CAFC vacates CD Cal decision in Williamson v. Citrix
the decision of CD Cal was vacated in Williamson v. Citrix
Appellant Williamson won on the meaning of -- pictorial map --:
We agree with Williamson. The district court erred in
construing these terms as requiring a “pictorial map.”
First, the claim language itself contains no such “pictorial
map” limitation. “[I]t is the claims, not the written description,
which define the scope of the patent right.”
Laitram Corp. v. NEC Corp., 163 F.3d 1342, 1347 (Fed.
Cir. 1998); see id. (“[A] court may not import limitations
from the written description into the claims.”). While the
specification discloses examples and embodiments where
the virtual classroom is depicted as a “map” or “seating
chart,” nowhere does the specification limit the graphical
display to those examples and embodiments. This court
has repeatedly “cautioned against limiting the claimed
invention to preferred embodiments or specific examples
in the specification.” Teleflex, Inc. v. Ficosa N. Am. Corp.,
299 F.3d 1313, 1327–28 (Fed. Cir. 2002) (quoting cases).
The ’840 patent defines a classroom as “an at least
partially virtual space in which participants can interact.”
Id. at col. 6 ll. 5–7. Nothing further is required, and no
greater definition is mandated by the language of the
claims, the specification, or the prosecution history. As is
well settled, the claims must “not be read restrictively
unless the patentee has demonstrated a clear intention to
limit the claim scope using words or expressions of manifest
exclusion or restriction.” Innova/Pure Water, Inc., v.
Safari Water Filtration Sys. Inc., 381 F.3d 1111, 1117
(Fed. Cir. 2004) (internal quotations omitted).
Williamson also won on a 112 P6 issue:
We agree with Williamson that the district court
erred in concluding that “distributed learning control
module” is a means-plus-function claim term.
Section 112, para. 6, provides that “[a]n element in a
claim for a combination may be expressed as a means or
step for performing a specified function without the
recital of structure, material, or acts in support thereof.”
35 U.S.C. § 112, para. 6 (1994). In Personalized Media
Commc’ns, LLC v. International Trade Commission, 161
F.3d 696 (Fed. Cir. 1998), and again in DePuy Spine, Inc.
v. Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc., 469 F.3d 1005 (Fed.
Cir. 2006), we stated that the failure to use the word
“means” in a claim limitation created a rebuttable presumption
that 35 U.S.C. § 112, para. 6 did not apply.
This presumption is “a strong one that
is not readily overcome.” Lighting World, Inc. v. Birchwood
Lighting, Inc., 382 F.3d 1354, 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2004).
To rebut this strong presumption, it must be demonstrated
that “skilled artisans, after reading the patent, would
conclude that [the] claim limitation is so devoid of structure
that the drafter constructively engaged in meansplus-
function claiming.” Inventio AG v. ThyssenKrupp
Elevator Ams. Corp., 649 F.3d 1350, 1357 (Fed. Cir. 2011).
A claimed expression cannot be said to be devoid of structure
if it is used “in common parlance or by persons of
skill in the pertinent art to designate structure, even if
the term covers a broad class of structures and even if the
term identifies the structures by their function.” Lighting
World, 382 F.3d at 1359–60.
“Technical dictionaries, which are evidence of the understandings
of persons of skill in the technical arts” may
inform whether claim terms connote structure. Linear
Tech. Corp. v. Impala Linear Corp., 379 F.3d 1311, 1320
(Fed. Cir. 2004); Mass. Inst. of Tech. v. Abacus Software,
462 F.3d 1344, 1355 (Fed. Cir. 2006). Moreover, in circumstances
in which “[a] structure-connoting term . . . is
coupled with a description of [its] operation, sufficient
structural meaning generally will be conveyed to persons
of ordinary skill in the art.” Linear Tech, 379 F.3d at
1320. In making this assessment, it is important to
consider the claimed expression as a whole, and not
merely any single word, as well as its surrounding textual
context. See Apex Inc. v. Raritan Computer, Inc., 325 F.3d
1364, 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (“[T]he primary source of this
error lies in the district court’s reliance on single words of
the limitations . . . as opposed to the limitations as a
whole . . . .”); Mass. Inst. of Tech., 462 F.3d at 1356 (“The
claim language here too does not merely describe a circuit;
it adds further structure by describing the operation of
The term --nonce word -- is discussed:
The district court, in characterizing the word “module”
as a mere nonce word, failed to appreciate that the
word “module” has understood dictionary meanings as
connoting either hardware or software structure to those
skilled in the computer arts. While the parties here have
not cited any dictionaries, we have frequently looked to
the dictionary to determine if a disputed term has
achieved recognition as a term denoting structure.
“[J]udges are free to consult dictionaries and technical
treatises ‘at any time in order to better understand the
underlying technology and may also rely on dictionary
definitions when construing claim terms, so long as the
dictionary definition does not contradict any definition
found in or ascertained by a reading of the patent documents.’”
Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1322–23 (quoting Vitronics
Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1584 n.6 (Fed.
Cir. 1996)); see also Lighting World, 382 F.3d at 1360;
we vacate the stipulated judgment of non-infringement
of claims 1–7 and 17–24 and of invalidity of claims 8–16
and remand the case to the district court.
Judge Reyna dissented.