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Judge Robinson Finds Means-Plus-Function Claims Indefinite

Judge Sue Robinson recently ruled in a claim construction order that several patent claims were indefinite under 35 U.S.C. § 112 because the specifications did “not provide guidance as to the type or format of the” structure of means-plus-function claims. Therefore, Her Honor found, the claims failed “to inform, with reasonable certainty, those skilled in the art about the scope of the invention” under the Supreme Court’s Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc. decision. Intellectual Ventures I, LLC, et al. v. Canon Inc., et al., C.A. No. 13-473-SLR, Memo. Or. at 4-34 (D. Del. Mar. 27, 2015). Although Judge Robinson did not find all claims indefinite, her indefiniteness finding applied to a substantial portion of the claim terms in dispute. A representative claim is as follows:

An apparatus, comprising:
a main circuit module;
a connection cable; and
an optical sensor circuit module coupled to the main circuit module through the connection cable, wherein the optical sensor circuit module is configured to:
receive scan control signals from the main circuit module; and
generate timing control signals for extracting an analog image signal in response to the received scan control signals, wherein the received scan control signals do not comprise any timing control signals.

In this claim, Judge Robinson found the specification was lacking guidance regarding both “scan control signals” and “timing control signals” because there is no information “as to the type or format of the signals or what the signals ultimately control. Id. at 4-5.

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