August 2020

How to (Not) Prove Infringement of a Means-Plus-Function Patent Claim: SPEX Technologies, Inc. v. Apricorn

A patent plaintiff saw its jury trial victory vacated when the court granted a defense motion for judgment as a matter of law under FRCP 50(b), finding that the plaintiff had not proved that the accused products had structure corresponding to claimed means.  SPEX Technologies, Inc. v. Apricorn, No. CV 16-07349 JVS (AGRx) (C.D. Cal. Aug. 10, 2020). The jury found infringement of claims 11 and 12 of U.S. Patent No. 6,088,802. Those claims recite: 11. A peripheral device, comprising: security means for enabling one or more security operations to be performed on data; target means for enabling a defined interaction with a host computing device; means for enabling communication between the security means and the target means; means for enabling communication with a host computing device; and means for mediating communication of data between the host computing device and the target means so that the communicated data must first pass through the security means. 12. A peripheral device as in claim 11, wherein the target means comprises means for non-volatilely storing data. During claim construction, the court had found that an “interface control device 910” disclosed in the ’802 patent specification was the structure corresponding to the recited “means… Read More »How to (Not) Prove Infringement of a Means-Plus-Function Patent Claim: SPEX Technologies, Inc. v. Apricorn

Mechanical Inventions Still Potentially Ineligible: American Axle & Mfg. v. Neapco Holdings (Part 2 of 2)

The Federal Circuit recently denied a rehearing en banc in American Axle & Manufacturing v. Neapco Holdings, letting stand a panel decision invalidating a method of manufacturing driveline propeller shafts as ineligible subject matter under § 101. This post covers the multiple concurrences and dissents accompanying the rehearing denial, which reveal a splintered court. Part 1 covered the background and the modified panel decision, in which the court invalidated this claim as ineligible subject matter: 22. A method for manufacturing a shaft assembly of a driveline system, the driveline system further including a first driveline component and a second driveline component, the shaft assembly being adapted to transmit torque between the first driveline component and the second driveline component, the method comprising: providing a hollow shaft member; tuning a mass and a stiffness of at least one liner; and inserting the at least one liner into the shaft member; wherein the at least one liner is a tuned resistive absorber for attenuating shell mode vibrations and wherein the at least one liner is a tuned reactive absorber for attenuating bending mode vibrations. The court split 6-6 on whether to grant a rehearing, with the tie vote leading to a denial.… Read More »Mechanical Inventions Still Potentially Ineligible: American Axle & Mfg. v. Neapco Holdings (Part 2 of 2)

Mechanical Inventions Still Potentially Ineligible: American Axle & Mfg. v. Neapco Holdings (Part 1 of 2)

The Federal Circuit has modified a panel decision and denied a rehearing en banc in a closely watched § 101 case, American Axle & Manufacturing v. Neapco Holdings. The original decision had found all the claims, which were directed to a method of manufacturing driveline propeller shafts, ineligible subject matter (previously covered in this post). The new panel decision maintained that result for two of the independent claims but remanded on a third independent claim. (Stay tuned for a follow-up post on the en banc denial, which revealed a fractured court with multiple concurrences and dissents and a 6-6 tie vote.) Much of the controversy centered on the subject matter of the patent at issue, U.S. Patent No. 7,774,911—not software or medical diagnostics, as in most applications of § 101, but instead a purely mechanical invention. All three independent claims were for “a method for manufacturing a shaft assembly of a driveline system.” The patent focused on the problem of vibrations in the driveshaft, by making a liner to fit inside the driveshaft. Vibrations came in three flavors: bending mode, which involves vibrations curving the shaft along its length; torsion mode, twisting the shaft; and shell mode, flexing circumferentially around… Read More »Mechanical Inventions Still Potentially Ineligible: American Axle & Mfg. v. Neapco Holdings (Part 1 of 2)