Core Wireless Licensing v. Apple

April 14, 2017

Federal Circuit No. 2015-2037

Author: James Gromada

In Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. v. Apple Inc., the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ("CAFC") affirmed a district court denial of a JMOL motion to overturn a jury verdict of noninfringement which was based on a magistrate judge's claim construction of a "means-plus-function" claim element and its interpretation regarding the corresponding structure for the claim element as disclosed in the patent specification. 

Claim 17 of the patent-in-suit, U.S. Patent No. 6,978,143, is directed to a means for sending packet data from a mobile station (i.e., a cellular telephone) to a network using a selected channel.  The underlying issue in the case was whether the claim requires that the mobile station is capable of making the channel selection as between a "common channel" or a "dedicated channel." 

The specific claim element at issue recites:  "means for comparing said threshold value of the channel selection parameter to a current value of the channel selection parameter for basis of said channel selection."  In construing the claim, the magistrate judge first determined that the claim element is to be interpreted under 35 U.S.C. §112(f) as being a "means-plus-function" element, and that the corresponding structure for performing the function is "a control unit 803 [in the mobile station" wherein the control unit 803 is programmed . . . in accordance with the algorithm shown in Fig. 6, step 650." 

The district court adopted the magistrate judge's claim construction, and based on the cited portion of the '143 patent specification, held that the mobile station "must have the capability to perform "channel selection," even if the capability is not used during the performance of the claimed method.  Based on this claim construction, and in view of Apple's evidence that its mobile stations are not capable of making a channel selection as between a common channel and a dedicated channel, the district court upheld the jury verdict of noninfringement. 

On appeal, the CAFC affirmed the district court decision, noting that the text of the claim, the prosecution history, and extrinsic evidence of a presentation to an outside organization all support the district court's claim construction, and emphasizing the rule from WMS Gaming, Inc. v. Int'l Game Tech., 184 F.3d 1339 (Fed. Cir. 1999) that "in a means-plus-function claim in which the disclosed structure is a computer, or microprocessor, programmed to carry out an algorithm, the disclosed structure is not the general purpose computer, but rather the special purposes computer programmed to perform the disclosed algorithm."