The Federal Circuit once again held, in Rain Computing, Inc. v. Samsung Electronics America, Inc., et. al., 2020-1646 (Fed. Cir. March 2, 2021), that a patent owner cannot rely on a general-purpose computer as a structure for performing the function recited in the claim language when the claim language is construed to be means-plus-function.
Most patent litigators are well familiar with this issue as it routinely arises in software patents.
The more interesting twist to this decision was the Court’s application of these principles to a means-plus-function term “nested in” a method claim.
Ultimately, the Court determined that because neither the claim language nor the specification provided an algorithm to achieve the function set forth in the claim, the claim was indefinite.
The take-away from this case is that regardless of whether the asserted patent infringement is based on an apparatus or method claim, accused infringers should be looking to apply means-plus-function principles to software-directed patents and patent owners need to be prepared to respond to this challenge.