October 17, 2013

Expert Opinion on Claim Construction Must Include Evidence to be Given Weight by PTAB

By Matthew L. Cutler, Principal

Corning was successful in challenging 22 claims of a DSM IP Assets (DSM) patent in a case styled as Corning Incorporated v. DSM IP Assets B.V. (IPR2013-00053), involving U.S. Pat. No. 7,276,543.  The ‘543 patent relates to radiation curable coating compositions for optical fibers. More specifically, the patent describes optical glass fibers with two radiation-cured coatings which exhibit improved cure speed without increased sensitivity to yellowing over time.

In performing its claim construction analysis, the Board agreed with Patent Owner that only one of the submitted terms needed to be interpreted outside their normal meaning.  Accordingly, the Board set forth a detailed explanation of the lone claim term in dispute, “absorption maxima,” in which it found Patent Challenger’s construction overly broad. Central to the Board’s decision in this regard was the fact that Patent Challenger’s expert declaration, that purported to support Patent Challenger’s interpretation, did “nothing more than state the conclusion that ‘[a] skilled scientist would have recognized’ Patent Challenger’s construction was acceptable.  Order at 5.  The Board went on to instruct that a proper foundation for such an expert opinion on claim construction would include evidence upon which the expert based such a conclusion, or other objective evidence supporting the construction.  In the end, the Board seemed to give no weight to the conclusory declaration offered by Patent Challenger in this respect.  As such, the Board agreed with Patent Owner’s interpretation of an absorption maxima, citing the specification of the ‘543 patent which states that it “will be understood that λmax is a point on the curve wherein the tangent to the curve is parallel with the horizontal axis.”

Also interesting from the Board’s decision was its analysis of whether one of the prior art references cited by Patent Challenger did, in fact, qualify as prior art.  Patent Owner argued that the reference did not qualify because, at the time the invention was made, the prior art patent was commonly owned with the patent-at-issue.  The Board rejected Patent Owner’s argument because Patent Owner had not shown sufficiently that the two patents were commonly owned “at the time of the invention.”  Order at 10.  For example, the evidence cited by Patent Owner was dated after the filing of the application that became the ’543 patent.  The Board did, however, note that, during the trial portion of the proceeding, Patent Owner would have the opportunity to provide additional evidence concerning ownership (including, presumably, testimony on the point).

The remainder of the Board’s opinion follows the format of earlier decisions on petitions brought by Corning that rely heavily on the inherent disclosure of prior art references.  Earlier posts related to those decisions can be found HERE and HERE.