By Mark Engstrom, J.D.
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board erred in rejecting six claims of an LF Centennial patent on a television support and mounting kit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled (In re LF Centennial Limited, June 29, 2016, Taranto, R.). Because the Board’s construction of a claim term was unreasonably broad, the court reversed the rejections of all six claims.
LF Centennial owned U.S. Patent No. 8,079,311, which described a kit for supporting and mounting a television set. The kit provided three different assembly configurations, each of which used a spine on a console component for structural support. In an inter partes reexamination, a patent examiner rejected 16 patent claims for anticipation or obviousness.
On appeal, the PTAB adopted a construction of "first short spine" that included the clarification that the spine did not need to be "located at the center of the back" of the console or "distinct from a leg or side panel of the console." Based on that construction, the Board sustained the examiner’s anticipation and obviousness rejections, which cancelled six patent claims.
The court noted that Independent Claim 1 recited the relative heights of the first short spine and the second long spine, and stated that each formed a structural component of the console assembly when it was secured to the assembly. The claim did not elaborate on "spine" any further.
In the court’s view, however, the word "spine"—in its ordinary, non-technical meaning for three-dimensional structures—referred to a support structure that was generally central and at the back, and that meaning distinguished it from a side panel or a leg. According to the court, the intrinsic record confirmed that distinction. Significantly, the patent specification plainly distinguished the spine and the side panels.
Ultimately, the court concluded that the spine was distinct from the curved legs and side panels, which were separate components that cooperated with the spine to provide support. Significantly, the court did not find any patent language that contradicted or undermined the clear distinction between those components. Because the curved legs and side panels were not "spines" within the meaning of the patent, the asserted prior did not disclose or teach a "first short spine."
For those reasons, the court reversed the anticipation and obviousness rejections based on the asserted prior art. Because the Board’s claim construction should not have clarified that the spine did not need to be located at the center of the back of the console, and did not need to be distinct from a leg or side panel of the console, the rejections were reversed.
The case is No. 2015-1931.
Attorneys: Joshua A. Stockwell and Stephen Holmes (Barlow, Josephs & Holmes, Ltd.) for LF Centennial Limited. Michael Sumner Forman, Thomas W. Krause, Scott Weidenfeller, and Sarah E. Craven, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, for USPTO Director Michelle K. Lee.
Companies: LF Centennial Limited
MainStory: TopStory Patent FedCirNews
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