by Dennis Crouch
The Federal Circuit lately vacated and remanded a pair of Patent Trial and Attraction Board (PTAB) selections that had upheld patent claims owned by Corephotonics. Apple Inc. v. Corephotonics, Ltd., No. 2022-1350 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 11, 2023). The appellate courtroom held the PTAB erroneously construed a disputed declare time period by failing to understand the importance of “a” versus “the” within the claims. It additionally discovered the PTAB violated the Administrative Process Act (APA) by resting its obviousness dedication on arguments and proof not squarely raised by the events.
The Dispute Over Twin-Lens “Portrait Mode”
The patent at problem, U.S. Patent No. 10,225,479 (‘479 patent), pertains to utilizing dual-aperture digicam methods in smartphones to create aesthetically pleasing “portrait pictures.” Particularly, the patent discloses combining photos from a wide-angle “Large” lens and a telephoto “Tele” lens to supply a fused picture displaying a pointy topic in entrance of a blurred background. Portrait mode is extremely common on Apple and Android telephones and so the business is raring to invalidate the patent held by Tel Aviv based mostly Corephotonics.
Apple filed two petitions for inter partes evaluate (IPR) difficult claims of the ‘479 patent as apparent based mostly totally on a previous artwork reference referred to as Parulski, which discloses a dual-lens digital digicam however doesn’t specify how picture fusion happens. U.S. Patent No. 7,859,588.
Declare Building – The Significance of “A” vs. “The”
Within the first continuing (IPR2020-00905), the events disputed the correct development of the declare time period “fused picture with a viewpoint (POV) of the Large digicam.” Apple argued this time period required sustaining both the Large picture’s perspective or place viewpoint within the fused picture, whereas Corephotonics contended it mandated each Large perspective and place. Patentees typically argue for slender constructions throughout IPR proceedings with a purpose to keep away from the prior artwork. Right here, the patentee’s slender development received the day and the PTAB discovered Apple failed to indicate the claims had been apparent underneath this narrower development.
Analyzing declare development de novo, the Federal Circuit concluded that the PTAB had erroneously construed the time period too narrowly based mostly upon use of the indefinite article “a POV” in addition to intrinsic proof from the patent specification.
The courtroom first regarded on the declare language in context, noting the claims recite “a viewpoint” quite than “the viewpoint” of the Large digicam, suggesting the fused picture want solely preserve one kind of Large viewpoint. Whereas the specification discloses that “viewpoint” consists of each perspective and place, the claims’ use of “a” quite than “the” was important:
An inexpensive studying of [the specification] is that Large perspective and Large place are two various kinds of Large viewpoint. The declare time period requires solely that the fused picture preserve ‘a viewpoint of the Large digicam,’ i.e., solely one of many disclosed varieties of Large viewpoint.
Slip Op. The courtroom additionally defined that limiting the claims to require each Large perspective and place would improperly exclude disclosed embodiments the place the fused picture has a “combined” viewpoint, like Large perspective however Tele place.
Taken collectively and in context, nonetheless, the intrinsic proof helps that the declare time period requiring a fused picture sustaining ‘a viewpoint of the Large digicam’ requires solely that the fused picture preserve Large perspective viewpoint or Large place viewpoint, however doesn’t require each.
With this broader development, the Federal Circuit vacated the PTAB’s first choice and remanded for additional evaluation of whether or not the prior artwork disclosed the disputed limitation underneath the clarified commonplace.
Whereas the Federal Circuit urged the patentee may have outlined “viewpoint” to require each perspective and place through the use of “the” within the claims, this may increasingly have been improper on account of lack of antecedent foundation. Typically, a brand new limitation ought to be launched utilizing an indefinite article like “a” quite than a particular article like “the.” The existence of this rule of patent declare drafting raises the query of how a lot interpretive weight ought to be given to a patentee appropriately following the rule. Right here, the usage of “a viewpoint” within the claims adhered to the frequent rule of utilizing “a” to introduce a brand new limitation. The Federal Circuit relied closely on this selection of article in reaching its broader development. However as a result of patentees are anticipated to comply with this drafting rule, it’s debatable whether or not such weight ought to be positioned on the patentee’s choice to make use of “a” in accordance with commonplace apply quite than “the.” This highlights some rigidity between declare drafting finest practices and reliance on delicate variations in declare language throughout declare development. After all, the patentee may have merely drafted claims that clearly said the construction being claimed. Right here, the Board famous that the disclosure was “not a mannequin of readability,” one thing that ought to weigh in opposition to the patentee.
Sua Sponte Findings With out Sufficient Rationalization or Alternative to Reply
Within the second continuing (IPR2020-00906), Apple asserted particular claims reciting detailed digicam parameters can be apparent based mostly on combining Parulski with the Ogata reference. U.S. Patent No. 5,546,236. However the PTAB rested its dedication that Apple had not confirmed obviousness nearly fully on typographical errors within the declaration of Apple’s skilled, Dr. Sasián, which had been barely talked about by the events.
Apple appealed each PTAB selections to the Federal Circuit.
The appellate panel held that resting a dedication of nonobviousness totally on typographical errors in Apple’s skilled declaration, with out prior discover to the events, violated the APA. The courtroom defined that whereas the PTAB can reject unreliable skilled testimony, it should present a reasoned rationalization supported by proof and base its choice on points the events had discover and probability to deal with. These elements weren’t current right here:
Corephotonics didn’t depend on [the expert’s] error in any of its arguments on the deserves. And it didn’t contend that this error demonstrated that there would have been no cheap expectation of success or that it alone was a enough foundation to seek out all of Dr. Sasián’s evaluation unreliable.
Slip Op. Additional, whereas the PTAB recognized further errors, these inconsistencies had been by no means raised by the events and appeared to lack evidentiary assist. The PTAB’s “explanations should be supported by substantial proof, and its selections should be reached solely after the events have been supplied truthful discover and a chance to be heard.” As a result of the PTAB targeted on peripheral points not squarely offered by the events, it didn’t resolve the core obviousness disputes truly raised.
On remand, the PTAB can have the prospect to attempt once more — and, extra notably, Apple will get one other chew on the Corephotonics patent.