有關美國專利法第112條規定之案例討論,案例1---功能性用語認定以及說明書寫作標準的討論 - Richard A. Williamson v. Citrix Online, LLC (Fed. Cir. 2015) , 申請專利.專利研討會.專利申請-聯誠國際專利商標聯合事務所
有關美國專利法第112條規定之案例討論,案例1---功能性用語認定以及說明書寫作標準的討論 - Richard A. Williamson v. Citrix Online, LLC (Fed. Cir. 2015)

  

    當審查委員在請求項範圍中判斷某個功能模組,如果不是電路、軟體步驟特徵,應該就會認定該元件是一種功能手段,解釋此類功能手段用語的範圍時,使用"module", "element", "mechanism", "device"等用語要小心,將以35U.S.C.112(f)6作為審查標準,參考說明書揭示內容,查看是否有足夠支持的揭露內容。這點有時會產生答辯的困擾。

這件6/16/2015出爐之重要判決可能會影響專利說明書之撰寫方式,也就是(參考諸多先前案例)再一次確認:"means"用語並非是"means-plus-function"專利範圍解釋的必要特徵,雖仍是重要判斷條件,但會以相關技術人員(包括審查人員)的標準來判斷是否落於35U.S.C.112(f)的定義,當以35U.S.C.112(f)的標準解釋專利範圍,說明書將"嚴格"要求揭露執行該功能對應的結構、材料或動作。

35 U.S.C. 112(f) SPECIFICATION
(f) ELEMENT IN CLAIM FOR A COMBINATION.--An element in a claim for a combination may be expressed as a means or step for performing a specified function without the recital of structurematerial, or acts in support thereof, and such claim shall be construed to cover the corresponding structure, material, or acts described in the specification and equivalents thereof.

案例討論:Richard A. Williamson v. Citrix Online, LLC (Fed. Cir. 2015)
案件資訊:
系爭專利:US6,155,840
專利權人(原告、上訴人):At Home Corporation經信託Richard A, Williamson
侵權被告:Citrix Online, LLC, Microsoft, Adobe
緣起,專利權人挾專利提出侵權告訴2011),在地方法院裁決中,認為侵權不成立,以及部分專利權無效。經專利權人上訴後CAFC法官認為,地方法院錯誤解釋專利範圍,因此撤銷地院不侵權的裁決(針對claims 1-7, 17-24);但同意其中claims 8-12無效的判決"we affirm the judgment of invalidity of claims 8–12 of the ’840 patent under 35 U.S.C. § 1122, para. 2.")(2015年)。
案例討論:

系爭專利揭露一種分散式教學系統,也就是一種虛擬教室的技術,此系統包括有三個主要元件:執行教學者端的電腦、學員端的電腦,以及處理分散式教學的伺服器(1) a presenter computer, (2) audience member computers, (3)a distributed learning server

Claim 1揭示執行分散式教學的方法,專利元件以步驟表示:
1. A method of conducting distributed learning among a plurality of computer systems coupled to a network, the method comprising the steps of:

providing instructions to a first computer system coupled to the network for:

creating a graphical display representative of a classroom;

creating a graphical display illustrating controls for selecting first and second data streams;

creating a first window for displaying the first selected data stream; and

creating a second window for displaying the second selected data stream, wherein

the first and second windows are displayed simultaneously; and

providing instructions to a second computer system coupled to the network for:

creating a graphical display representative of the classroom;

creating a third window for displaying the first selected data stream; and

creating a fourth window for displaying the second selected data stream, wherein

the third and fourth windows are displayed simultaneously.


Claim 8界定執行分散式教學的系統,描述上會牽扯上「功能性用語」:
8. A system for conducting distributed learning among a plurality of computer systems coupled to a network, the system comprising:

a presenter computer system of the plurality of computer systems coupled to the network and comprising:

a content selection control for defining at least one remote streaming data source and for selecting one of the remote streaming data sources for viewing; and

a presenter streaming data viewer for displaying data produced by the selected remote streaming data source;

an audience member computer system of the plurality of computer systems and coupled to the presenter computer system via the network, the audience member computer system comprising:

an audience member streaming data viewer for displaying the data produced by the selected remote streaming data source; and

a distributed learning server remote from the presenter and audience member computer systems of the plurality of computer systems and coupled to the presenter computer system and the audience member computer system via the network and comprising:

a streaming data module for providing the streaming data from the remote streaming data source selected with the content selection control to the presenter and audience member computer systems; and

distributed learning control module for receiving communications transmitted between the presenter and the audience member computer systems and for relaying the communications to an intended receiving computer system and for coordinating the operation of the streaming data module.


Claim 17揭示控制教學者電腦系統與學員端電腦系統的分散式教學伺服器,其中描述伺服器的元件:
17. A distributed learning server for controlling a presenter computer system and an audience member computer system coupled to the distributed learning server via a network, the distributed learning server comprising:

module for providing a first graphical display on the presenter computer system, the first graphical display comprising:

first presenter content selection control for selecting a first source of streaming content representative of graphical information;

a first presenter content display region for displaying the graphical information represented by the streaming content from the first selected source;

a second presenter content selection control for selecting a second source of streaming content representative of graphical information; and

a second presenter content display region for displaying the graphical information represented by the streaming content from the second selected source, wherein the first and second presenter content display regions are adapted to display simultaneously; and

a classroom region for representing the audience member computer system coupled to the distributed learning server; and

module for providing a second graphical display on the audience member computer system, the second graphical display comprising:

a first audience member content display region for displaying the graphical information represented by the streaming content from the first source selected by the content selection control; and

a second audience member content display region for displaying the graphical information represented by the streaming content from the second source selected by the content selection control, wherein the first and second audience member content display regions are adapted to display simultaneously.


在地方法院解釋專利範圍時,有兩個裁決:
認為claims 1, 17graphic display"graphical display representative of a classroom and first graphical display comprising . . . a classroom region")」應該要有圖式描述虛擬的空間,以此表示教學者、學員的位置。據此,認為被告並無侵權。
認為
claim 8中的distributed learning control module是符合35U.S.C.112(f)所定義的手段功能用語,因此判斷說明書並未揭露執行此功能的演算法,於是認為該項不明確,專利無效。

CAFC
階段
解釋專利範圍:
對於Williamson的上訴與反對意見,CAFC法官同意Williamson,認為地院不當解釋專利範圍,沒有必要需要圖式來描述分散式教學系統的虛擬空間,對此,CAFC法官發回地院重審侵權議題。
請求項功能手段用語討論:
對於功能性用語的要求,也就是本次討論重點,所謂「分散式學習控制模組
"distributed learning control module")」是否為功能性用語
"...distributed learning control module for receiving communications transmitted between the presenter and the audience member computer systems and for relaying the communications to an intended receiving computer system and for coordinating the operation of the streaming data module."
首先,認為請求項範圍中使用means用語是否就是以35U.S.C.112(f)的標準來審查的功能手段用語」,CAFC法官顯然有自己的看法,認為不會因為加上了means就自動是手段功能用語,反之,也不會因為沒有means這個字眼而認為不是功能手段用語。
判斷時,因為手段功能用語應用在結構特徵中,應以發明相關領域技術人員的理解判斷是否足夠明確定義相關結構(是否有足夠明確的結構而定),因此會看實際情況而定。
"The standard is whether the words of the claim are understood by persons of ordinary skill in the art to have a sufficiently definite meaning as the name for structure. Greenberg, 91 F.3d at 1583."

在上訴CAFC階段Williamson原告主張因為請求項範圍claim 8並未使用"means"因此並非適用35U.S.C.112(f) or para. 6,認為地院錯誤將焦點放在"module"這個字,而未整體考量
隨著被告""Appellees對於"distributed learning control module"在電腦技術中缺少可理解的結構意義的意見CAFC"客觀地"表示,他們看的不僅是"distributed learning control module"而是整句話的意義,認為其中包括了三種功能(1) receiving communications transmitted between the presenter and the audience member computer systems; (2) relaying the communications to an intended receiving computer system; and (3) coordinating the operation of the streaming data module.
如此,綜觀整個說明書內容,CAFC法官對於"module"的解釋,認為並無界定出任何結構特徵,更未於說明書或審查歷史中得到任何"對應的corresponding structure"結構限制,也非為一般目的電腦所實現的功能。

對此,原告主張原說明書圖4, 5已經揭露"對應的"描述以及方法,但對此,法官認為這些圖式都沒有描述演算與對應的功能,僅是軟體介面的描述。

判決書特別提到幾個請求項常見用語,都是有可能被判定該段落為手段功能用語的撰寫方式,如"module"一般用來描述執行特定功能的軟體或硬體的用語,其他還有"mechanism", "element", "device"

 

結論:
CAFC
認為840claims 8-16因為其中means-plus-function用語"distributed learning control module"缺乏對應的結構(說明書)而導致不明確,不符35U.S.C.112(f)揭露規定,該組範圍無效。

判決原文:
ORDERhttp://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/images/stories/opinions-orders/13-1130.Order.6-11-2015.1.PDF
OPINION
http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/images/stories/opinions-orders/13-1130.Opinion.6-11-2015.1.PDF



 

 
106台北市大安區敦化南路二段69號9樓 TEL:886-2-2703-6633 FAX:886-2-2784-9922
P.O. BOX : 26-757 Taipei 106Taiwan R.O.C. 106台北郵政信箱 26-757信箱
E-mail : lc@li-cai.com.tw WWW:http://www.li-cai.com.tw
©2008 Li & Cai Intellectual Property Office (LCIP) All Rights Reserved