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No Nonce-nse: MTD Products Inc. v. Iancu Untangles Means-Plus-Function Interpretation

    In MTD Products Inc. v. Iancu[1], the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit described how to identify a means-plus-function limitation under 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6[2].  In particular, the court clarified that the question of whether § 112, ¶ 6 applies is distinct from the determination of what structure corresponds to the means-plus-function limitation[3], and held that the description in the specification of corresponding structure does not determine if § 112, ¶ 6 applies.[4] MTD is a decision on appeal from an inter partes review (“IPR”) of U.S. Patent No. 8,011,458 (“the ’458 patent”)[5], owned by MTD Products.[6]  The ’458 patent describes zero turn radius (“ZTR”) vehicles such as riding lawnmowers[7], and explains how for prior art ZTR steering systems, when a vehicle was moving forward, it turned in the direction the steering wheel was rotated, but when the vehicle was moving in reverse, it turned… Continue Reading

Subject Matter Eligibility Guidance from the Federal Circuit: Thales Visionix v. United States

Subject Matter Eligibility Guidance from the Federal Circuit: Thales Visionix v. United States

Both the courts and the Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) have struggled to define the metes and bounds of the subject matter eligibility analysis under 35 U.S.C. § 101.  The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s recent decision on March 8, 2017 in Thales Visionix Inc. v. United States1 further clarifies the first step of the eligibility analysis, while confirming the significance of that step. Under § 101, patent protection is available to “[w]hoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.”  Patent claims directed to laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas, however, are not patent-eligible subject matter.2  Courts and the PTO evaluate the subject matter eligibility of claims under a two-step framework set forth by the Supreme Court in Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc.3 and Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l. … Continue Reading

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