Means-Plus-Function Claims

Patents in suit may not be construed, under 35 U.S.C. §112, sixth paragraph, to disclose computer software as structure corresponding to claimed function if patents’ specifications do not clearly link or associate software with that function, since § 112 does not permit patentee to claim in functional terms unbounded by any reference to structure in specification, and since failure to clearly link or associate software with claimed function is also failure to meet § 112’s definiteness requirement.  The Federal Circuit held that the Federal District Court correctly found the corresponding structure for the “means for converting said plurality of images into a selected format” to be the VME bus based framegrabber video display board, and the computer video processor.  However, the Federal Circuit held that the district court erred by identifying software as an additional corresponding structure for this limitation.  There is nothing in the specification or prosecution history that clearly links or associates software with the function of converting images into a format.  A correct inquiry is to look at the disclosure of the patent and determine if one of skill in the art would have understood the disclosure to encompass software for digital-to-digital conversion and been able to implement such a program, not simply whether one of skill in the art would have been able to write such a software system.  (Medical Instrumentation and Diagnostics Corp. v. Elekta AB, 68 USPQ2d 1263, CA FC, 9/22/03).

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