Federal Circuit Reaffirms Software Means-Plus-Function Requirements

In keeping with other cases discussed by this blog addressing whether software “means” recited in patent claims have been adequately disclosed, the Federal Circuit recently affirmed a district court’s invalidation of patent claims for indefiniteness because the patent specification did not disclose an algorithm to support the recited means. Function Media, L.L.C. v. Google Inc., No. 2012-1020 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 13,  2013).

In this case, the Court explained that the claim at issue was indefinite because

there is no specific algorithm disclosed in prose, as a mathematical formula, in flow charts, or otherwise. [The patent owner] cites to several places in the specification that it contends describe the software. These citations all explain that the software automatically transmits, but they contain no explanation of how the PGP software performs the transmission function.

Further, “having failed to provide any disclosure of the structure for the “transmitting” function, [the patent owner] cannot rely on the knowledge of one skilled in the art to fill in the gaps.”

The court also rejected the patent owner’s arguments under O2 Micro International v. Beyond Innovation Technology Co., 521 F.3d 1351 (Fed. Cir. 2008) that the jury was improperly allowed to construe the claims. Further, an argument that findings of non-infringement and invalidity was waived because it was not brough before the jury was dismissed.

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