2017年7月31日 星期一

一件蘋果侵權案的討論 - WARF v. Apple

本來本篇名稱是「法官補一刀讓蘋果多付了二億七千多萬美元」,本案緣起Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation於2014年對Apple Inc.提出的侵權告訴,結果地院陪審團在2015年判Apple賠償原告2億3千萬美元,法官補一刀加碼最後達5億多美元,理由是Apple持續侵權的行為。

面對如系爭專利這類「古老、快過期(2016年過期)」的專利,諸位大廠確實是防不慎防(Intel在2008年和解),如果不是濫告的話,侵權成立的機會很大。系爭專利涉及一種通過預測("predictor circuit")使用者指令而可以提昇系統處理器效能的技術,面對侵權的產品如Apple的A9, A9X等。

其中有個議題是「學校或機構等沒有產品的專利權人是不是"patent troll"或"NPE"?」

案件資訊:
原告/專利侵權:WISCONSIN ALUMNI RESEARCH FOUNDATION
被告:APPLE, INC.
系爭專利:US 5781752

這回,原告主動向法院提起阻止被告提起「‘patent troll,’ ‘patent assertion entity,’ ‘non-practicing entity’ or other similarly pejorative terms.」的請求,蘋果並未反對,卻認為這樣的請求是有別的意圖,與賠償有關。蘋果並"回復"「NPE」的名譽(編按,其實也是暗打原告的意圖),認為"NPE"僅是描述"沒有實際生產的實體",並不同於"Patent Troll"有貶抑的意謂。

因此,如法官認同蘋果意見一般:「NPE不是Patent Troll,NPE沒有貶抑的意思」,而學校一般認為是NPE

原告Wisconsin Alumni Research FoundationApple Inc.提出侵權告訴,蘋果反訴認為專利無效(102,先前技術:US5619662),以及請求項中不明確的問題(112)。

系爭專利申請日在1996,於1998獲准專利權,專利期限到2016年止。系爭專利關於平行處理電腦中的基於表格的一種數據推測電路(Table based data speculation circuit for parallel processing computer),就是提出的預測電路可以根據過去的指令來預測將來的指令,藉此有效應用記憶體,而提昇電腦效能。



Claim 1:
1. In a processor capable of executing program instructions in an execution order differing from their program order, the processor further having a data speculation circuit for detecting data dependence between instructions and detecting a mis-speculation where a data consuming instruction dependent for its data on a data producing instruction of earlier program order, is in fact executed before the data producing instruction, a data speculation decision circuit comprising:
a) a predictor receiving a mis-speculation indication from the data speculation circuit to produce a prediction associated with the particular data consuming instruction and based on the mis-speculation indication; and
b) a prediction threshold detector preventing data speculation for instructions having a prediction within a predetermined range.

所述表格包括一個預測表格,以及一個同步表格,兩種"Tables"分別記載於Claims 3, 5,蘋果公司用現在的語言來處理這兩個表格,認為這兩個表格顯然是分開的表格,彼此之間卻又沒有結構上的差異,而僅是一些功能表示而已。但是蘋果的解釋並未被系爭專利說明書內容支持,反倒有個較廣解釋專利範圍的可能,也就是以表格中界定的功能來表示這個用語的範圍,而非用結構特徵來綁定(分開的表格)。

3. The data speculation decision circuit of claim 2 wherein the instruction synchronization circuit includes a prediction table listing certain data consuming instructions and certain data producing instructions each associated with a prediction and wherein the instruction synchronization circuit delays the particular data consuming instruction only:
i) when the prediction associated with the data consuming instruction is within a predetermined range; and
ii) when the particular data consuming instruction is in the prediction table.
5. The data speculation decision circuit of claim 2 wherein the instruction synchronization circuit includes a synchronization table associating the certain data consuming instructions and the certain data producing instructions each with a flag value indicating whether the respective certain data producing instruction has been executed and wherein the instruction synchronization circuit delays the particular data consuming instruction only:
i) when the prediction associated with the data consuming instruction is within a predetermined range; and
ii) when the particular data consuming instruction is in the prediction table; and
iii) when the flag indicates the particular data producing instruction has not been executed.

本案經解釋專利範圍後,否決蘋果的意見,特別在蘋果開發的晶片是否採用了「推測」指令的技術,陪審團判決是侵權成立的,或反過來說,蘋果並未能夠證明自己沒有使用。這裡涉及的技術討論僅是摘錄:


關於蘋果是否「蓄意侵權(willful infringement)」而產生進一步損害賠償,引用Seagate案CAFC的解釋:專利權人需要善意提出蓄意侵權的問題,之後再主張蓄意侵權,反之,當被告侵權者之後的行為被認為魯莽,專利權人可以主張初步禁制令。所以,如果專利權人沒有企圖阻止被告侵權者的行為,就不應僅根據被告之後的行為而要求進一步損害賠償(enhanced damage),也就是"蓄意"的成份。

"It is certainly true that patent infringement is an ongoing offense that can continue after litigation has commenced. However, when a complaint is filed, a patentee must have a good faith basis for alleging willful infringement. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8, 11(b). So a willfulness claim asserted in the original complaint must necessarily be grounded exclusively in the accused infringer’s pre-filing conduct. By contrast, when an accused infringer’s post-filing conduct is reckless, a patentee can move for a preliminary injunction, which generally provides an adequate remedy for combating post-filing willful infringement. See 35 U.S.C. § 283; Amazon.com, Inc. v. Barnesandnoble.com, Inc., 239 F.3d 1343, 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2001). A patentee who does not attempt to stop an accused
infringer’s activities in this manner should not be allowed to accrue enhanced damages based solely on the infringer’s postfiling conduct. Similarly, if a patentee attempts to secure injunctive relief but fails, it is likely the infringement did not rise to the level of recklessness."

參考報導:
蓄意侵權的判決 - 有關豁免主張 - In re Seagate Technology, LLC, (Fed. Cir. 2007)案例討論(http://enpan.blogspot.tw/2015/01/in-re-seagate-technology-llc-fed-cir.html
美國最高法院案例的損害賠償討論 - Halo v. Pulse (June 13, 2016, Supreme Court)http://enpan.blogspot.tw/2016/06/halo-v-pulse-june-13-2016-supreme-court.html

在判決中,甚至討論到是否同意「永久禁制令」,結果,原告因為不事生產,所以沒有任何「不可回復的損害」,因此法院並未同意永久禁制令。


但同意部分授權金、侵權費用等原告意見,有些摘錄如下:



一些法律與證據費用明細:



2015年陪審團審判前地院意見(備份):https://app.box.com/s/7yxd83xwpdc3k55vh0dc9m8apdsw33m6

2017年判決(備份):https://app.box.com/s/8d499859pzssf12o9kwyy6tt1sy44me7

my two cents:
本篇地院判決中可以查考出一些訴訟策略,因為原告面對擁有龐大專利權的蘋果,因此在策略上有一定的深思熟慮,包括考量蘋果本身在相關技術上的專利,以及系爭專利曾經讓其他大公司的和解(被"黑"掉)、授權、外部證據、專家證詞,不過,這真是不容易分析,也沒有深入討論。

相對較少討論地方法院案例,總覺得上訴法院的意見的參考價值比較大,不過,更多爭訟都是止於地方法院,地方法院考量的議題更為複雜,涉及的層面比"較偏重法律審查"的上訴法院更多元,讀起來其實還比較吃力。但如果自己有判斷力,每個法院、法官的意見都是有意義的。

資料參考:
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-apple-vpn-idUSKBN1AE0BQ
https://9to5mac.com/2017/07/25/apple-patent-chip-efficiency-case/

Ron

2017年7月27日 星期四

新加坡臨時申請案筆記


https://www.ipos.gov.sg/protecting-your-ideas/patent/application-process/provisional-application

(筆記)

曾經討論過「新加坡有臨時申請案」的報導,從新加坡專利局官方網站可知,為何是「provisional」,就只因為「申請時無須提交申請專利範圍」,但是就新加坡「provisional application」的概念來看,(一般方案)這是為了將來「轉換為正式案」的預備案,因此,「臨時案的內容幾乎要與正式申請案一致」,因為到轉換正式案時「才加入專利範圍」反而是沒有官方費用的(不超項的情況下)。

取得新加坡臨時申請案申請日要件:
專利文件、申請人與專利說明書,就是不用申請專利範圍

為何要用臨時申請案?
主要目的是:早期佈局。當不確定發明是否會要提出正式專利申請時,可用相對便宜的費用取得較早申請日,可以較早佈局而避免浪費初期申請費用與檢索或審查費用。

從新加坡專利局網站有關專利申請的Q&A得到以下資訊:

新加坡專利法並未明確指明「provisional patent application」,但因為允許不用提出申請專利範圍就可取得有效申請日,但這是「不完整的申請案」,因此視為「provisional」。

"In Singapore, whilst our Patent Act and Rules do not specifically refer to "provisional patent applications", they do allow for a date of filing to be accorded to a patent application without any patent claim(s) being filed with it, notwithstanding the fact that the patent application is incomplete until one or more patent claim(s) is or are furnished. Such Applications WITHOUT Claim(s) (hereafter called "Aw/oC") can be seen as "provisional". This Aw/oC approach would be attractive to some applicants who are not yet ready to furnish any patent claims at the time of filing their application."

新加坡臨時申請案的概念與美國或澳洲臨時申請案有些差異,但其申請日都是有效的,可以為多數國家主張優先權,在新加坡提出臨時申請案,主要目的是是要在申請之後12個月內加入申請專利範圍後,取得「轉換為」正式申請案,因此只要內容不變,轉換後的正式申請案應與臨時申請案為同一個案子

"Upon filing an Aw/oC(指沒有claims的臨時申請案), the applicant must furnish one or more patent claims with the Registry of Patents within the prescribed period of 12 months from the date of filing. When this occurs, the Aw/oC is "converted" into a complete patent application with claim(s), and it can then proceed further in the application process. The date of filing accorded to the Aw/oC is retained even after "conversion" as it is still the same application [albeit with claim(s) after "conversion"]. This is significant as the term of a patent begins from its date of filing. In the event that no patent claims are furnished within the period prescribed, the Aw/oC shall be treated as having been abandoned. "

這裡好像有個「伏筆」,如果(if)沒有申請專利範圍的新加坡臨時申請案為第一申請,申請人可以在申請後12個月內提出申請專利範圍完成正式案申請,也適用其他國家。如此,可能必然是要這樣吧!)

"If an Aw/oC(指沒有claims的臨時申請案) is the first filing of the invention in question, the applicant may decide, within 12 months from the date of filing of that Aw/oC, to file an Application WITH CLAIM(s) (hereafter called "AWC",指正式案) in a Paris Convention or WTO country for the same invention and claim priority based on the "Aw/oC"."

這樣看來只要是巴黎公約或是WTO會員國的專利申請案是可以主張新加坡臨時申請案優先權,但仍與美國臨時申請案不同,新加坡臨時申請案說明書應該是幾乎與正式案一樣了!

補充:
(與美國臨時申請案這部分相似)
「新加坡臨時申請案」如果沒有後續正式案不會被公開。
經提出請求後,正式申請案可於12個月內經由轉換(convert)成為正式申請案。
但經轉換的正式案,其專利有效期限係由臨時申請案申請日起算。
主張臨時申請案優先權的正式申請案的專利期限則由正式案申請日起算。


其他參考:

my two cents:
新加坡專利局網站很酷(好像不只說一次了):https://www.ipos.gov.sg/

新加坡臨時申請案是否可以主張(他案)優先權?或說,是否可以不是第一申請案?這似乎沒有說死。(實務上,似乎不允許不是第一申請案)

就優先權,以及臨時申請案能夠取得有效申請日的概念來看,新加坡後續正式案或外國申請案應可主張多件新加坡臨時申請案的優先權。

參考資料:
https://www.ipos.gov.sg/protecting-your-ideas/patent/application-process/provisional-application
http://www.davies.com.sg/ip-info-tools/patenting-process-in-singapore
http://www.ifaq.gov.sg/IPOS/apps/fcd_faqmain.aspx#TOPIC_411

Ron

2017年7月25日 星期二

固有功效但無法預期的結果為非顯而易見 - Millennium Pharma v. Sandoz (Federal Circuit 2017)

「固有功效但無法預期的結果為非顯而易見 (更新一下名稱) - Millennium Pharma v. Sandoz (Federal Circuit 2017)

這是大藥廠之間的專利戰爭的一角,這件關於專利權人Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc.開發的一種治療「骨髓癌(myeloma)」的藥「Velcade®」,「Velcade®」還有專屬網站:http://www.velcade.com/

(截圖來源:http://www.velcade.com/

案件資訊:
原告/專利權人/上訴人:MILLENNIUM PHARMACEUTICALS, INC.
被告/被上訴人:SANDOZ INC., ACCORD HEALTHCARE, INC. etc.
系爭專利:US6,713,446
判決日:Decided: July 17, 2017

本案為多件地方法院判決專利無效的綜合上訴案件,系爭專利為Millennium開發治療腫瘤的藥,特別是「多發性骨髓瘤和外套細胞淋巴瘤」,而被告Sandoz等也有新藥「ANDAs」,經地院侵權審理時,承認侵權,轉而主張系爭專利無效,地院判決系爭專利中Claims 20, 31, 49與53專利無效。

系爭專利US6,713,446關於一種"穩定"的硼酸化合物的配方 - D-mannitol N-(2-pyrazine)carbonyl-L-phenylalanine-Lleucine boronate:


列舉Claim 20:
20. The lyophilized compound D-mannitol N-(2-pyrazine)carbonyl-L-phenylalanine-L-leucine
boronate.

新藥開發歷史:(編按,判決中是應該要將新藥開發過程描述出來,這樣才能讓人感受到「非顯而易見」之處)

系爭專利對應藥品中的「Bortezomib」為習知成份,其固有特性已經揭露在US5,780,454('Adams')中,但「Bortezomib」卻因為不夠穩定而未取得FDA核准上市。

如同Adams博士等人,本系爭案發明人Shanker Lal Gupta繼續在Millennium藥廠研發,想要開發出穩定的"液態配方"(bortezomib),不過都因為在運輸、儲存與用藥上不夠穩定而失敗。即便Adams博士也來尋求本系爭專利US6,713,446的發明人(在堪薩斯州大學國家癌症協會)的協助,都在"液態"穩定性上失敗了。

因此開始往「lyophilization (freeze-drying)(凍乾)」製程來研發配方。

但此「lyophilization (freeze-drying)(凍乾)」注射形式的配方並沒有改變任何化學結構與成份,最後使用一種「甘露糖醇」填充劑(bulking agent)在凍乾製程中,可以改善前述不穩定的問題。於是產生以凍乾製程產生的新藥配方專利US6,713,446,更取得藥品「Velcade®」認證。

被告Sandoz等提出與「Velcade®」通用成份的藥品「ANDA」,Millennium提出侵權告訴。

在被告等承認侵權後,轉而主張專利無效,地方法院在審理侵權無效議題時,認為系爭專利對應的藥品是採用了「填充劑」固有已知的效果,因此認為系爭專利幾個侵權主張的專利範圍「顯而易見」

對此,主要的答辯主軸是,相關領域一般技術人員不會將不穩定的成份「bortezomib」用在凍乾程序中,甚至是會避免這個作法因為最後穩定成份中的「bortezomib」,但地院不採用原告意見,因此認為系爭專利幾個專利範圍涵蓋了在其申請日前已知的化學成份,為顯而易見的發明。


然而,被告Sandoz等人在訴訟中並未引用任何先前技術,地院也沒有在任一先前技術中找到教示系爭專利範圍的的成份,僅憑藉著'446專利(並未揭示系爭專利的"mannitol"),認為因為前案並未"teach away"而作出系爭專利採用「 lyophilizing bortezomib」為「顯而易知的選擇」的核駁決定。

"...district court concluded that lyophilizing bortezomib with mannitol was an obvious option “from which the prior art did not teach away.” The district court found that the Adams Patent “pointed directly to mannitol” despite the Adams Patent’s failure to mention mannitol."

CAFC階段:

上訴議題是:是否相關領域一般技術人員會使用"顯而易見"地以不穩定「bortezomib」成份來解決藥品不穩定的問題而產生了最後穩定的系爭藥品?

"the question is whether a person of ordinary skill, seeking to remedy the known instability and insolubility and to produce an efficacious formulation of bortezomib, would obviously produce the D-mannitol ester of bortezomib, a previously unknown compound"

CAFC採用的判斷態度是,要作出這類新藥專利為顯而易見的判斷時,應該要指出相關領域技術人員或是被告等人可以通過修改已知成份而達成系爭專利成份的理由,至少要提出新藥中的成份為「成功的合理期待」的理由或動機。


CAFC法官認為,顯然地方法院判斷時並未提出以上顯而易知的分析過程(核駁理由),雖然如同被告所言,其中重要的「凍乾lyophilization」製程是已知技術,且填充劑mannitol也為已知,但即便似乎都是現有的已知特性的化學成份,但"睿智地"認為這些已知技術並未教示或建議「凍乾的bortezomib在填充劑mannitol的配合下可以產生系爭專利中新的化學成份」,特別是這個新的成份解決了先前棘手不穩定的問題

"the prior art does not teach or suggest that lyophilization of bortezomib in the presence of mannitol
would produce a chemical reaction and form a new chemical compound, or provide a reason to make this specific new chemical compound, or that this new compound would solve the previously intractable problems of bortezomib formulation."



'446或其他專家仍沒有填充這些教示或建議的空,被告也未能充分證明相關領域一般技術人員為何可以用這些已知特性的成份修改而達成系爭專利發明中的藥品成份,所以系爭專利幾項範圍都是非顯而易見的發明。


CAFC以幾句前例產生的原則作為後語與結論:

需要以高標準來對待依據先前技術的「固有特性」的顯而易見性分析。
“A party must . . . meet a high standard in order to rely on inherency to establish the existence of a claim limitation in the prior art in an obviousness analysis. ” (Par Pharm., 773 F.3d at 1195–96.)

僅以特定幾件事可能造成的環境並不足以認定其結果為固有已知的。
“The mere fact that a certain thing may result from a given set of circumstances is not sufficient” to render the result inherent. ” (In re Oelrich, 666 F.2d at 581)

以「無法預期的結果」證明改良後的專利組成遠大於可預期的結果是有用的。
“Unexpected results are useful to show the improved properties provided by the claimed compositions are much greater than would have been predicted.”  (Leo Pharm., 726 F.3d at 1358)

系爭專利「解決長期存在的問題」是其非顯而易知的客觀證明。
"The existence of a long-felt but unsolved need that is met by the claimed invention is further objective evidence of non-obviousness."  (In re Cyclobenzaprine, 676 F.3d at 1081–83)

本案發回地院重審。

CAFC判決文:http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions-orders/15-2066.Opinion.7-13-2017.1.PDF
(備份:https://app.box.com/s/1fnv8hnobqsrn831r5luowjekevaywtn

my two cents:
本案103議題問題還是在於是否前案可以教示後案發明,是很標準的103議題。

判決中是應該要將新藥開發過程描述出來,這樣才能讓人感受到「非顯而易見」之處。

算是蠻喜歡看「藥廠」的專利爭訟,這是工作上不會碰到的領域,也是可以藉此瞭解專利最高端的競爭,也是商機最大的競爭。不論是否可以論及很深的內容,但至少可以知道,一個新藥的開發並不是簡單的事,其中配分不應是採用了「固有已知」效果的成份而能輕易認定為顯而易知(後見之明),至少從判決書有意或無意地描述了研發過程的角度來看,這不是這麼簡單可以得出的結果。

參考資料:
https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/07/inherent-unexpected-obvious.html

Ron

2017年7月24日 星期一

歐洲"Programs for computers"專利撰寫筆記

Guidelines for Examination

Part F – The European Patent Application
Chapter IV – Claims (Art. 84 and formal requirements)
3.9 Claims directed to computer-implemented inventions

3.9.1 Cases where all method steps can be fully implemented by generic data processing means
https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/html/guidelines/e/f_iv_3_9_1.htm

電腦軟體程式的專利請求項撰寫方式:
(T 410/96T 1173/97 and T 2140/08)

(i)
Method claim (claim 1)
A computer-implemented method comprising steps A, B, ...
A method carried out by a computer comprising steps A, B, ...
(ii)
Apparatus/device/system claim (claim 2)
A data processing apparatus/device/system comprising means for carrying out [the steps of] the method of claim 1.
A data processing apparatus/device/system comprising means for carrying out step A, means for carrying out step B, ...
A data processing apparatus/device/system comprising a processor adapted to/configured to perform [the steps of] the method of claim 1.
(iii)
Computer program [product] claim (claim 3)
A computer program [product] comprising instructions which, when the program is executed by a computer, cause the computer to carry out [the steps of] the method of claim 1.
A computer program [product] comprising instructions which, when the program is executed by a computer, cause the computer to carry out steps A, B, ....
(iv)
Computer-readable [storage] medium/data carrier claim (claim 4)
A computer-readable [storage] medium comprising instructions which, when executed by a computer, cause the computer to carry out [the steps of] the method of claim 1.
A computer-readable [storage] medium comprising instructions which, when executed by a computer, cause the computer to carry out steps A, B, ...
A computer-readable data carrier having stored thereon the computer program [product] of claim 3.
3.9.2 Cases where method steps require specific data processing means and/or require additional technical devices as essential features
https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/html/guidelines/e/f_iv_3_9_2.htm

利用電腦軟體實現(電腦資料處理手段)的發明的專利請求項撰寫方式:
1.
A method of determining oxygen saturation in blood in a pulse oximeter, comprising:
receiving in an electromagnetic detector first and second electromagnetic radiation signals from a blood-perfused tissue portion corresponding to two different wavelengths of light;
normalising said electromagnetic signals according to steps A, B and C to provide normalised electromagnetic signals;
determining oxygen saturation based on said normalised electromagnetic signals according to steps D and E.
2.
A pulse oximeter having an electromagnetic detector and means adapted to execute the steps of the method of claim 1.
3.
A computer program [product] comprising instructions to cause the device of claim 2 to execute the steps of the method of claim 1.
4.
A computer-readable medium having stored thereon the computer program of claim 3.

Part G – Patentability
Chapter II – Inventions
3.6 Programs for computers
https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/html/guidelines/e/g_ii_3_6.htm

歐洲專利審查手冊中表示,其實電腦軟體程式的專利的專利性考量仍與一般發明的專利性要求一致,都是新穎性與進步性。根據過去討論的歐洲對軟體專利的態度可知,歐洲相對美國目前的狀況而言,對於軟體專利的限制反而是更為寬鬆,只要有技術手段解決特定技術問題,而且相對於先前技術具有新穎性與進步性,都是可專利的。

由上可知,電腦軟體程式發明可以用各種撰寫方式申請專利保護,以下摘要可專利軟體發明的案例與可專利的原則:

(T 1173/97 and G 3/08):
電腦軟體程式本身不一定不可專利,即便是執行在一個電腦裝置中,如果發明帶出技術效果而"超越"一般電腦軟硬體之間的物理互動,仍具有可專利性。(編按,其中超越一般電腦的「技術效果」仍是一種新穎性與進步性的判斷)
"A computer program claimed by itself is not excluded from patentability if it is capable of bringing about, when running on or loaded into a computer, a further technical effect going beyond the "normal" physical interactions between the program (software) and the computer (hardware) on which it is run (T 1173/97 and G 3/08). "

電腦程式包括的技術仍如機器實現的方法,程式撰寫員考量的仍是要解決技術問題而"超越"實現一些程序的電腦演算法。
"Likewise, although it may be said that all computer programming involves technical considerations since it is concerned with defining a method which can be carried out by a machine, that in itself is not enough to demonstrate that the program which results from the programming has technical character; the programmer must have had technical considerations beyond "merely" finding a computer algorithm to carry out some procedure (G 3/08)."

所述進一步的技術效果(technical effect)需要電腦程式中的技術特點,如控制工業程序、電腦內部功能或其介面,而影響了程序的效能或安全性,因此,實現數學方法的電腦程式本身仍可能具有技術貢獻,應考量其是否帶來技術效果
"A further technical effect which lends technical character to a computer program may be found e.g. in the control of an industrial process or in the internal functioning of the computer itself or its interfaces under the influence of the program and could, for example, affect the efficiency or security of a process, the management of computer resources required or the rate of data transfer in a communication link. A computer program implementing a mathematical method that itself makes a technical contribution (see G‑II, 3.3) would also be considered to be capable of bringing about a further technical effect when it is run on a computer."

是否電腦程式具有技術貢獻,與硬體元件的技術特點考量不同,是考量了執行程式後是否產生了技術效果,考量的原則仍如一般發明可專利性。
"Whether a computer program can contribute to the technical character of the claimed subject-matter is frequently an issue separate and distinct from the technical character of the hardware components which may be defined in order to execute the computer program. When a computer program produces a further technical effect (T 1173/97), it is by itself considered technical and not excluded. In contrast, any claimed subject-matter defining or using technical means is an invention within the meaning of Art. 52(1) (see T 424/03 and T 258/03, and confirmed in G 3/08). This applies even if the technical means are commonly known; for example, the inclusion of a computer, a computer network, a readable medium carrying a program, etc. in a claim lends technical character to the claimed subject-matter."

如果主張專利的電腦軟體發明沒有技術特點,仍會因新穎性與進步性不足而被核駁。
"If claimed subject-matter relating to a computer program does not have a technical character, it should be rejected under Art. 52(2) and (3). If the subject-matter passes this test for technicality, the examiner should then proceed to the questions of novelty and inventive step (see G‑VI and G‑VII)."

電腦軟體申請專利範圍不應包括電腦程序(program listings),但要包括具有可專利性方法的特徵。
"A patent may be granted on one of the different forms of a computer program product claim if all the requirements of the EPC are met; see in particular Art. 848354 and 56, and G‑III, 3 below. Such claims should not contain program listings, but should define all the features which assure patentability of the process which the program is intended to carry out when it is run (see F‑IV, 4.5.2, last sentence). Short excerpts from programs might be accepted in the description (see F‑II, 4.12)."

my two cents:
以上各種形式的軟體專利撰寫方式都是源自某些案例,都值得研究與討論。

本部落格過去有關歐洲軟體專利的的報導:

Ron

2017年7月21日 星期五

IBM發布企業等級區塊鏈應用(筆記去年的消息)

曾經討論過Hyperledger Project(超帳本)」的開放原始碼計畫 - 區塊鏈智慧財產前哨戰(http://enpan.blogspot.tw/2017/07/blog-post_5.html

https://www.hyperledger.org/

IBM藉由Hyperledger Fabric 1.0開發出企業等級的區塊鏈應用(這是去年的新聞,在此筆記)。


PDF檔案:https://www-01.ibm.com/common/ssi/cgi-bin/ssialias?htmlfid=GBE03757USEN

現行金融交易存在著沒有效率、昂貴與有弱點的缺失,區塊鏈技術建立的交易"分散式帳本"具有記錄"透明"、"可追溯性"與"安全"(不易被竄改)的特性,優點是交易快速,甚至沒有交易的成本。

這張圖顯示現行「帳本」的樣貌,銀行需要帳本、政府需要帳本、保險公司需要帳本,每一個需要交易(不一定指金融)的實體都需要自己管理一個帳本,然而這個「中心化」的管理方式一旦遭遇人為疏失或是資安問題,容易錯誤或遭受竄改。


下圖則描述了將來(或說進行中)的區塊鏈技術採用了「分散式帳本」的概念,可以在交易完成當下"即時"將帳本分散出去,也就是一方完成一筆交易,交易資訊將分享給其他參與這個技術的人,交易記錄在存在每一個參與者的系統中,將不會有任何一個「中心」單獨保存這筆記錄。


當然,所有記錄與個資都會以加密技術保存,且不會是任何一個單位擁有或控制,隱私與安全性皆有保障,當需要取出記錄時,大家都會取得同一筆一樣的內容,採用共識演算法(consensus algorithms),不需要任何第三方認證。

通過幾個圖示呈現區塊鏈幾個特性,讓它有機會成為下一世代的主流概念,例如,區塊鏈「去中心化」的特性使得可順暢地通過分散式帳本符合各種需求,因為通過嚴格的加密技術,使得帳本內容被嚴格保護,不易被竄改,又因為每個參與者都用有一份帳本,又因為分散到每個參與實體的裝置中,具有透明而被證明每筆交易的真實性,採用共識演算法讓大家運作於相同的技術概念中,更具有彈性支援各種應用的特性。


應用廣泛:


現行已經有許多實做案例,這份文件表示2013年到2016年利用區塊鏈處理的非貨幣性產值已達1.6 billion。43間銀行共組R3聯盟(R3 consortium)。BNY Mellon已使用區塊鏈處理證券借貸。日本交易所集團已經在測試使用區塊鏈技術在流動性較低的市場(日本也是使用比特幣的大本營)。

IBM本身已經使用區塊鏈技術在企業服務中,如IBM Cloud。





Hyperledger與比特幣(bitcoin)、乙太坊(ethereum)的比較:

(截圖來自:https://www.ibm.com/blockchain/hyperledger.html
(影片:https://youtu.be/js3Zjxbo8TM


資料來源:
IBM announces enterprise production-ready blockchain services for Hyperledger Fabric v1.0
https://www.ibm.com/blockchain/
https://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/51840.wss
https://www.altoros.com/blog/hyperledger-approaches-version-1-0-with-better-scalability-and-security/

Ron

2017年7月20日 星期四

拖延訴訟等到有利判例而成功終止訴訟 - DietGoal Innovations LLC v. Bravo Media LLC (New York 2014)

本篇名稱為「拖延訴訟等到有利判例而成功終止訴訟 - DietGoal Innovations LLC v. Bravo Media LLC (New York 2014)」,篇幅大部分討論35 U.S.C. 101可專利性討論。"拖延戰術"有好有壞,這回是報導有意無意的「拖延」等到對自己(被告)有利的判決。

本案資訊:
原告:DIETGOAL INNOVATIONS LLC
被告:BRAVO MEDIA LLC (DIVISION OF NBC UNIVERSAL MEDIA, LLC)
系爭專利:US6,585,516
審理法院:紐約州南部地方法院

系爭專利於2012年轉手到DIETGOAL INNOVATIONS LLC,DietGoal如獲至寶,隨即對多個公司提出侵權告訴,被告廣及媒體業、食品業,有超大公司如Time,有知名食品公司如Dunkin’ Donuts,也有幾個人的小公司,如Nutritionix,其因為被告相關產業影響更擴及更多背後的母公司或供應商、經銷商。(本篇報導為其中之一被告Bravo的判決)

系爭專利US6,585,516關於一個開始選項菜單,請求項1界定一個電腦化的菜單,包括有使用者介面、食物資料庫,以及圖形化菜單,提供客製化飲食(膳食計畫)。


請求項1界定一個電腦菜單系統,包括使用者介面、可組織菜單的食物資料庫,以及圖形化菜單,其中在使用者介面上顯示資料庫中的菜單,提供使用者隨己意選擇(膳食計畫)。
1. A system of computerized meal planning, comprising:
a User Interface;
a Database of food objects organizable into meals; and
at least one Picture Menus, which displays on the User Interface meals from the Database that a user can select from to meet customized eating goal.

從被告們的屬性來看,被告的對象關於為了瘦身的節食計畫,其中自然有對每個參與節食計畫的人提供客製化的菜單,也都可能落入侵權的可能。

本篇被告Bravo提供一個網站:http://www.bravotv.com,提供"使用者介面"讓來訪者搜尋Bravo電視節目中的食譜:http://bravotv.com/foodies/recipes


被告在地方法院的"拖延戰術":
訴訟從原告DietGoal於2012年6月13日在東德州地方法院對眾多廠商(本篇為Bravo)提出侵權告訴開始,被告Bravo開始一些訴訟行為(編按,現在後見之明看見這些"拖延戰術"舉動讓被告等到2014年6月19日Alice判例出爐),例如在2012年9月17日提起轉移法院的請願,終於在2013年4月9日移審到維吉尼亞東部地院;接著又在2013年5月2日提起第二次移審請求,在2013年11月19日移審到紐約州南部地方法院(本法院),紐約州地院於2014年1月22日提出審查計畫/行事曆。

Bravo在這個開始的"延遲"過程中曾經提起「不公平行為和專利濫用」("inequitable conduct and patent misuse")的抗辯,只是被否決,要求與侵權訴訟一併審理。

審理議題有二:不侵權,以及專利無效。

Bravo提起的專利無效議題(簡易判決)是主張系爭專利為"抽象"與"人為概念"。要法院同意被告提起的簡易判決(summary judgment)請求,要件是:需要證明訴訟中爭辯的事實並非真正的爭點,而請願也是符合作出簡易判決的法律規定("show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.")。

相對地,簡易判決的另一方對照也可提出相反意見,法院將對簡易判決請求中所陳述的證據與事實進行審理,甚至是要站在比要偏向另一方的角度來看整個事實。

結果,審理過程中雙方來來往往幾次,包括修改訴狀、答辯狀、請願程序等,按照一般法院程序,自然產生"拖延"的效果。

在審理系爭專利是否符合美國專利法第101條規定的議題時,在Alice判例前主要就是看Bilski判例,並包括更早之前的許多前例,如Mayo, Benson等。

紐轉情勢的關鍵事件就是在2014年6月19日Alice判例出爐,法官也順勢引用Alice判例,同時參考BilskiMayo等案。


Bilski案中,法院判斷是否符合35U.S.C.101可專利性是依據「machine-or-transformation test」。

Mayo案中,法院確立一個「process」專利不能僅根據其中包括了自然律或數學演算法就認為不可專利("a process is not unpatentable simply because it contains a law of nature or a mathematical algorithm.");換句話說,若能轉換不可專利的自然律為可專利的應用,就不是簡單應用自然律而已("to transform an unpatentable law of nature into a patent-eligible application of such a law, one must do more than simply state the law of nature while adding the words ‘apply it.’")。

到了最新的Alice vn. CLS Bank案,法院認為方法專利範圍若僅是使用一般目的電腦來實現方法,並未轉換抽象概念到可專利的發明("the method claims, which merely require generic computer implementation, fail to transform that abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention.")。

回到本案系爭專利'516的可專利性討論,專利範圍涉及使用電腦程式提供使用者介面,讓使用者建立客製化菜單。法院同樣引用了很多101判決中的法院意見,最後認為系爭專利的發明即便是通過電腦程式完成,卻也可以是人為動作達成,而發明並未有任何進步性技術元件可以將這樣的抽象概念轉換為可專利的應用("...considers whether the claims or elements of the claim contain an “inventive concept” capable of transforming the  abstract idea into a patent-eligible application of that idea")。

雖原告/專利權人同樣引用案例認為也有前案法官認為並非使用一般目的電腦達成的發明就不能是可專利的發明,但及時出現的Alice確實給了被告很大的幫助。

最終,地院法官對於系爭專利的意見是:

如系爭專利的電腦化元件,並沒有轉換人為客製化菜單(膳食計畫、抽象元件)為新穎的方法,或獨特的應用,使得專利範圍不足以具有可專利性。

"These computerized elements, taken separately, do nothing to “transform” the nature of the claim from the mental process of meal planning into a novel method or unique application of that idea, and thus are insufficient to render the claims of the ’516 Patent patent-eligible."

BILSKI判例相關報導:

MAYO判例報導:

2014年6月19日Alice判例出爐,本部落格第一手報導:

Alice案例影響深遠,如:

CAFC階段:
本案經原告上訴CAFC後,被CAFC以Rule 36在沒有進一步審理程序後終止,確認原審法院決定。


my two cents:
本篇判決是一個很好的101審查故事書,將法院審理101相關案例的整個脈絡揭示出來。

尚未詳究本案被告Bravo為何在被告後提了兩次「移審」請求,而且法院也同意移審,可以想到的是,移審通常是希望將訴訟轉到對自己有利(主場優勢、事業所在地)的法院,但從結果來看,或許Bravo律師可能注意到將會扭轉軟體專利的Alice判例即將出爐,希望可以趁勢扭轉情勢,畢竟最高法院要作出重要判決前會昭告天下,甚至公聽後參考各界意見,這些都是公開資訊。

紐約南方地院判決(備份):
https://app.box.com/s/lawvre655ho0afamypidot0cmqtrrtwg

資料來源:
https://www.eff.org/alice/startup-runs-patent-picture-menus

Ron

2017年7月19日 星期三

掃地機器專利訴訟報告 - 從專利瞭解iRobot技術與一些歷史

為了討論這些專利訴訟的內容(同時包括ITC與地方法院侵權訴訟),也趁機初步瞭解一下"iRobot"的專利現狀,先從美國專利開始。用"iRobot"搜尋美國專利,會看到幾個專利權人:"IROBOT CORPORATION"與"IROBOT DEFENSE HOLDINGS, INC.",其中專利權人為"IROBOT CORPORATION"應該是母公司,漸漸地成為家電大廠,目前為止擁有429件美國專利(資料來自USPTO),經查,確實都是一般熟知"iRobot"掃地機器人的相關專利。而分出的"IROBOT DEFENSE HOLDINGS, INC."則是繼續專注軍事用途的事業。
(Gallery of Figures)

"IROBOT CORPORATION"為數眾多的"9"與"8"為首的專利,顯見近年積極佈局的企圖,而且主要針對在地上爬行圓盤式的掃地機器人,目前可知美國設計專利有31件,我覺得這類家電除了其中人工智慧、電路設計的發明外,「外觀設計」應該也是重點,甚至可以看出家電產品的演變史。從已公告設計專利來看,"iRobot"是在投身家電掃地機器人後才積極佈局設計專利。一些統計資料由chrome外掛"petapator"形成。

2004年5月5日D510066可以看出掃地機器人的充電基地:


2006年10月31日D556961已經是圓盤形掃地機器人:


2015年2月12日D790141


US8,854,001為自動引導掃地機器人回到充電基地台的技術:


US8,380,350為利用紅外線(三支)引導掃地機器人航行的技術:



D670877


US8,368,339也是一個限制機器人航行的技術:


從專利公開資料也可以粗略得出一個公司的發展史,例如,簡單從早期專利US6,263,989(Robotic platform,優先權日溯及1998年3月27日)可知,"iRobot"最早就是以遙控或自走式機器人開始,特別是軍事用途機器人。


US6,845,297


US8,019,223


US8,370,985開始有"現代"掃地機器人的前身:


ITC案/侵權訴訟資訊:
原告:IROBOT CORPORATION
系爭產品: Robotic Vacuum Cleaning Devices and Components Thereof
被告:Bissell Homecare, Inc., Grand Rapids, Michigan; Hoover Inc., Glenwillow, Ohio; Royal Appliance Manufacturing Co., Inc. d/b/a TTI Floor Care North America, Inc., Glenwillow, Ohio; Bobsweep, Inc., Canada; Bobsweep USA, Henderson, Nevada; The Black & Decker Corporation, Towson, Maryland; Black & Decker (U.S) Inc., Towson, Maryland; Shenzhen ZhiYi Technology Co., Ltd., d/b/a iLife, China; Matsutek Enterprises Co., Ltd., Taiwan; Suzhou Real Power Electric Appliance Co., Ltd., China; and Shenzhen Silver Star Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd., China. (台灣松騰實業也列為被告)
系爭專利:6,809,490、7,155,308、8,474,090、8,600,553、9,038,233、9,486,924

US6,809,490
這是一個具有障礙偵測器的掃地機器人,當面對地面障礙時,可以提出幾種迴避模式。

1. A mobile robot comprising:
(a) means for moving the robot over a surface;
(b) an obstacle detection sensor;
(c) and a control system operatively connected to said obstacle detection sensor and said means for moving;
(d) said control system configured to operate the robot in a plurality of operational modes and to select from among the plurality of modes in real time in response to signals generated by the obstacle detection sensor, said plurality of operational modes comprising: a spot-coverage mode whereby the robot operates in an isolated area, an obstacle following mode whereby said robot travels adjacent to an obstacle, and a bounce mode whereby the robot travels substantially in a direction away from an obstacle after encountering the obstacle, and wherein, when in the obstacle following mode, the robot travels adjacent to an obstacle for a distance at least twice the work width of the robot.

US7,155,308
此專利揭示掃地機器人發出一個範圍的光線,其中光偵測器接收後,判斷是否有障礙物以迴避此障礙,包括迴避突起障礙與懸崖式障礙。

1. A sensor subsystem for an autonomous robot which rides on a surface, the sensor subsystem comprising:
an optical emitter which emits a directed optical beam having a defined field of emission;
a photon detector having a defined field of view which intersects the field of emission of the emitter at a region; and
a circuit in communication with the detector providing an output when an object is not present in the region thereby re-directing the autonomous robot.

US8,474,090
提出可替換式組件,可以應付幾種掃地時會遇到的障礙。

1. A floor cleaning robot comprising:
a housing and a chassis;
wheels and at least one motor to drive the wheels disposed at least partially within the housing and configured to move the floor cleaning robot across a floor, each of the wheels being attached to the chassis via a respective arm having a distal end and a proximal end;
a control module disposed within the housing and directing movement of the floor cleaning robot across the floor;
at least one sensor for detecting an obstacle and communicating obstacle information to the control module so that the control module can cause the floor cleaning robot to react to the obstacle;
a removable bin disposed at least partially within the housing and configured to receive particulates; and
a first rotating member configured to direct particulates toward the bin,
wherein one of the wheels is rotatably attached to the distal end of each arm, and the proximal end of each arm is pivotably attached to the chassis,
wherein each wheel is biased to an extended position away from the robot chassis by a spring extending between the arm and the robot chassis, and
wherein, during cleaning, the weight of the floor cleaning robot overcomes a force from the spring biasing the wheels to an extended position.

US8,600,553
本案解決掃地機器人運作時會遇到的狀況,提出解決方案,根據各種感測器產生的資訊,執行碰撞、增減速、接觸障礙等反應,例如改變掃地刷的角度。
1. An autonomous coverage robot comprising:
a drive system configured to maneuver the robot according to a heading setting and a speed setting;
a bump sensor responsive to a collision of the robot with an obstacle in a forward direction; and
a proximity sensor responsive to a potential obstacle forward of the robot;
wherein the drive system is configured to reduce the speed setting in response to a signal from the proximity sensor indicating detection of a potential obstacle, while continuing to advance the robot according to the heading setting;
wherein the drive system is configured to increase the speed setting if the drive system does not receive a subsequent signal indicating the presence of an obstacle while continuing to advance according to the heading setting and the reduced speed setting; and
wherein the drive system is configured to alter the heading setting in response to a signal received from the bump sensor indicating contact with an obstacle.

US9,038,233
本案即實際描述掃地機器人的控制電路與感測功能,包括偵測懸崖式障礙的感測器、障礙感測器,能夠反應地面狀態的掃地刷(主刷、側刷)等元件。

1. A self-propelled floor-cleaning robot comprising
a housing defining a housing perimeter;
a powered primary brush assembly disposed within the housing perimeter and positioned to engage a floor surface, the primary brush assembly being configured to rotate about an axis generally parallel to the floor surface;
a cliff detector carried by the housing and configured to direct a beam toward the floor surface and to respond to a falling edge of the floor surface; and
a powered side brush extending beyond the housing perimeter and positioned to brush floor surface debris from beyond the housing perimeter, the side brush being configured to rotate about an axis generally perpendicular to the floor surface and to rotate in a direction to direct debris toward the robot along a projected direction of movement of the powered primary brush assembly, the side brush having bundles of bristles and being positioned such that the bundles of bristles pass between the cliff detector and the floor surface during a rotation of the side brush around the axis, the bundles of bristles being separated by a gap, the gap being configured to prevent occlusion of the cliff detector beam during at least part of the rotation of the side brush around the axis;
a particulate receptacle positioned to receive and collect particulates brushed from the floor surface by the primary brush assembly and the powered side brush;
an obstacle detector responsive to obstacles encountered by the robot; and
a control circuit in electrical communication with a motor drive and configured to control the motor drive to maneuver the robot about detected obstacles across the floor surface during a floor-cleaning operation.

US9,486,924
這就酷了,是一種可以遠端編程掃地的方法,利用手機產生控制指令,設定行事曆,就從充電完成開始開始掃地巡航。

1. A method of cleaning a room, the method comprising:
transmitting from a cleaning robot to a mobile phone a status of the cleaning robot; and
receiving at the cleaning robot from the mobile phone, in response to an operator command input at the mobile phone and at least in part indicative of a schedule, information including instructions configured to cause a processor of the cleaning robot to execute a cleaning operation in the room according to the schedule, wherein executing the cleaning operation in the room according to the schedule comprises:
leaving a stationary charging device at which the cleaning robot is docked according to the schedule, and
navigating about a floor surface of the room.

被告產品琳瑯滿目,顯然也是很早就佈局的iRobot可以出手的時機,當然也可能低價、多功能的產品陸續出現產生了威脅。

如:Bissell SmartClean Model 1974


技術比對:


從Bissell型錄可得到的智慧巡航功能也成為侵權證據:

(圖案來自訴狀)

從ITC資料來看,iRobot自然是要當局作出有限排除進口、停止進口的命令。


my two cents:
從原告的專利佈局來看,還有捍衛市場佔有率的決心,顯然妥協與和解是被告考慮的措施之一。

JUSTIA找到的ITC資料:
http://regulations.justia.com/regulations/fedreg/2017/05/23/2017-10477.html

iRobot新聞稿:
http://media.irobot.com/2017-04-18-iRobot-Files-ITC-Patent-Infringement-Complaint-Against-Robotic-Vacuum-Cleaner-Products-Including-Robots-Sold-by-Bissell-Hoover-and-Black-Decker

科技產業資訊室訴訟整理:
http://iknow.stpi.narl.org.tw/Post/Read.aspx?PostID=13399

iRobot專利戰爭在中國的報導:
扫地机器专利大战一触即发?美国公司指控3家中国公司侵权(https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/ojUnaUm7FBysZ3bgaTLFmg

Ron