CSIRO v. Buffalo Technology (Fed. Cir. 2008)
CSIRO is a nonpractising patent holder. It is also an arm of the Australian government. After winning an infringement suit against Buffalo Tech, CSIRO was awarded permanent injunctive relief to protect its spread spectrum WLAN technology.
On appeal, more than a half-dozen amici filed briefs arguing for and against injunctive relief in this situation. On appeal, however, the Federal Circuit vacated the infringement holding – leaving the discussion of injunctive relief for another day. The vacatur came from the district court’s pre-KSR strict requirement for a motivation to combine references.
Combining References For Novelty: On novelty, Buffalo asked the court to combine two references in its analysis because one of the reference cites the other in a footnote. The Federal Circuit rejected that argument — finding that the footnote discussion was insufficient to concatenate the two references. “In particular, the reference to Bingham does not ‘identify with detailed particularity what specific material it incorporates and clearly indicate where that material is found in the various documents.’ Advanced Display Systems, (Fed. Cir. 2000).”
New Matter: 35 USC 132 bars an applicant from presenting new matter once a patent application has been filed. In litigation, the written description requirement of Section 112 serves as the basis for invalidating patents with added new matter. The new matter limitation is not strict. Rather, when the claims are amended, the patent will only be invalidated if the original specification is not “sufficient to allow persons of ordinary skill in the art to recognize that the inventor invented the subject matter that is claimed in the asserted claims.” Further, the PTO’s decision to allow an amendment provides a patent with “an especially weighty presumption of correctness.”
Here, CSIRO changed its claim limitation from “frequencies in excess of 10 GHz” to simply “radio frequencies.” On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed the lower court’s factual finding that the amendment did not impermissibly add new matter. (No clear error). In particular, neither party suggested a technical distinction between handling lower frequencies. Further, the court found that the original specification was not limited to frequencies in excess of 10 GHz.
On remand, the lower court will reevaluate obviousness.