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CAFC Weekly: June 4, 2010

by Orlando Lopez

This was a short week with only two precedential opinions. Both of the opinions considered the interpretation of the claims (also referred to as claim construction).

In Haemonetics v. Baxter Healthcare, the CAFC reviewed the claim construction of claim 16 and considered whether claim 16 was indefinite. In the claim construction, at issue was the meaning of the term “centrifugal unit.” The term appears in claims 1 and 16 of the patent at issue. Haemonetics indicated that an error may have occurred during the drafting of claim 16; however, as the CAFC stated, claim construction has to occur based on the claim as written. The CAFC reversed the claim construction and the holding by the District Court, that claim 16 was not indefinite.

In Silicon Graphics v. ATI Technologies, some of the issues considered are claim construction and whether the Microsoft license, authorizing end-users of certain Microsoft products to use Silicon Graphics’ patented apparatuses and methods, immunized ATI Technologies against claims of indirect infringement. The patent claims at issue relate to computer graphics systems used by high-end users such as Pixar. These patent claims teach a graphics system and methods that predominantly operate on a floating point format. ATI makes and sells graphics chips and processors. Because the claims at issue require use of a display, Silicon Graphics asserted that ATI indirectly infringed through sales of products to computer manufacturers and end-users. Indirect infringement occurs when a party induces infringement by sales, promotional activity, or by causing or encouraging another to infringe a patent. Additionally, indirect infringement requires a direct infringement resulting from the accused activity. Since end-users typically use the Microsoft Windows operating system, ATI asserted that the Microsoft license immunized them from indirect infringement and the District Court agreed; however, the CAFC reversed. The CAFC stated, that even if the products cannot perform the claimed functions absent an operating system, the products may include means for performing the functions. If they do, then the products infringe separate and apart from the operating system and the Immunity Provision of the Microsoft license does not apply. The CAFC also reversed the District Court’s construction of several terms in the claims at issue. The claim construction discussion includes a reminder that “a,” in claim language, has the same meaning as “one or more.” Since the construction of several terms in the claims at issue was reversed, the judgment of non-infringement was vacated and the issue of infringement remanded for reconsideration. The CAFC affirmed the District Court’s finding of validity of the patent at issue.

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