In MasterMine Software, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp., No. 2016-2465 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 30, 2017), the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s claim construction and reversed the district court’s finding of indefiniteness, explaining that the claims did not improperly mix methods and systems.
MasterMine sued Microsoft, alleging infringement of two patents directed to creating “pivot tables” in software. The district court construed “pivot table” to include only tables that display data and the parties stipulated to noninfringement. The district court also held certain claims indefinite for improperly including method steps in apparatus claims. MasterMine appealed.
On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed the claim construction, rejecting MasterMine’s argument that “pivot table” includes tables that do not display any data. The court noted that “pivot table” in the claims always included data, the specification consistently described pivot tables as displaying data, and the prosecution history of a related patent demonstrated MasterMine’s intention for pivot tables to display data. Based on this intrinsic record, the court affirmed the construction.
The court reversed the infiniteness finding, analyzing the claims against its related indefiniteness holdings based on IPXL and explaining that MasterMine’s claims did not claim both a method and an apparatus. Instead, the court found that the claims used proper functional language because they claim a system that “‘possess[es] the recited structure [which is] capable of performing the recited functions,’” even though they recited active verbs, such as “presents”, “receives”, and “generates.”