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Judge Andrews construes terms of computer-implemented means-plus-function claims, finding all terms indefinite

Judge Richard G. Andrews recently construed eight terms from computer-implemented means-plus-function claims of U.S. Patent No. 5,663,757, titled “Software controlled multi-mode interactive TV systems.” Eon Corp. IP Holdings LLC v. Flo TV Inc., et al., C.A. Nos. 10-812-RGA, 13-910-RGA (D. Del. Mar. 4, 2014). In order to construe a means-plus-function limitation, the court must first determine the claimed function, then “‘identify the corresponding structure in the written description that performs the function.'” Id. at 6 (quoting Applied Med. Res. Corp. v. U.S. Surgical Corp., 448 F.3d 1324, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 2006)). Where the corresponding structure is a computer, however, the patent must do more than simply disclose a general purpose computer as the structure; the patent must disclose an algorithm for performing the claimed function. Id.

The Federal Circuit recognizes a narrow exception to this general rule: “[I]t is ‘not necessary to disclose more structure than the general purpose processor’ when the claimed functions ‘can be achieved by any general purpose computer without special programming.’ Id. at 7 (quoting In re Katz Interactive Call Processing Patent Litig., 639 F.3d 1303, 1316 (Fed. Cir. 2011)). “Examples of functions that can be carried out by a general purpose computer without special programming include: processing, receiving, and storing. By contrast, any function that involves more than merely plugging in a general-purpose computer requires special programming.” Id. (internal citations and quotations omitted).

In light of this law, Judge Andrews construed the following disputed means-plus-function claim terms, finding all of the terms indefinite for failing to disclose a sufficient corresponding structure:

“Means under control of said replaceable software means for indicating acknowledging of shipment of an order from a remote station”
“Means controlled by replaceable software means operable with said operation control
system for reconfiguring the operating modes by adding or changing features and introducing
new menus”
“Means responsive to said self contained software for establishing a mode of
operation for selection of one of a plurality of authorized television program channels”
“Means establishing a first menu directed to different interactively selectable program
theme subsets available from said authorized television program channels”
“Means for causing selected themes to automatically display a second menu”
“Means controlled by replaceable software means operable with said operation control
system for establishing and controlling a mode of operation that records historical operating data of the local subscriber’s data processing station”
“Means controlled by replaceable software means operable with said operation control
system for establishing and controlling fiscal transactions with a further local station”
“Means for establishing an accounting mode of operation for maintaining and reporting fiscal transactions incurred in the operation ofthe local subscriber’s data processing station”

Eon Corp. IP Holdings LLC v. Flo TV Inc., et al., C.A. Nos. 10-812-RGA, 13-910-RGA (D. Del. Mar. 4, 2014)

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