Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC v. Lee, which will be argued in the Supreme Court on April 25, is fundamentally a case about how technical language is to be understood by those not intimately familiar with that language, namely judges and juries. Of course, in the matter of specialized patent jargon, the question presented in Cuozzo could very well be Exhibit A. That question is: whether the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office properly applies the broadest reasonable interpretation standard when construing claims during inter partes review. I don’t expect that sentence to be fully comprehensible even to the educated readers of this blog, so let’s break it down to reasonable terms.
A patent gives a person exclusive rights over an invention, allowing the patent owner to stop others from making, using, selling, or doing other things with the invention. But for the patent to have that function, it must define what things are within the scope of the invention and what things are not. That definition of the scope of the invention (and thus the scope of the exclusive rights) is done in a part of the patent called the “claims.” Each claim is structured as a sentence identifying all the features that must be present for the patent to be infringed. Here’s an example from Cuozzo’s patent:
10. A speed limit indicator comprising:a global positioning system receiver;a display controller connected to said global positioning system receiver, wherein saiddisplay controller adjusts a colored display in response to signals from said global positioning system receiver to continuously update the delineation of which speed readings are in violation of the speed limit at a vehicle's present location; anda speedometer integrally attached to said colored display.
As you can see, this claim is full of terms whose meanings are not immediately apparent. What exactly is a “display controller?” What is supposed to happen when the “display controller adjusts a color display?” And what does it mean for the speedometer to be “integrally attached” to the color display?