In the ongoing struggle between Apple and Motorola over claims of patent infringement in just one of many battles that is taking place across the country over smart phones, both parties proposed claim constructions that were not particularly well-written for lay jurors.
After reviewing the claim construction briefs and stating that the briefs “well written and helpful,” the district court, Judge Posner, stated that he had a concern regarding the proposed claim constructions.
In terms of the substance of the claim constructions, Judge Posner raised a concern of whether the proposed claim constructions were written in language that was not intelligible to jurors. Judge Posner was particularly concerned that lay jurors would not understand many of the claim terms as the jury would not consist of patent lawyers, computer scientists or engineers. As Judge Posner explained, “[t]he substantive concern is that many of the proposed claims constructions are not in language intelligible to jurors. (Some are; and in this respect Apple’s proposed constructions are on average superior to Motorola’s.) There is no point in giving jurors stuff they won’t understand. The jury (actual juries) will not consist of patent lawyers and computer scientists or engineers unless the parties stipulate to a “blue ribbon” jury; I would welcome their doing so but am not optimistic. No doubt the court-appointed experts could explain opaque claims constructions to the jurors, but that would waste a lot of trial time. I want the constructions themselves to be in ordinary English intelligible to persons having no scientific or technical background.”
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One of the main purposes of claim construction is to make sure that the court–and not the jury–determines the scope of the claims. Language that is confusing or not intelligible to lay jurors creates a risk that jurors will ultimately determine the meaning of the claims with little or no guidance from the court. Those types of claim constructions could result in errors at trial and also make it more likely that the Federal Circuit could reverse the claim construction, finding that the jurors were not properly instructed. Accordingly, it is important for both sides that claim constructions are written in understandable, intelligible language for lay jurors.
Apple Inc. and NeXT Software Inc. v. Motorola, Inc., Case No. 1:11-cv-08540 (N.D. Ill. March 10, 2012)
The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent trial lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.