The PTAB denied a petitioner’s request to institute an IPR in Space Exploration Technologies Corp. v. Blue Origin LLC, IPR 2014-01378, Paper 6 (March 3, 2015). As the claims were determined to be indefinite and, thus, not amendable to construction, the PTAB could not undertake the necessary factual inquiry to evaluate the proposed obviousness rejections.
The claims at issue are directed to systems for providing access to space comprising several means-plus-functions limitations including , inter alia, “means for igniting,” “means for shutting off,” and “means for reigniting” rocket engines. While the function of each limitation was “readily apparent,” the specification failed to disclose any structures that performed the recited functions. SpaceX acknowledged the lack of disclosure but urged the PTAB to construe the limitations as applying to any suitable structure. The PTAB declined, explaining that this was contrary to the rules of claim construction, particularly for mean-plus-function limitations. The PTAB concluded the claims were indefinite.
Accordingly, while indefiniteness cannot be raised as a basis for an IPR, it can be a basis for not instituting an IPR.