Monday, March 13, 2023

Appellant Intel wins at the CAFC

Appellant Intel prevails:

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“Board”) determined that Intel Corp. (“Intel”) failed to show that claim 5 of U.S. Patent No. 9,250,908 (“the ’908 patent”) was unpatentable as obvious in light of prior art references Kabemoto and Bauman.1 Intel Corp. v. PACT XPP Schweiz AG, No. IPR2020-00518, Paper 34, 2021 WL 3503434 (P.T.A.B. Aug. 9, 2021) (“Final Written Decision”). We reverse and remand.


PACT XPP Schweiz AG (“PACT”) owns the ’908 patent, which relates to multiprocessor systems and how processors in those systems access data. Multiprocessor systems typically store data in several places: there’s a main memory, where all of a system’s data is stored, as well as various cache memories, where smaller pieces of that same data are stored. Cache memories are closer to the processors, allowing the processors quicker access to the data available in a given cache. And a system can use multiple cache levels, where a primary cache is closer to the processer but can store less data than a further-away secondary cache. The use of multiple cache memories can pose problems for cache coherency, though. Different caches can have local copies of the same data, so inconsistencies may arise if one processor changes its local copy of the data and that change isn’t propagated to the other copies of that data. That’s why multiprocessor systems often require a mechanism to monitor and maintain cache coherency. One way to maintain cache coherency is by “snooping” along a shared “bus.” See J.A. 1911; Kabemoto Fig. 3. Another way to maintain cache coherency is by using a global, segmented secondary cache. See Bauman Fig. 6. Both of these mechanisms use a shared entity between processors to detect changes between, and ultimately make changes to, local data copies. See Kabemoto col. 17 l. 27–col. 18 l. 6; Bauman col. 5 l. 55–col. 6 l. 40.

Intel's argument

What the prior art discloses and whether a person of ordinary skill would have been motivated to combine prior art references are both fact questions that we review for substantial evidence. PAR Pharm., Inc. v. TWI Pharms., Inc., 773 F.3d 1186, 1193 (Fed. Cir. 2014). “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Novartis AG v. Torrent Pharms. Ltd., 853 F.3d 1316, 1324 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (cleaned up). Intel argues that two of the Board’s conclusions about underlying independent claim 4 lack substantial evidence. First, Intel asserts that substantial evidence does not support the Board’s determination that the prior art fails to disclose the segment-to-segment limitation. And second, Intel contends that substantial evidence does not support the Board’s determination that there was no motivation to combine Kabemoto and Bauman. We agree on both counts.

Of the second argument

Intel also argues that the Board’s rejection of its “known-technique” rationale for a motivation to combine lacks substantial evidence.3 Appellant’s Br. 57–63 (citing KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex Inc., 550 U.S. 398 (2007)); see also Intel Corp. v. Qualcomm Inc., 21 F.4th 784, 797 (Fed. Cir. 2021) (determining that the Board’s reasons for finding a lack of motivation to combine were not supported by substantial evidence “[u]nder applicable legal principles”). We agree and reverse the Board’s contrary finding.


Additionally, “universal” motivations known in a particular field to improve technology provide “a motivation to combine prior art references even absent any hint of suggestion in the references themselves.” Intel, 21 F.4th at 797–99 (cleaned up) (emphasis in original) (determining that the Board’s rejection of “increasing energy efficiency,” a “generic concern” in electronics, as a motivation to combine lacked substantial evidence (cleaned up)). Similarly, “if a technique has been used to improve one device, and a person of ordinary skill in the art would recognize that it would improve similar devices in the same way, using the technique is obvious unless its actual application is beyond his or her skill.” KSR, 550 U.S. at 417. This is the so-called “known-technique” rationale. And if there’s a known technique to address a known problem using “prior art elements according to their established functions,” then there is a motivation to combine. Intel, 21 F.4th at 799–800. And we specify address a known problem because “[i]t’s not necessary to show that a combination is the best option, only that it be a suitable option.” Id. at 800 (cleaned up) (emphasis in original).


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