2014年1月23日 星期四

你常用"configured to"嗎?(about Claims)

你常用"configured to"嗎?這個寫法效果如何?
這句話是這個案例被討論的理由之一,來自主審法官Rader的意見:
it is usually improper to construe non-functional claim terms in system claims in a way that makes infringement or validity turn on their function.

"configured to"可以解釋為"設為"、"用以"、"配置為"...,常用來描述一個機構、部件名詞的功能,似乎頗有用處,當想要在Claim中將一個元件與其功能連結時,"configured to"就是一個不錯的選擇。相似的轉接詞如used to, used for, provided for, prepared for, adapted to, operable to, for ...。這個用語就差不多是用來等同means-plus-function的用語,並適用專利法112(f)條的解釋,但似乎又可以迴避means-plus-function解釋專利範圍的限制

根據Patently-O部落格報導,這幾年愈來愈多專利的獨立請求項使用"configured to",這應該可以透過簡單檢索取得統計。

舉例來說,蘋果也常用,甚至用在專利名稱,也用在權利範圍,根據該公司的屬性來看,常用來描述虛擬電路(軟體元件),但這在這類專利中頗為正常而有用,與機構案的判讀應稍有不同。

US20130344872
Cell Re-Selection in a Device Configured to Operate According to Multiple Cellular Communication Protocols

10. A wireless user equipment (UE) device configured to communicate using a plurality of radio access technologies (RATs) using a single radio, wherein the UE comprises:
a radio, wherein the radio comprises circuitry configured for wireless communication, wherein the radio is configured for use according to either of a first radio access technology or a second radio access technology;
logic configured to control the radio, wherein the logic is configured to:
...

US 8570449
1. A system comprising:
a display comprising a stack of layers configured to display an image;
multiple elements included in the stack of layers, wherein each of the multiple elements is configured to sense light;
a pressure sensor distinct from the multiple elements and configured to sense a pressure applied to the display; and
a processor configured to detect an object based on output from the multiple elements and output from the pressure sensor.


這個議題涉及之前的案例:
http://enpan.blogspot.tw/2014/01/superior-industries-v-masaba.html
這個案例爭議是一個機構案元件的描述用到"configured to"時的專利範圍是否涵蓋到元件之後的功能?但這個爭議或許在電子與軟體案比較小。

案例Superior Industries v. Masaba (Fed. Cir. 2014)中涉及解釋專利範圍的議題,大概的結果是,系統專利的專利範圍不應涵蓋到這個系統所能執行的功能,這個觀念來自於案例Hewlett–Packard Co. v. Bausch & Lomb Inc., 909 F.2d 1464 (Fed.Cir.1990)。

列舉此案例其中之一系爭專利US7,607,529權利範圍,"configured for"常見用於描述傾卸車的"support frame(支撐架)"的作用,算是一個功能性用語的轉接詞(transition),但此功能性用語所涵蓋的專利範圍在此案例中被挑戰,被認為與被告侵權物無關,即便專利權人自認專利或許不成立,但CAFC仍請地院重新審理,重新解釋專利範圍。

1. A portable conveyor system with a drive-over material receiving opening, the conveyor system comprising:
a longitudinally extending frame comprising a first end and a second end, the first end of the frame configured for connection to a towing vehicle, the second end of the frame configured for transportation over a ground surface, the frame carrying a conveyor belt assembly generally between the first and second ends of the frame, wherein a first portion of the frame adjacent to the first end defines a first frame height, the first portion of the frame configured to rest on the ground surface; and
a drive-over ramp system near the first end of the frame, the drive-over ramp system comprising a first ramp section located on a first side of the frame, a second ramp section located on a second side of the frame, and a third ramp section supported on the frame between the first and second ramp sections, the third ramp section comprising a grate positioned over a portion of the conveyor belt assembly, wherein each of the first and second ramp sections comprises:
a ramp support frame configured for contact with the ground surface and positionable adjacent to the longitudinally extending frame, the ramp support frame comprising a first frame member spaced from the longitudinally extending frame of the conveyor system, the first frame member defining a barrier having a height approximating the first frame height of the longitudinally extending frame; and
a ramp having a first end and a second end spaced from the first end, the first end of the ramp being pivotally connected to the longitudinally extending frame and having a vehicle support surface extending between the first end second ends of the ramp, the ramp being pivotable between a first position with the ramp second end at the height of the barrier and a second position with the ramp second end radially spaced from the first position in a direction toward the third ramp section.
15. A portable material transport vehicle dump system comprising:
a longitudinally extending frame having a first end and a second end, the frame carrying a material conveying system generally from the first end to the second end, the first end of the frame being in close proximity to a ground surface;
a grate supported by the frame near the first end of the frame, the grate being positioned over a portion of the conveyor system;
a pair of ramps connected to the frame on opposite sides of and aligned with the grate, each ramp of the pair of ramps having a first portion engageable with the ground surface and a second portion supported above the ground surface, the second portion defining, in combination with the grate, a drive over surface for a material transport vehicle when second portion is in a first lowered position, the first portion configured to support an earthen ramp at a level with the drive over surface, the second portion of each ramp pivotable away from the first portion while the first portion maintains support of the earthen ramp.
另一案US7,424,943的Claim中也有利用"configured to"來描述支撐架的功能寫法,提到支持部用以支撐靠上支撐部的土斜坡的一端(功能):

2. A portable truck dump comprising:
...
a support frame positionable on the ground adjacent to the first end of the frame on each of the first and second sides of the frame, the support frame comprising a frame member extending along the second end of each of the first and second ramps, the frame member having a height generally equal to a height of the second end of each ramp when the second end of each ramp is supported above the ground, wherein the frame member is configured to support an end of an earthen ramp constructed against the frame member to provide a material transport vehicle access to the first and second ramps to deposit material over the grate, and to maintain the integrity of the earthen ramp when the first and second ramps are pivoted toward the grate.

小結:
雖有美國CAFC法官認為"configured to"後面接著的功能性描述no weight(沒有影響範圍解釋),但這也並非是所有法官的共識;
專利審理期間是否功能性用語有意義,這端賴前後文,特別是結構、元件上的限制,如果是純功能,應該是沒有意義;
"configured to"至少在侵權判斷時是否應該被讀入?這個所謂的「Halliburton rule」可供參考,如果功能性用語無法適用112(f)的解釋,則不允許,相關部落格文章:http://enpan.blogspot.tw/2009/10/about-claims-xxvi-functional-whereby.html如果專利申請人無法證明所載功能是可以與前案區隔(證明前案辦不到)或是比較好,專利範圍為不明確

MPEP2114是個很好的結論:
2114 Apparatus and Article Claims - Functional Language
  1. 裝置權利範圍應以結構性特與先前技術區隔
  2. 如果先前技術已經教示發明中結構的特徵,則操作裝置的手段不能使得裝置範圍與前案區隔
  3. 相反地,若是先前技術中的裝置可以執行發明所提供的所有功能,仍非會造成新穎性的爭議

判決資料:
http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/images/stories/opinions-orders/13-1302.Opinion.1-14-2014.1.PDF

Ron
資料參考:Patently-O, CAFC

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