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Claim construction - the 7,706,348 patent | 282 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Initial observations on the 7,706,348 patent
Authored by: drakaan on Thursday, March 14 2013 @ 10:12 AM EDT
You're making a straw-man argument. Those arguing against
software patents have not (although I'm thoughtful on this
after reading the patent) stated that digital
circuits are not patentable subject matter. If this patent
had been drawn up as a set of algorithms for use with a
general-purpose computer, then there would have been a
disagreement on patentability for certain.

You raise an interesting point, though (assuming you believe
software to be unpatentable subject matter, as I do). If a
software developer comes up with a program that does
something useful to data (as this patent would, absent the
hardware), and an engineer says "we can turn that into a
chip and patent it", then does that mean that the patent
should not issue?

---
'Murphy was an optimist'
-O'Toole's Commentary on Murphy's Law

[ Reply to This | Parent | # ]

The patent concerns an error-correcting code
Authored by: macliam on Thursday, March 14 2013 @ 10:26 AM EDT

The patent concerns the use of an error correcting code. If data is to be transmitted down a noisy communications channel, then it is beneficial to transmit the message with extra bits including redundant information so that errors in transmission can be detected and corrected. Originally this might have been accomplished using checksums. However a sophisticated mathematical theory developed concerned with the design of efficient error-correcting codes using techniques from the mathematical disciplines of finite fields (originating from the work of Galois in the 19th century) and linear algebra (over finite fields). The resulting theory is described in mathematical textbooks and taught to mathematics students in universities, and is a research area for mathematicians.

The patent covers a code which apparently converts 10-bit codewords to 32-bit codewords using a Reed-Muller code. The explicit encodings appear to be listed in Tables 1a to 1f of the patent specification. These tables explicitly assign a 32-bit codeword to each 10-bit uncoded word. The underlying construction is described in the patent specification. Presumably if a message is to be transferred from one mobile device to another over a 3G network, both devices need to be able to encode, transmit, receive and decode messages according to the same protocol. Therefore both devices need to practice the patent. Hence a standards-essential patent built around a mathematical algorithm.

(The above is an initial assessment, since it would require more time to work in detail through the specification.)

[ Reply to This | Parent | # ]

Claim construction - the 7,706,348 patent
Authored by: macliam on Thursday, March 14 2013 @ 01:38 PM EDT

Disclaimers: IANAL, in particular IANAPL!

The US patent system is a peripheral claiming system. This means that if a patent application contains patent-eligible subject matter, the scope of monopolies granted to the patent owner are determined by the "metes and bounds" of the claims. In other words, unless and until a particular claim in invalidated, any process, composition of matter, manufacture or machine that falls within the scope of any patent claim falls within the scope of the corresponding monopoly granted to the patent owner. Therefore claim construction is an essential part of both patent prosecution and patent litigation. For information see a webpage discussing claim construction on the PTO website and also the Wikipedia article on patent claims.

Now "it is improper to import claim limitations from the specification" (PTO website). This means that you cannot (for example) look at the patent specification, see some reference to hardware, and then presume that the invention is a hardware device, and therefore only hardware devices fall within the scope of the patent.

Assuming that all the patent claims are valid, the US Government (through the PTO) has granted to Samsung 88 inter-related monopolies, one monopoly per claim. In patent prosecution or patent litigation, these claims have to be construed in order to determine how they are to be interpreted. Another basic principle is that "claims must be given their broadest reasonable interpretation in light of the specification". Moreover "the broadest reasonable interpretation must be consistent with the interpretation that those skilled in the art would reach".

The list of claims will typically include both independent and dependent claims. The independent claims are generally as broad as the PTO will allow, and will be as broad as can be achieved without reading on any known prior art. Subsequent dependent claims will narrow the scope of the claims, so that, if broader claims are subsequently invalidated by prior art, some of the narrower claims will survive. Also claim limitations in the narrower dependent claims can help ensure that the broader claims are construed sufficiently widely to encompass the narrower claims.

So much for basic claim construction rules. Now to Samsung's patent. It would appear that the independent claims are claims 1, 8, 10, 15, 18, 22, 27, 31, 34, 36, 42, 46, 52, 56, 61, 75, 79 and 82. If any of these independent claims (or any of the dependent claims hanging off them) reads on an apparatus or method, then the apparatus or method infringes the patent. And it looks as though Samsung's patent lawyers have claimed every quirk and characteristic of their encoding that distinguished their encoding from known prior art.

So what sort of apparatus would infringe one of these claims? The claims repeatedly refer to a Transport Format Combination Indicator encoding apparatus which comprises (i.e. includes) a orthogonal sequence generator and a mask sequence generator, together with an operation unit for adding such sequences. Moreover, from a dependent claim, it seems that "00101000011000111111000001110111" is an example of a mask sequence. So the question is "whether the broadest reasonable interpretation of the claim in the light of the specification" would read on a computer running under appropriate software. If so, then the claim covers software implementations of the claimed error-correcting code.

Next, look at a method claim. One such is claim 17, which depends on claim 15. The method must allow for generating, outputting and adding pluralities of biorthogonal sequences and mark sequences, providing m-sequences, forming a first sequence group, generating and applying a column transposition function to convert sequences to orthogonal sequences, inserting a column of zeros in front of the sequences, and generating and applying a reverse transposition function to sequences. Is it consistent with the "broadest reasonable interpretation of the claims" to suppose that this claim could read on a digital computer programmed to carry out all the necessary generating, outputting, adding, providing, forming, applying, converting and inserting. If so, a standard digital computer programmed to carry out the steps of the method would infringe the patent.

[ Reply to This | Parent | # ]

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