Alacritech Inc. v. Intel Corporation, United States[1].

Alacritech, Inc. appealed against the decision of Patent Trial and Appeal Board which held certain claims of U.S. Patent No. 8,131,880 as un-patentable due too obviousness. The patent relates to “computer networking offloading certain network-related processing tasks from a host computer’s central processing unit (CPU) to an “intelligent network interface card” (INIC)”.One of the tasks that can be offloaded from the CPU to the INIC is the reassembly of data from packets received by the host computer from the network. Claim 41 claimed an apparatus for transferring data packet to a host computer system comprising a traffic classifier for classifying data packets, a packet memory, a packet batching module, a flow re-assembler for re-assembling different data packets and a processor for communication flow.  

Independent Claim 43 similarly recites a, “network interface comprising . . . a re-assembler for storing data portions of said multiple packets without header portions in a first portion of said memory.”

The claim limitations at issue require that re-assembly take place in the network interface as opposed to a central processor. The crux of the dispute was “where” the reassembly took place in the prior art; and whether that location satisfies the claim limitations. Two prior arts that Intel referred to, disclosed a flow-reassemble but the Board did not spell out why it found the arguments persuasive, much less to explain how the prior art taught or suggested re-assembly in network interface. The Court averred that the Board is obligated to “articulate a satisfactory explanation for its action including a rational connection between the facts found and the choice made.”

Thus, the Board’s determination of obviousness as to the claims was vacated and remanded for the Board’s reconsideration.

The Board had also found that prior art disclosed “operation code” limitation in claim 1-32 which was contested by Alacritech, asserting that each claim speaks about” associating an operation code” with a packet identified earlier in the claim, wherein operation code indicates status of that packet. Alacritech sought narrowed interpretation that would limit the recited association to a direct mapping between one packet and one operation code. However, the Court observed that the plain claim language, on its own, does not preclude an operation code from being associated with more than one packet. Alacritech could not support its plea for such narrowing with reason. Thus, the Court agreed with the interpretation of the Board.