RCT v. Microsoft – Fed. Cir. Attempts to Shift Focus Away from MOT Test

Clement S. RobertsThe following post comes from Clement S. Roberts (Partner at Durie Tangri and Practice Center Contributor).

On December 8 the Federal Circuit issued its first post-Bilski opinion on patentable subject matter when it decided Research Corporation Technologies Inc. v. Microsoft .

In RCT the court was asked whether RCT’s patents on digital image halftoning were directed to patentable subject matter.  Digital image halftoning is a technique for displaying tones (either shades of grey or colors) that lie between those that a monitor or printer can natively produce by creating a matrix of dots that blur together when viewed from a distance.  The patent was directed to a method for creating a halftoned image using a mask (essentially a series of prearranged dots of known values which can be compared to the pixels in a given image) and, in particular, for creating an improved mask through the use of a particular kind of mathematical operation.  For example, claim 1 of one of the two relevant patents called for:

A method for the halftoning of gray scale images by utilizing a pixel-by-pixel comparison of the image against a blue noise mask in which the blue notice mask is comprised of a random non-deterministic, non-white noise single valued function which is designed to produce visually pleasing dot profiles when thresholded at any level of said gray scale images. (more…)

Federal Circuit: Foreign Application Not Priority in Interference When it Only “Envisions” Invention

Written by Gene Quinn (of IPWatchdog and Practice Center Contributor)

Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a ruling in Goeddel v. Sugano, which might be one of a dying breed should patent reform actually pass.  The case dealt with an appeal from an interference proceeding where the Board awarded priority based on a Japanese application.  The Federal Circuit, per Judge Newman, explained that it was inappropriate to say that the Japanese application demonstrated a constructive reduction to practice because the application merely would allow the skilled reader to “envision” the invention covered in the interference count.  If patent reform passes (and yes that could really happen) cases like Goeddel would become a thing of the past, although priority determinations like this one in Goeddel will certainly not go away.

Goeddel was a consolidated appeal from two decisions of the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences of the United States Patent and Trademark Office in two related patent interference priority contests between the party Haruo Sugano, Masami Muramatsu, and Tadatsugu Taniguchi (together “Sugano”) and the party David V. Goeddel and Roberto Crea (together “Goeddel”).  The Board held that Sugano is entitled to the benefit of the filing date of its initial Japanese application, and awarded Sugano priority as to the counts of both interferences. (more…)

Federal Circuit Restricts Joint Infringement Doctrine in Golden Hour Data v. emsCharts

Brandon Baum, partner in Mayer Brown and Practice Center Contributor, passed along this analysis on the Federal Circuit decision Golden Hour Data Systems, Inc. v. emsCharts, Inc.

In the recent case of Golden Hour Data Systems, Inc. v. emsCharts, Inc., the Federal Circuit reiterated—and arguably restricted—its jurisprudence concerning “joint infringement.”  The joint infringement doctrine is an exception to the general rule that “[d]irect infringement requires a party to perform or use each and every step or element of a claimed method or product.”  BMC Resources, Inc. v. Paymentech, L.P., 498 F.3d 1373, 1378 (Fed. Cir. 2007).  Where the steps or elements are performed by multiple actors, there may still be a finding of direct infringement under the joint infringement doctrine if the accused infringer had “direction or control” over the other actors.  Muniauction, Inc. v. Thomson Corp., 532 F.3d 1318, 1329 (Fed. Cir. 2008).  In a 2-1 panel decision, the court found that the fact that the defendants collaborated to sell their software together as part of a “strategic partnership” was insufficient, as a matter of law, to establish joint infringement.

In the underlying district court case, plaintiff Golden Hour Data Systems, Inc. (“Golden Hour”) accused two defendants, emsCharts, Inc. (“emsCharts”) and Softtech, LLC (“Softtech”) of acting jointly to infringe its patent (U.S. 6,117,073) on systems and methods for emergency medical management.  emsCharts provides software that charts patient diagnosis and billing information, but does no flight dispatching.  Softtech provides flight dispatch software used in emergency helicopters to coordinate patient pickup and delivery, but offers no billing, charting or diagnosis.  emsCharts and Softtech formed a strategic partnership to enable their two programs to work together, and collaborated to sell the two programs as a unit. (more…)