Friday, June 09, 2006

Xerox versus 3Com [United States - Patents]

Back in 1997, Xerox sued 3Com for patent infringement — asserting that the PalmPilot’s Graffiti handwriting recognition software infringed a Xerox patent. Xerox’s initial summary judgment win was reversed on appeal (Xerox I), and on remand 3Com subsequently won on summary judgment. The CAFC has now reversed/vacated once again.

Anticipation and Obviousness: In a showing of their technical forte, the appellate panel reviewed two prior art references in detail to determine the extent that those references anticipate the patent claims. Their conclusion — that a genuine issue of material fact remains as to whether the references disclose the limitations of the asserted claims.
Indefiniteness: The last portion of the decision focuses on indefiniteness. The lower court concluded that the claim term “sloppiness space” was ambiguous — leaving the related claims invalid as indefinite. However, in the specification, the patent provides a couple of examples of use of “sloppiness space.” As it has done before, the CAFC strained to find those claims not-ambiguous:
While those descriptions [in the specification] are not rigorously precise, they provide adequate guidance as to the types of symbols that are "well separated from each other in sloppiness space" . . . Thus, in light of the criteria provided in the specification, we hold that claims 9 and 11 are "subject to construction" and are not "insolubly ambiguous."
The case is remanded to the district court in upstate NY for reconsideration.

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