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Archived updates for Friday, October 12, 2007

Data "Forming," "Monitoring," and "Updating" Distiguish Scope of Best Mode for Missing Macro

In Allvoice Computing PLC v. Nuance Communications, Inc. (October 12, 2007), the Federal Circuit reversed a holding of invalidity for deliberate concealment of the best mode where the the missing macro for monitioring and updating data did not fall within the claimed data data forming function:

73. A computer usable medium having computer readable instructions stored therein . . . comprising instructions for:

. . . c) causing the processor to implement the interface application program to form link data linking the audio data to the recognised words, said link data comprising the audio identifiers and information identifying the corresponding recognised words . . .
According to the opinion by Circuit Judge Rader,

Claim 73 includes instructions [for implementing] an interface program that allows audio data and recognized words to be input into a processing program, such as a word processor, in which the words are moved relative to each other. Id. The interface application also "form[s] link data linking the audio data to the recognised words . . . ." Id. After a user selects a recognized word, the interface application uses the link data to identify audio corresponding with the selected word and plays back the audio corresponding to the selected word. Id.

The macro monitors keystrokes to determine the changes to a document. Specifically, the macro detects a keystroke, determines whether the keystroke will add, delete, or move a character in the text, and determines the position of the cursor to ascertain the final effect of the keystroke. Id. The macro interacts with the "hooking" feature of the Microsoft Windows operating system to perform these functions. Because the macro cannot track the effects of non-keyboard editing techniques, the WordExpress program temporarily disables some features of the Microsoft Word word-processing program.

The district court incorrectly held that the macro's functions were within the scope of claim 73. In light of the specification as a whole, this court construes "form[ing] link data" as the formation of the data structure in volatile memory, excluding operations to update or maintain link accuracy. '273 Patent col.7 l.1. The claim language dictates this meaning. Indeed, the district court also construed this limitation to mean "form[ing] link information about the words and audio signals" without reference to any updating or maintenance of link data. Additionally, Nuance admits, through its expert, that claim 73 does not claim the functionality to update link data: "there is no specific requirement that the interface be capable of playing back audio after a user has made arbitrary edits using the keyboard."

In addition to the claim language, the doctrine of claim differentiation assists in arriving at a correct claim meaning in this case. Indeed "claim differentiation takes on relevance in the context of a claim construction that would render additional, or different, language in another independent claim superfluous." Curtiss-Wright Flow Control Corp., v. Velan, Inc., 438 F.3d 1374, 1381 (Fed. Cir. 2006); see Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1314 (Fed. Cir. 2005) ("Differences among claims can also be a useful guide in understanding the meaning of particular claim terms."). In the instant case, claim 1 includes "means for forming link data" and "means for updating said link data." The claims thus distinguish between "forming" and "updating." These separate terms define separate processes accomplished by separate means. If this court interpreted the process of forming link data to include processes to update that data, the second limitation (means for updating link data) would be superfluous. Independent claims 1, 15, and 28, among others, explicitly require forming link data, monitoring changes to text, and updating link data as distinct actions accomplished through separate means. '273 Patent col.16 ll.32-46, col.18 ll.51-67, col.22 ll.4-13. Thus, monitoring and updating functions are not part of the forming link data limitation. The specification and the claims consistently use the terms "forming," "updating," and "monitoring" to denote separate processes with different end results. '273 Patent col.8 l.65 to col.9 l.12 (indicating that forming and updating are separate steps).

Because the functionality of the alleged best mode falls outside the scope of claim 73, this court detects no violation of the best mode requirement with respect to claim 73. Accordingly this court reverses the district court’s holding of invalidity of the '273 patent.

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