Digest of Interval Licensing LLC v. AOL, Inc., No. 2013-1282, -1283, -1284, -1285 (Fed. Cir. September 10, 2014) (precedential). On appeal from W.D. Wash. Before Taranto and Chen.
Procedural Posture: Patent holder Interval Licensing, LLC (“Interval”) appealed final judgments of invalidity and noninfringement. The CAFC affirmed the District Court’s judgment of invalidity, vacated the judgments of non-infringement based on erroneous claim construction of “attention manager,” and remanded to the District Court.
- Section 112 Indefiniteness: The CAFC held that the phrase “unobtrusive manner that does not distract a user,” when viewed in light of the specification and prosecution history, fails to inform those of skill in the art about the scope of the invention with reasonable certainty. Thus, claims containing that phrase are invalid for indefiniteness. The CAFC found that the phrase is highly subjective with no objective boundary. The CAFC further found the written description to be muddled and having a hazy relationship with the claims. The CAFC also refused to adopt a single, narrow example from the specification as the definition of the facially subjective claim term, emphasizing that the use of “i.e.” may be cast as a definition, but the single “e.g.” used in the patent was insufficient.
- Claim Construction: With respect to the term “attention manager,” the CAFC disagreed with the District Court’s claim construction, modifying the claim construction according to Interval’s proposal. The CAFC found that although the District Court’s construction was plausible, Interval’s construction better conforms to the written description. With respect to the term “instructions,” the CAFC agreed with the District Court’s reliance on the distinction between “instructions” and “data” in the specification, where instructions does not encompass data. The District Court’s reading was also consistent with the distinction between “instructions” and “data” that is widely recognized in the art. However, the CAFC adopted a broader construction than the District Court because it is simpler and more accurate.