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November 22, 2012

Sourcing Injustice

The caprice of the courts is one of two main reasons that the U.S. patent system is terminally broken. The other cause is of course the USPTO: a cesspool of incompetence, as evidenced by how few granted patents legally claim actual invention, and the multitude of applications that linger in examination for up to a decade or more. ePlus v. Lawson illustrates how unpredictable the courts are, as well as how unjust the CAFC is.

ePlus v. Lawson (CAFC 2011-1396) precedential; Judges Dyk, Prost (author) and O'Malley

ePlus asserted 6,023,683 & 6,505,172, which claim a mundane system of generating a purchase order from a product catalog, all done electronically. The unimaginative nature of the claims was not in dispute. Which is to say that the defendant didn't bother to mount a decent invalidity defense.

At district court, Lawson had argued that the claims were indefinite for failing to disclose a claimed "means for processing," which went generating a purchase order. The judge denied the motion. But the judge did pitch ePlus's damages expert, and not allow ePlus to present any evidence at jury trial with regard to damages.

A jury found the patents infringed, whereupon the district court granted ePlus an injunction. Lawson appealed, and ePlus cross-appealed over the damages issue.

In legal maneuvering, ePlus argued that Lawson did not preserve error by incessantly arguing over indefiniteness. Such pettiness in procedure is rift in the U.S. "justice" system for all types of trials, both criminal and civil. The facts of a matter often have less to do than the timely posturing of lawyers. In this case, the CAFC reminded that it can do anything it damn well pleases: "An appellate court retains case-by-case discretion over whether to apply waiver."

The CAFC reversed the district court on indefiniteness.

We agree with Lawson that the specification does not disclose sufficient structure for the "means for processing" limitation. There is no dispute that the function claimed in this limitation is generating one or more purchase orders based on a requisition list. The district court determined that the specification discloses "a purchase order generation module." J.A. 147. But there is no mention of such structure in the specification. Nor is there anything else that describes what structure specifically corresponds to the means for processing limitation.

This is utter fiction. The specification clearly discloses sufficient information that one of skill could read the patent and implement the processing means. Column:line 15:39 on tells to convert inventory database fields to purchase order line items. Other text discloses purchase order generation.

So here the CAFC reveals its corrupt bias in this case. What is most astonishing is how the CAFC panel defeats common sense to assert that how one of skill in the art may read a patent has nothing to do with whether a claimed feature is sufficiently described.

The indefiniteness inquiry is concerned with whether the bounds of the invention are sufficiently demarcated, not with whether one of ordinary skill in the art may find a way to practice the invention.

By this pseudo-logic, a patentee is required to craft a tome that describes all prior art claimed as part of an invention. Here the CAFC spouts nonsense that has no basis in law.

In other rulings in this case, the CAFC was crafty enough to toss tidbits to ePlus, so as to facilely appear that the court's heavy thumb was not tilting the scales. The bottom line was that the CAFC let Lawson off the hook. The method claims that did not have the "means" limitation were reversed with regard to infringement.

What the CAFC did not entertain was finding abuse of discretion by the district court. All such arguments, whether by Lawson or ePlus, were waved away.

Posted by Patent Hawk at November 22, 2012 2:11 PM | ยง 112