Triton Tech. of Texas v. Nintendo: Failure to disclose algorithm for a computer-implemented means-plus-function term renders claim indefinite

Category: 112 - Means Plus   
By: Jesus Hernandez, Blog Editor/Contributor 
TitleTriton Tech. of Tex., LLC v. Nintendo of Am., No. 2013-1476 (Fed. Cir. June 13, 2014).
IssueEach asserted claim [in the ‘181 patent] recites an “integrator means.” The district court held that this term rendered the asserted claims indefinite [because the ’181 patent broadly discloses using “numerical integration,” without specifying a class of algorithms that can be used to calculate definite integrals].
Triton Tech. of Tex., LLC at *3 (text added).
HoldingWe affirm the district court’s determination that the asserted claims of the ’181 patent are indefinite because the specification does not disclose an algorithm for performing the claimed integrating function of the “integrator means.”
Id. at *6.
Procedural HistoryTriton Tech of Texas, LLC (“Triton”) appeals from the district court’s judgment that the means-plus-function term “integrator means” renders the asserted claims of Triton’s U.S. Patent No. 5,181,181 invalid for indefiniteness.
Triton Tech. of Tex. at *2.
Legal Reasoning (Moore, Reyna, Hughes)
Subject of InfringementTriton sued Nintendo of America, Inc. (“Nintendo”), alleging that the Wii RemoteTM used in combination with a related accessory infringes the ’181 patent. The ’181 patent is directed to an input device for a computer. ’181 patent col. 1 ll. 9–10. It discloses that a user can communicate with a computer by moving the input device— much like using a mouse, but in three dimensions. Id. col. 2 ll. 50–67.
Triton Tech. of Tex. at *2.
Claim at IssueClaim 4 is representative of the asserted claims:

An input device for providing information to a computing device, comprising: . . .

a first acceleration sensor . . . ; a second acceleration sensor . . . ; a third acceleration sensor [each producing analog acceleration sensor signals]; a first rotational rate sensor . . . ; a second rotational rate sensor . . . ; a third rotational rate sensor . . . ; . . .

an analog-to-digital converter associated with said input device which quantizes said analog acceleration sensor signals to produce digital acceleration sensor values;

a first-in, first-out buffer memory which temporarily stores said digital acceleration sensor values from said analog-to-digital converter in sequential order for later processing;
integrator means associated with said input device for integrating said acceleration signals over time to produce velocity signals for linear translation along each of . . . first, second and third axes; and

communication means associated with said input device for communicating information between said input device and said computing device.

Id. at *3.
Legal Standard: Means-PlusSection 112 ¶ 6 allows a patentee to express an element of a claim as a means for performing a specified function. 35 U.S.C. § 112 ¶ 6 (2006). In exchange for using this form of claiming, the patent specification must disclose with sufficient particularity the corresponding structure for performing the claimed function and clearly link that structure to the function. Ibormeith IP, LLC v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, 732 F.3d 1376, 1379 (Fed. Cir. 2013). 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. Aristocrat, 521 F.3d at 1333. Failure to disclose the corresponding algorithm for a computer-implemented means-plus-function term renders the claim indefinite. Ergo Licensing LLC v. CareFusion 303, Inc., 673 F.3d 1361, 1363 (Fed. Cir. 2012).
Id. at *4-5.
Means-Plus Analysis
Disclosure of Class of Algorithms not “Structure”[M]erely using the term “numerical integration” does not disclose an algorithm—i.e., a step-by-step procedure—for performing the claimed function. […] As the district court correctly determined, numerical integration is not an algorithm but is instead an entire class of different possible algorithms used to perform integration. Claim Construction Order at 16. Disclosing the broad class of “numerical integration” does not limit the scope of the claim to the “corresponding structure, material, or acts” that perform the function, as required by section 112. Indeed, it is hardly more than a restatement of the integrating function itself. Disclosure of a class of algorithms “that places no limitations on how values are calculated, combined, or weighted is insufficient to make the bounds of the claims understandable.” […]
Triton Tech. of Tex. at *6 (internal citations omitted).
Bare Statement of Known Techniques is not StructureThe fact that various numerical integration algorithms may have been known to one of ordinary skill in the art does not rescue the claims. “[A] bare statement that known techniques or methods can be used does not disclose structure.” Biomedino, LLC v. Water Techs. Corp., 490 F.3d 946, 953 (Fed. Cir. 2007); see also ePlus,Inc. v. Lawson Software, Inc., 700 F.3d 509, 519 (Fed. Cir. 2012). The district court correctly recognized that “[a]lthough a person of skill in the art might be able to choose an appropriate numerical integration algorithm and program it onto a microprocessor, the [p]atent discloses no algorithm at all.” Claim Construction Order at 16.
Id. at *6-7.
Dicta on waived arguments[Triton] id not argue that the ’181 patent discloses a two-step numerical algorithm. It argued only that the term “numerical integration” was sufficient. To the extent that Triton now argues that one of skill in the art would have understood the bare disclosure of “numerical integration” as disclosing a particular two-step algorithm, we find that it also waived that argument.
Id. at *7-8 (text added).
We affirm the district court’s judgment that the asserted claims of the ’181 patent are invalid for indefiniteness.
Triton Tech. of Tex. at *8.
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