2013年5月8日 星期三

權利範圍解釋與撰寫注意案例(about Claims)

這是過去的同事分享的內容,現在撈出來討論。

 
案例為CAFC於2011年針對專利侵權上訴案「ABSOLUTE SOFTWARE, INC.(原告) v. STEALTH SIGNAL, INC.& COMPUTER SECURITY PRODUCTS, INC.(被告)」 的判決(2010-1503, -1504)


這件案例值得學習的地方是,專利侵權判斷涉及「文義侵害」、「均等論」與「專利範圍解釋(claim construction)」,並涉及專利範圍撰寫等基本的觀念。所以資料來源的網站加上一個副標題「claim drafting lessons」,值得您從頭讀到尾。

原告ABSOLUTE SOFTWARE擁有幾件關於處理筆電遺失的追蹤軟體,而德州南部地方法院判斷被告STEALTH SIGNAL未有侵害任何一件專利的事實,雙方都對專利範圍解釋與侵權判斷的部份提出上訴。

專利之一為US5,406,269,揭示一種遠端確認電子裝置運作狀況的技術,在此電子裝置內設有軟體或硬體,連線到電話系統,可以秘密地將資料傳給遠端監控的裝置。可定時傳輸這些資料,並揭露多種資料傳輸的形式與方法,當然,這類近20年前的技術並沒有徹底採用目前網路的好處。

專利範圍獨立項:
1. A performance monitoring system, a portion of which is for inclusion in an electrical apparatus, to monitor performance features of that electrical apparatus during operation surreptitiously of a user of said electrical apparatus, said system comprising:
remote site means for inclusion in each of said electrical apparatus to be monitored by the system, each remote site means including:
monitor means programmed for collecting data on at least one performance feature of said electrical apparatus of interest to the system surreptitiously of a user of said electrical apparatus;
formatting means for creating a message bearing packet containing data collected by said monitoring means; and
transmission means for initiating, at a semi-random rate, the transmission of the message packet from the formatting means to a central site means of the system surreptitiously of a user of said electrical apparatus; and
central site means for receiving information from at least one remote site means, said central site including:
decoding means for receiving and processing the packet of said collected data on at least one performance feature of said electrical apparatus of interest to the system from at least one remote site means; and
detection means for comparing the decoded collected data from each remote site means with the expected corresponding data for electrical apparatus of the type in which said remote site means is installed to identify the location of each of said remote sites means.
這件專利以"means"(手段功能用語)界定專利元件,在解釋這類技術範圍時,應參考說明書內容與其均等範圍,因此需要參考說明書所載的技術描述。
其中"transmission means"在半隨機(定時與不定時)的速率傳輸訊息封包到一中央網站,在界定時間時用了"semi-random rate",根據法院請的專利解釋為:" normally taking place exactly once at a randomly chosen time during each occurrence of a repeating predetermined time interval.",包括了隨機與定時兩種速率。
我查了一下說明書相關的內容,有段內容:『The first is that of a clock to insure that one call per time period, such as day/week/month, is made to the Central Site. Second, that call is made randomly at only one time during that period. The present invention is designed to make one, and only one, call during the selected period to enable processor 40 to detect situations where more than one system is using the same copy of the software.』

這個解釋上產生了爭議,被告STEALTH SIGNAL主張,根據說明書內容所記載的時間限制與發明"秘密監控"的用途不同,相互矛盾。CAFC採用被告的意見,但雖然被告在此意見中勝了,但是根據其餘附屬項的描述可以得知所謂的「半隨機」包括在一個時間片段中的隨機事件,因此仍符合發明偵測被偷事件的目的。因此semi-random的解釋同時包括兩種狀況:隨機與定時。
這部份,CAFC認定被告產品並未侵權,理由是該產品並未採用隨機傳送訊息的方式。

另一個爭議是,若無附屬項的界定,本案說明書採用「the present invention」作為描述一個技術的主詞,直接描述本發明的技術、優點、目的等,這在解釋專利範圍並非好事!
The present invention is designed to make one, and only one, call during the selected period to enable processor 40 to detect situations where more than one system is using the same copy of the software.)

可以綜合幾個注意事項(重要)
  1. 使用功能手段時,說明書盡量揭露多種態樣的實施例,避免被過度限制在特定實施例,比如semi-random rate在不同實施例有不同的意義;
  2. 避免直接採用「the present invention」作為發明技術、目的、優點等描述的主詞,而不自知地限定了專利範圍的解釋空間;
  3. 可考慮採用"the example"、"the disclosed example"、"example embodiment"、"something that..."等用法來描述技術內容;
  4. 附屬項有必要小心地撰寫,一般來說是用來進一步界定獨立項的技術,不過使用"the"或"a/an"等定冠詞與不定冠詞是有點學問的,比如此案中:

    當獨立項提到了時間的參數,附屬項若採用"the" same selected time period,則可能是用來界定/暗示獨立項所提到的時間;若採用"a" same selected time period,則是用來界定時間參數的例子,比較沒有暗示的解釋空間;作者更建議有個更好的寫法:新增一個步驟是「“selecting a time period”」,選擇一個時間片段的步驟。
  5. 說明書所提到的好處、優點要注意是否適用於不同的實施方案中,避免過度描述;
  6. 針對同樣的限制,在申請專利範圍中最好使用一樣的名詞,法院解讀方法可能不會讓不同的名詞有相同的意義。比如本案中"agreement information"就有幾種寫法。

以上也是我常沒有注意的事項,提供各位參考,不過我仍覺得,這些注意事項可能過度玩文字遊戲,而且每個法官對這些微小議題的討論都會有不同的見解,我們就是盡量避免可能的瑕疵,也可避免被別人玩弄文字!

判決原文:
http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/images/stories/opinions-orders/10-1503.pdf

Ron
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