Indacon, Inc., v. Facebook, Inc., No. 2015-1129 (Fed. Cir. 2016)

Written By: John Kirkpatrick

Indacon sued Facebook for infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,834,276 (hereinafter the “’276 patent”), directed to “searching, indexing, perusing, and manipulating files in a database … through the insertion of automatically generated hyperlinks.”  Indacon at *2.  Appealing a finding of noninfringement by the district court, Indacon disputed the construction of the claim terms “alias,” “custom link,” “custom linking relationship,” and “link term.”  As no extrinsic evidence was introduced, the Federal Circuit reviewed, de novo, the specification and the prosecution history to determine the correct construction.

Upon review, the Court (Newman, Reyna, STOLL) agreed with the district court that “alias” is a textual expression rather than a graphical expression because the specification describes “alias” as a “term,” the word “term” being expressly defined in the specification as “words, numbers, spaces, etc.”  Id. at *4.  Indacon argues that “alias” is not dependent on the meaning of “term.”  However, the Court found that claim 1 requires an “alias term” and the use of “etc.” in the definition of “term” implies “additional, but similar forms of expression” that do “not reasonably encompass graphical expression.”  Id. at *5.  Further, the Court upheld the finding that “alias” does not include a hyperlink because the specification discloses that an “alias” is connected to the files by a link.

The Court also upheld the district court’s construction of the terms “custom link,” “custom linking relationship,” and “link term” because the specification controls the term construction when the terms have “no plain or established meaning to one of ordinary skill in the art.”  Indacon at *7.  Therefore, the claim term is construed “only as broadly provided for by the patent itself.”  Id. (quoting Irdeto Access, Inc. v. Echostar Satellite Corp., 383 F.3d 1295, 1300 (Fed. Cir. 2004)).  Thus, in regard to the term “custom link,” the Court found that the specification “repeatedly demonstrates that all [user-defined] link terms [that appear in a file] are capable of being identified and displayed as a link” such that all instances of a user-defined term are displayed as a link, rather than displaying a link for less than all instances of the defined term,” as argued by Indacon.  Id. at *6-8 (text added, emphasis removed).  

Indacon further argued that claim differentiation precluded the district court’s construction because some claims recite linking instances and others recite linking all instances.  However, the Court rejected this argument because claim differentiation “cannot enlarge the meaning of a claim beyond that which is supported in the patent documents.”  Id. at *10.
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