2015年5月19日 星期二

合理解釋專利範圍的案例 - Phillips v. AWH Corp. (Fed. Cir. 2005)

MPEP 2111 Claim Interpretation; Broadest Reasonable Interpretation

MPEP2111的次標題就可以瞭解(美國)審查委員在審查專利時,解讀專利範圍是從文字中進行最廣而合理的解釋,因此審查標準將會以此作為解釋請求項的標準,也難怪常見答辯書講得天花亂墜,但是審查委員卻冷冷的一句話,the Examiner is required to interpret the claim limitations in terms of their broadest reasonable interpretations while determining patentability of the disclosed invention.  See MPEP 2111. ...

這個標準建立於2005年CAFC聯席法官對於案例Phillips v. AWH Corp.的判決,而解釋依據仍要落於說明書揭露內容,因此同時也要求請求項範圍應清楚地被專利說明書所支持,否則無法採取最廣而合理的解釋:
"The Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) determines the scope of claims in patent applications not solely on the basis of the claim language, but upon giving claims their broadest reasonable construction “in light of the specification as it would be interpreted by one of ordinary skill in the art.” In re Am. Acad. of Sci. Tech. Ctr., 367 F.3d 1359, 1364[, 70 USPQ2d 1827, 1830] (Fed. Cir. 2004). Indeed, the rules of the PTO require that application claims must “conform to the invention as set forth in the remainder of the specification and the terms and phrases used in the claims must find clear support or antecedent basis in the description so that the meaning of the terms in the claims may be ascertainable by reference to the description.” 37 CFR 1.75(d)(1)."

MPEP2111中也說明,法院認為請求項範圍解釋時應根據("in light of")說明書內容,藉此明確專利範圍解釋,這不同於從將說明書描述的限制讀入請求項,這可以避免在請求項沒有列入的限制而過度解釋專利範圍。法院同時認為,USPTO審查時不必如法院在侵權訴訟時的方式解釋專利範圍。以最廣而合理的標準解釋專利範圍時,仍應與發明領域相關技術人員的解釋一致。

Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1316, 75 USPQ2d 1321, 1329 (Fed. Cir. 2005)

原告/上訴人:Edward H. Phillips
被告:AWH Corporation
緣起:Edward H. Phillips取得專利,與AWH Corporation合作,販賣專利所指的鋼板,之後拆夥,但Phillips發現AWH Corporation再沒有取得同意下繼續使用Phillips的專利以及營業秘密,因此提出侵權告訴,以及違反營業秘密(不成立,在此並不討論)

US4,677,798揭露一種監牢設施的鋼模塊(Steel shell modules for prisoner detention facilities),監牢的結構特色就是要特別強固而難以破壞(防彈、防火、防撞擊,還隔音),結構大致是三個鋼板形成一個模組,截面部分形成三角形,可防彈(偏轉子彈),再將兩個鋼板模組焊接在一起,形成兩道內外牆。

Claim 1:
1. Building modules adapted to fit together for construction of fire, sound and impact resistant security barriers and rooms for use in securing records and persons, comprising in combination, an outer shell of substantially parallelepiped shaped with two outer steel plate panel sections of greater surface area serving as inner and outer walls for a structure when a plurality of the modules are fitted together, sealant means spacing the two panel sections from steel to steel contact with each other by a thermal-acoustical barrier material, and further means disposed inside the shell for increasing its load bearing capacity comprising internal steel baffles extending inwardly from the steel shell walls.

地方法院審理侵權訴訟前,解釋專利範圍,其中「further means disposed inside the shell for increasing its load bearing capacity comprising internal steel baffles extending inwardly from the steel shell walls」為符合35U.S.C.112(f)定義的手段功能用語,於是法院解釋專利範圍時,引用了說明書內容,認為其中"internal steel baffles"應參考說明書內容所界定的:"extend inward from the steel shell walls at an oblique or acute angle to the wall face",這些限制並未寫在專利範圍內,如此限制的條件使得法院判斷侵權不成立。






在此決定中,認為Claim 1界定的"baffles"並非是手段功能用語,不適用35U.S.C.112(f),這不同地方法院的意見,即便有"means"的用語,但是這個字也非是修飾"baffle"的用語,因此怎麼解釋"baffle"成為侵權與否的關鍵!

因為請求項關鍵特徵"baffle"不適用35U.S.C.112(f),於是轉向35U.S.C.112(a)(b),檢視說明書是否符合能讓發明相關領域技術人員可以據以實施的揭露條件,是否請求項範圍符合能夠明確出發明標的的目的。也就是探討何謂發明相關一般技術人員(a person of ordinary skill in the art)所瞭解的發明?原本發明人的發明概念為何?不要過度也不要過廣解釋專利範圍。


此處,CAFC採用Multiform Desiccants, Inc. v. Medzam, Ltd.(Fed. Cir. 1998)案例對於the person of ordinary skill in the art的解釋:
It is the person of ordinary skill in the field of the invention through whose eyes the claims are construed. Such person is deemed to read the words used in the patent documents with an understanding of their meaning in the field, and to have knowledge of any special meaning and usage in the field. The inventor’s words that are used to describe the invention—the inventor’s lexicography—must be understood and interpreted by the court as they would be understood and interpreted by a person in that field of technology. Thus the court starts the decisionmaking process by reviewing the same resources as would that person, viz., the patent specification and the prosecution history.

對於請求項中用語的解釋,可參考案例:Renishaw PLC v. Marposs Societa’ per Azioni, 158 F.3d 1243, 1249 (Fed. Cir. 1998),說明書應讓相關技術人員可以理解請求項所包裹的該發明,這涉及請求項的語言,應與說明書一致:
Ultimately, the interpretation to be given a term can only be determined and confirmed with a full understanding of what the inventors actually invented and intended to envelop with the claim. The construction that stays true to the claim language and most naturally aligns with the patent’s description of the invention will be, in the end, the correct construction.

然而,是否就將說明書描述直接用來解釋專利範圍,這稱為"importing limitations from specification",這還是有一些規範,避免請求項範圍過窄又影響發明人/專利權人的權益,這畢竟需要鼓勵發展,而非一味地限制權利。這段法院意見表達專利說明書的目的,就是讓相關技術人員可以根據說明書內容實施該發明,並提供最佳實施例(當年,現在非必要(美國專利))(Spectra-Physics, Inc. v. Coherent, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 1987)):
To avoid importing limitations from the specification into the claims, it is important to keep in mind that the purposes of the specification are to teach and enable those of skill in the art to make and use the invention and to provide a best mode for doing so.

解釋專利範圍時,提到USPTO審查態度:broadest reasonable construction

解釋專利範圍時,這裡有個重點就是引用附屬項證明獨立項的廣度,這如請求項差異化原則(Doctrine of Claim Differentiation,可搜尋GOOGLE或本部落格文章),表明發明人並非希望附屬項是獨立項的限制條件,因此系爭專利獨立項的"baffle"有一定的解釋空間。


本案例全文長達40頁(前後各法官意見共56頁),多數在討論何謂a person of ordinary skill in the field of the invention/in the art,可見專利範圍解釋一直以來都是專利系統最重要的事情,即便有了一些初步意見,或是有建設性的結論,但仍是需要一直學習的課目。

美國法院系統一個重要的關鍵在於:專家證詞(這屬於外部證據,extrinsic evidence),這反映出「相關技術領域的人」如何解釋專利,這部分顯見於各種法院意見,甚至也存在於"類法院"判決的行政程序中,比如IPR, PGR, Reexamination等程序。

可參考先前文章:「請求項差異化原則(Doctrine of Claim Differentiation)」(http://enpan.blogspot.tw/2014/02/ptabiprabout-claims.html