In an inter partes review (IPR), the accused infringer challenged the patentee’s claims that disclosed methods of effecting secure credit card purchases. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) found the patents invalid for both anticipation and obviousness. The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded. 

The claims of the patents-in-suit covered a multi-step method for achieving a secure credit card transaction by sending and receiving a secure transaction code generated by the credit card company at the time of purchase. This method limited a merchant’s access to a customer’s credit card number. Notably, certain claims required the user to first request a transaction code for an unidentified “single merchant,” rather than choosing a “multiple merchant” transaction. The “single merchant” would then be identified at a later step in the method. 

After construing a representative claim, the PTAB found that a prior art reference anticipated the “single merchant” feature because it disclosed a user identifying a chain of stores—for example, Target—from which the user would eventually narrow to a specific store in the chain after the transaction code is generated. The Federal Circuit disagreed, reasoning that, based on a reading of the claim and the patentee’s statements during prosecution, the “single merchant” limitation required that a specific merchant be identified only after a transaction code was requested. In vacating the IPR decision, the Federal Circuit noted that the PTAB’s claim interpretation was “contrary to the claim as reasonably construed.”