Friday, February 22, 2008

Aristocrat v. Multimedia on Player Operable Lottery Machine

The nonprecedential Aristocrat v. Multimedia brings up issues of indefiniteness and means-plus-function. Charles A. Bird, a non-patent attorney, represented Multimedia, who lost.

U.S. Patent 4,817,951 of Aristocrat, titled “Player Operable Lottery Machine Having Display Means Displaying Combinations of Game Result Indicia,” which describes and claims a machine similar to a slot machine that provides a paperless version of an instant lottery was at stake and had been invalidated for indefiniteness by CD Cal. Multimedia had won a motion for summary judgment arguing that claim 1 was invalid for indefiniteness because the specification of the patent failed to disclose
structure corresponding to several of the means-plus-function limitations

Of relevant law: “Claim construction of a means-plus-function limitation includes two steps.
First, the court must determine the claimed function.
Second, the court must identify the corresponding structure in the written description of the patent that performs that
function.” Applied Med. Res. Corp. v. U.S. Surgical Corp., 448 F.3d 1324, 1333 (Fed. Cir. 2006) .

The problem with the analysis of CD Cal: We conclude that genuine issues of material fact exist concerning whether one
skilled in the art of computer programming would identify structure in the specification
associated with the various asserted claim limitations, thereby precluding summary
judgment, and we thus reverse the district court’s summary judgment order.

Some relevant cases:

For example, in In re Dossel, 115 F.3d 942, 946-47 (Fed. Cir. 1997), we concluded that although the specification did not use the “magic word ‘computer,’” a general or special purpose computer was clearly the structure intended to “receive[] digital data, perform[] complex mathematical computations and output[] the results to a display.”

Multimedia seemingly urges that WMS Gaming, Inc. v. International Game Technology,
184 F.3d 1339 (Fed. Cir. 1999), stands for the rule that when a general purpose
microprocessor or computer is the structure corresponding to a recited function, a specific algorithm for performing that function must be disclosed in order to avoid
indefiniteness, and, by extension, a specific random number algorithm must be
disclosed here. WMS Gaming, however, does not require that a particular algorithm be
identified if the selection of the algorithm or group of algorithms needed to perform the
function in question would be readily apparent to a person of skill in the art.


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