“At Least One of” Ex Parte Opinion Designated as Informative by PTAB

The PTAB interpreted claim language in the form of “at least one of A and B” to mean at least one of A and at least one of B in Ex parte Dong-Shin Jung et al. (Appeal No. 2016/008290, designated Informative on July 10, 2018). 

The claim, in pertinent part, at issue reads:

  1. A method for playing back a scene using Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), comprising:
[A.] sending, by a control point, a request for a scene to be played back to a media server that stores Audio/Video (AV) content;

[B.] receiving, by the control point, one or more scene objects comprising the scene to be played back from the media server in response to the request, each scene object including metadata representing at least one of

[i.] a precedence relation indicating the scene object’s location in a sequence of scene objects and

[ii.] a connection relation indicating one or more scene objects capable of replacing the scene object, the connection relation including at least one of

[1.] a connection branch and

[2.] a contents connection list having a first group identification…

During examination, the Examiner interpreted the claim language in the form of “at least one of A and B” to mean A or B.  In other words, in clause [B] above, the claim would only require a precedence relation or a connection relation.  The claim rejection relied upon a reference that taught the precedence relation but not a connection relation. 

The PTAB instead interpreted the claim language in the form of “at least one of A and B” to mean at least one of A and at least one of B, and based on this interpretation, reversed the rejection.  The PTAB cited SuperGuide Corp. v. DirecTv Enters., Inc., 358 F.3d 870 (Fed. Cir. 2004) for the proposition the plain and ordinary meaning of “at least one of A and B” is at least one of A and at least one of B.  In this case, the Examiner did not provide any reasoning to support a deviation from this plain and ordinary meaning, and the PTAB was not able to find any such reason in the specification, i.e., did not find a special definition or disavowal. 

This is an interesting case and the PTAB must have thought so too in designating this opinion as informative.  While the reasons for designation as informative are unclear, the recurrence of an issue is one reason for designating opinions precedential.  This opinion provides a reminder that Federal Circuit case law supports the plain and ordinary meaning of “at least one of A and B” as being at least one of A and at least one of B, i.e., a conjunctive phrase.  The opinion also provides specific examples for ensuring a desired interpretation as a disjunctive phrase:

  1. at least one of A or B;
  2. at least one of A or at least one of B; or
  3. at least one selected from the group of A and B.

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