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Archived updates for Monday, October 18, 2004

A Holistic Claim Construction?

In Irdeto Access, Inc. v. Echostar Satellite Corp., Fed. Cir., No. 04-1154, September 14, 2004, Judge Michell wrote that where the applicant admitted that certain claim terms lacked any agreed upon meaning in the art -- i.e., ordinary meaning -- and unequivocally directed the patent examiner to the specification as the complete source of meaning for the disputed terms, the patentee?s clear intent to rely on the four corners of his patent to define fully the terms at issue takes the case out of the "heavy presumption" (procedural) regime with regard to the meaning of the terms at issue.

And while the specification does not contain any statements of explicit disavowal or words of manifest exclusion, it repeatedly, consistently, and exclusively uses "group" to denote fewer than all subscribers, manifesting the patentee?s clear intent to so limit the term. The specification also contains no affirmative indication that group can consist of all subscribers within the system. A reasonable competitor reading the patent could only understand "group" to refer to a subset of all subscribers. The claims must be limited accordingly.
Judges Newman and Bryson, who also have a high percentage of "holistic" opinions, joined in the decision.
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