By Dennis Crouch
Motorola Mobility v. ITC and Microsoft (Fed. Cir. 2013)
In a short opinion, the Federal Circuit has affirmed the ITC’s judgment that Motorola infringes Microsoft’s Patent No. 6,370,566 covering a mobile device having a “personal information manager.”
The most interesting part of the decision comes from the court’s analysis of the Apple Newton MessagePad device. Motorola had argued that the Newton anticipated the ‘566 patent. The ITC found that, while it was “plausible” that the Newton contained the claimed synchronization feature, that Motorola had failed to fully prove that limitation was practiced by the Newton. In particular, the ITC concluded that the “inference of a possibility” did not rise to the level of clear and convincing evidence. On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed – finding that “substantial evidence supports the Commission’s conclusion that Motorola did not present clear and convincing evidence that the operating system necessarily required any additional capacity that would qualify it as a component ‘to synchronize.’ Inherency requires more than probabilities or possibilities.”
The bad trick here is that Motorola pursued anticipation-by-inherency rather than proving that the Newton was actually used in an anticipating manner. As the Federal Circuit wrote, “inherency requires more than probabilities or possibilities” but instead requires that the limitation in question be a necessary consequence of using a device for its intended purposes. As Janice Mueller writes in her treatise: Stated another way, [inherency occurs when the] practice of the prior art reference would inevitably have resulted in the claimed invention.” Bottom line here is that anticipation-by-inherency can be quite difficult to prove well beyond the already difficult hurdle of clear-and-convincing evidence.
The ITC issued an exclusion order that blocks importation of foreign-manufactured Motorola phones that infringe the ‘566 patents. It is unclear to me at this point which phones and Android operating systems are covered by the exclusion order.
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The ‘566 patent stems from a 1997 application and claims:
1. A mobile device, comprising:
an object store; [i.e., a section of memory used to store records]
an application program configured to maintain objects on the object store;
a user input mechanism configured to receive user input information;
a synchronization component configured to synchronize individual objects stored on the object store with remote objects stored on a remote object store;
a communications component configured to communicate with a remote device containing the remote object store; and
wherein the application program is further configured to generate a meeting object and an electronic mail scheduling request object based on the user input information.