In re Suitco Surface, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2010)
Yesterday, the CAFC issued a decision in ex parte reexamination 90/007,015 appeal (U.S. Patent 4,944,514). The decision (In re Suitco Surface Inc) is interesting in that the broadest reasonable interpretation of the USPTO was reversed as clearly unreasonable, yet that is the least interesting aspect of the case. In deciding the case, both the BPAI and CAFC applied the wrong standard altogether.
As background, the patent relates to a flooring surface for use on athletic courts, namely bowling alleys and shuffleboard. The key term in dispute being “material for finishing the top surface.” The Patent Holder insisted that the material for finishing the top surface must be defined as the uppermost surface. The USPTO countered that the broadest reasonable interpretation did not require an uppermost surface, but simply the finishing of a general floor surface (such as the lower layer of a laminate type floor). The USPTO reasoned that the term “comprising” is open ended and additional floor layers were possible.
In reversing the BPAI, the CAFC noted that:
“[t]he PTO’s construction here, though certainly broad, is unreasonably broad. The broadest-construction rubric coupled with the term “comprising” does not give the PTO an unfettered license to interpret claims to embrace anything remotely related to the claimed invention. Rather, claims should always be read in light of the specification and teachings in the underlying patent. See Schriber-Schroth Co. v. Cleveland Trust Co., 311 U.S. 211, 217 (1940) (”The claims of a patent are always to be read or interpreted in light of its specifications.”). In that vein, the express language of the claim and the specification require the finishing material to be the top and final layer . . .”
The CAFC determined that claim 1 was unreasonably interpreted based on the USPTO claim construction of “material for finishing a top surface.” However, the CAFC affirmed the rejection of claims 4 and 6 based on a broadest reasonable claim construction of the terminology “uniform flexible film.”
While the CAFC’s emphasis on specification context for reexamination is certainly noteworthy, lost in the appeal to both the BPAI and CAFC is that the broadest reasonable interpretation standard is not applicable to the Suitco Patent. This is because Read the rest of this entry »