Self Anticipation Dooms Chamberlain Patent

The Chamberlain Group, Inc. v. One World Techs, DBA Techtronic Indus. (Fed. Cir. 2019)

This case involves the same parties as my recent post on disavowal. Dennis Crouch, Disavowal: Case Closed Once the Inventor Manifests That the Invention Includes a Particular Aspect, Patently-O (December 12, 2019). This particular dispute an inter partes review (IPR) challenge of Chamberlain’s U.S. Patent No. 7,196,611 (garage door opener learning mode).

In its final written decision, the PTAB sided with the patent challenger — finding all challenged claims (18-25) anticipated by a prior Chamberlain patent, U.S. Patent No. 4,638,433 (Schindler).  On appeal, the Federal Circuit has affirmed — finding that substantial evidence supported the Board’s factual conclusion of Anticipation.

Although not express in the claims, the specification focuses the invention on setting a “max run timer” —  “the amount of time for the door to move between its open and closed limits, plus five to ten seconds.” In its decision, the Federal Circuit described the process as follows:

First, the user presses a button on the controller to enter learn mode. Next, the controller identifies the proper beginning status for the door and the steps the user must complete to set the timer. Finally, the controller guides the user through the identified steps by flashing the appropriate indicator LED for each step. For example, if the step requires the user to open the door, the controller will flash the open limit LED. Once the user completes all the steps, the controller counts the time for the door to travel from its closed limit to its open limit, adds five to ten seconds, and records that value as the max run timer.

Claim 18 – at issue here – is not expressly limited to the “max run timer” setup, but does follow the aforementioned process with its four-step method for “assisting in the installation and maintenance” of a garage door opener (“barrier movement operator”).

  • turning-on “learn mode”;
  • identifying by the controller the present “state” of the opener;
  • identifying by the controller activities to be completed by a user; and
  • responsively transmitting guidance signals to an “annunciating unit” to provide guidance to the user.

The prior art patent (Schindler) focuses on a different learning mode – programming the upper and lower limits for the garage door movements.  Schindler uses the same “annunciating unit” (i.e., flashing lights) to communicate which limits are being programmed.

The appeal here focused on whether Schindler disclosed activities (plural) to be completed by the user or only one activity (singular).  The Federal Circuit confirmed that the Board had it right — Schindler discloses having the user both set an “up limit” and a “down limit.”  One issue here is that Schindler first identifies one of the activities and then later identifies the second activity.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit held that the claims do not have any timing requirement:

We agree with the Board that nothing in claim 18 “requires the activities to be identified together or at the same time.” . . . Given the absence of any timing limitation, the Board reasonably found that “Schindler’s disclosure of transmitting the signals in sequence, one after the other in response to the previously-completed steps of identifying the garage door operator’s present status and activities to be completed” teaches the “responsive to” step.

Slip Op.

What’s going on here? Knowing Chamberlain’s history of pushing the limits of its IP protections, it looks to me like the company was using this new patent to extend of its old Schindler patent that was approaching expiration. Although Chamberlain may have something patentable here, that needed to be reflected in the claims.

22 thoughts on “Self Anticipation Dooms Chamberlain Patent

  1. 6

    Merits (or not) aside, what I’m scratching my head over is how Chamberlain can financially justify their efforts.

    Haven’t they (aren’t they going to) spent (spend) more than they (would have / could ever reasonably hope to) recoup from licensing / settlements?

    1. 6.1

      what I’m scratching my head over is how Chamberlain can financially justify their efforts.

      You’re assuming that they are focused on finances and not focused on being @-h0les just for the sake of being @-h0les.

      That’s not a good assumption when it comes to Repu-k-k-k-es.

      When will you learn?

      1. 6.1.1

        That’s not a good assumption when it comes to

        NOT just limited to those that you would throw stones at, Malcolm.

        Case in point: YOU.

        (yet another play on your favorite meme of Accuse Others Of That Which Malcolm Is)

    1. 5.1

      “Anything under the Sun is patentable” as long as it hasn’t been looked at by an Obama appointee on the CAFC or the Scotus.

    2. 5.2

      Can I patent a book with new writing in it?

      Answer: no.

      So you’re just another bald i-di-ot spamming a blog. Probably on drugs.


          Blaming “Obama judges” for allegedly “bad” patent decisions is the cartoon, Night Wiper. Also something totally predictable coming out of your r@-cyst pie-h0le.

          Now go f—k yourself.

  2. 4

    The idea that one could patent — in the 21st century — a method of instructing (LOL) a prior art device that was made for receiving instructions should be appalling to most people. Triple that reaction when the device in question is a garage door opener.

    The fact that these attorneys went up to CAFC and argued “but our device receives two instructions at a time and the prior art device only describes receiving one instruction at at time” should embarrass attorneys everywhere.

    How did these claims get out of the PTO in the first place??

    US patent system is a j-0-k-e.

    “but our garage door opener accepts instructions about the time it takes to open the door in 3 second increments! Prior art teaches only even increments — totally different!”

    “but our garage door opener receives voice commands!”

    “but our garage door opener talks back to you!”

    “but our garage door opener can be opened with your phone!”

    “but our garage door opener can be tuned to recognize your cat’s meow!”

    “but our garage door opener is optionally accessible only when authorized by a code!”

    So much innovating to do! But if I can’t own three houses then what is the point, really? I’ll direct all my awesome energy at blaming brown people and communists for all the ills in the world.

  3. 3

    The greedy and totally full-of-shirt Chamberlain Group is owned by the Douchossois Group, a wealthy family of Chicago-based racetrack and casino operators who just happen to be major Rep-u-k-k-k-e donors (and who have donated many $millions$ to the party in recent years).

    link to

    link to

    Anybody surprised?

    Keep connecting those dots. This reality-based, publically available information provided to PatentlyO readers free of charge.

  4. 2

    Not much to see here.

    PatentlyO – where is the report on the THREE Petitions for Rehearing En Banc filed in Arthrex YESTERDAY???

  5. 1

    Patentee and their attorneys are pretty much s-c-u-m-b-a-g-s, no?

    No need to beat around the bush. Where are the sanctions?

    1. 1.1

      The judge ordered them to read every post you have ever written for patently-o three times. It is on appeal as allegedly being cruel and unusual punishment.

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