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The Federal Circuit’s en banc decision in Williamson v. Citrix Online, LLC, 792 F.3d 1339 (Fed. Cir. 2015), expanded the potential application of 35 U.S.C. §112, ¶6, making it more likely that functional claim language will be construed as a means-plus-function limitation even in the absence of the word “means.” Patent claims that recite functions in connection with nonce words like “module,” “mechanism,” “element,” “device,” or even “processor” are now more likely to be deemed means-plus-function limitations. Whether a claim term is or is not subject to §112, ¶6 may be dispositive in some patent cases. For example, the specification must disclose a structure or algorithm for performing the means-plus-function limitation, and if no such structure is disclosed, the claim will be held invalid as indefinite. Recent cases applying Williamson have reached different results, with some decisions finding claims subject to §112, ¶6 and invalid for lack of structure and other decisions finding software claim terms to recite structural limitations not subject to §112, ¶6. While most of the decisions to date have been in the computer-related arts, interesting parallels exist in the life sciences and pharmaceutical fields. Below, we discuss recent decisions applying Williamson and provide practical insights and strategies for patent owners and accused infringers to consider when addressing the expanded application of §112, ¶6.
By Alan L. Friel
Part Two of a Two-Part Article
By Scott Graham
The U.S. Supreme Court has jumped into a titanic copyright battle between Oracle Corp. and Google LLC with both barrels. The court’s involvement is sure to reignite a 50-year-old debate over how much, if any, software should be subject to copyright, and the contours of the fair use defense in the digital age.
By Phillip Bantz
Some of China’s largest companies have banded together with major brands in the United States and elsewhere to neutralize “patent trolls,” an indication that the country’s firms are becoming increasingly concerned about patent infringement litigation.
By Anthony H. Cataldo
U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Booking.com Trademark Case