On June 13, 2014, the Federal Circuit affirmed the Western District of Washington’s decision that the claims in U.S. Patent No. 5,181,181 were invalid for indefiniteness. The ’181 patent disclosed a method and apparatus for a user communicating with a computer by moving an input device in three-dimensional space. The claims included general means-plus-function terms, such as an “integrator means,” meant to be performed on a computer. Under Federal Circuit precedent, “if the function is performed by a general purpose computer or microprocessor, then the specification must also disclose the algorithm that the computer performs to accomplish that function.” The ’181 patent failed to disclose any specific algorithm or specialized computer that performed the integrating function for the “integrator means.” Appellant pointed to the disclosure of “numerical integration” in the patent’s specification as the sufficient disclosure of the algorithm. The Federal Circuit rejected this argument, finding that while “numerical integration” is technically a broad class of algorithms, the patent fails to disclose the specific algorithm—i.e., a “step-by-step procedure”—for the claimed “integrator means.” The Federal Circuit reinforced that the “failure to disclose the corresponding algorithm for a computer-implemented means-plus-function term renders the claim indefinite.” Because the Appellant failed to disclose an algorithm that performed the integrating function, the asserted claims were upheld as indefinite.
Triton Tech of Texas, LLC, v. Nintendo of America, Inc., Case No. 2013-1476 (Fed. Cir. June 13, 2014) [Moore (opinion), Reyna, and Hughes]