The United States Patent and Trademark Office has used a “broadest reasonable interpretation” (BRI) standard for claim interpretation when examining pending patent applications. Under the BRI standard, a claim term is generally given its broadest reasonable interpretation consistent with the ordinary and customary meaning of the term, its use in the specification, and how it would have been understood by those skilled in the art. Federal district courts, by contrast, have utilized the approach provided in Phillips v. AWH Corp. Under the Phillips approach, courts construe claim terms based on the meaning they would have had to a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention, based on review of the patent specification, file history, and extrinsic evidence such as dictionaries.
The America Invents Act of 2011 (AIA) established procedures for challenging issued patents at the Patent Office through inter partes review (IPR), covered business methods review (CBM), and post-grant review (PGR) proceedings. The Patent Office generally applies the BRI standard to these proceedings rather than the Phillips standard. Whether the Patent Office should apply BRI or a Phillips construction has been a matter of debate given the nature of these proceedings.
BRI and claim amendments in In re: Cuozzo
In In re: Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC, now on appeal to the Supreme Court, the Federal Circuit upheld the use of the BRI standard in IPR proceedings in a 2-1 decision. The majority and dissent agreed that the Patent Office’s BRI standard is premised at least in part on the ability to amend claims. The judges disagreed, however, on the implications for IPR proceedings.