v. Prometheus).

The Federal Circuit distinguished the claims in Mayo by explaining that “the claim as a whole was not directed to the application of a drug to treat a particular disease.” Id.  As noted by the Supreme Court in Mayo, “the administering step was akin to a limitation that tells engineers to apply a known natural relationship or to apply an abstract idea with computers.”  Id.  “To underscore the distinction between method of treatment claims and those in Mayo, the Supreme Court noted that ‘[u]nlike, say, a typical patent on a new drug or a new way of using an existing drug, the patent claims do not confine their reach to particular applications of those laws.’”  Id. (quoting Mayo v. Prometheus).

The Federal Circuit noted the following three distinctions in the claims of the ‘610 patent:

  1. The claims require a doctor to administer a drug in a certain amount.
  2. The claims do not tie up the doctor’s subsequent treatment plan. (In Mayo, a doctor could infringe even if he/she did not change up his/her treatment plan).
  3. The claims recite the steps of carrying out a specific dosage regimen based on the results of the genetic testing. (In Mayo, the claims did not prescribe a specific dosage regimen or other added steps to take as a result of the indication).

The Federal Circuit summarized that “the claims here are directed to a specific method of treatment for specific patients using a specific compound at specific doses for a specific outcome.”  Id. at 32.

The dissent disagreed, concluding that “[w]hile the claims here do not solely state a law of nature, they do no more than simply direct the relevant audience to apply it.”  (Dissenting Opinion, p. 2).  The dissent reasoned that the claims are directed to “no more than optimization of an existing treatment of schizophrenia, just as the claims in Mayo concerned ‘optimizing therapeutic efficacy’ of thiopurine drugs.’”  Id. at 5.  “It claims no more than instructions directing the audience to apply the natural law in a routine and conventional manner.”  Id. at pp. 5-6.  With regard to the difference in claiming a specific dosage, the dissent highlighted that Mayo considered “the ‘administering’ step in its search for an inventive concept, not as part of the determination whether the claims were directed to a natural law at the threshold.”  Id. at 6.  As noted by the dissent, “the specific dosage adds nothing inventive to the claims beyond the natural law.”  Id.  Similarly, the dissent noted that requiring treatment instead of indicating a dosage is not sufficient at step two of the analysis.

Practice Insights
It is important to be specific about a particular method of treatment, and also to be specific about a particular dosage for a specific outcome. In particular, a specific treatment should be claimed, instead of an optimization of a treatment, as in Mayo.  The treatment should also include a specific dosage, intended for a specific outcome.  Although not determinative, careful consideration should be given to drafting the preamble, as it also plays a role in finding the claims patent eligible, particularly as it related to specifying the particular method of treatment.

Download Case Summary of Vanda Pharma v. West-Ward Pharma.