The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reiterated that intrinsic evidence trumps extrinsic evidence in determining the meaning of claim terms. Sequoia Technology, LLC v. Dell, Inc. et al., Case Nos. 21-2263; -2264; -2265; -2266 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 12, 2023) (Stoll, Lourie, Dyk, JJ.)
Sequoia Technology owns a patent directed to data storage methods involving storing the same data across multiple physical disk drives to make up a virtual disk drive. Sequoia asserted the patent against several companies, all based on a product sold by Red Hat. During litigation, the parties disputed the construction of the terms “computer-readable recording medium,” “disk partition” and “logical volume.” Related to the latter two claim construction issues, the parties construed the term “used or not used” in the context of an extent’s usage in an “extent allocation table.”
The district court adopted Red Hat’s construction of “computer-readable recording medium” to include transitory media (i.e., signals or waves). The district court found no clear language in the specification that excluded transitory media and found Red Hat’s extrinsic evidence to be persuasive, “particularly given the lack of any substantive rebuttal from Sequoia’s expert.” For “disk partition” and “logical volume,” the district court agreed with Red Hat and construed “disk partition” to mean a “section of a disk that is a minimum unit of a logical volume” and “logical volume” to mean an “extensible union of more than one disk partition, the size of which is resized in disk partition units.” These constructions require that a logical volume is constructed by whole disk partitions, not subparts of disk partitions such as extents. The district court also construed the phrase “used or not used” in the limitation “extent allocation table for indicating whether each extent in the disk partition is used or not used,” adopting Red Hat’s construction that “used or not used” means that an extent “is or is not storing information.”
Following claim construction, the parties stipulated that under the district court’s claim construction of “logical volume” and “disk partition,” the accused products did not infringe the asserted claims. The parties also stipulated that under the district court’s construction of “computer-readable recording medium,” certain claims were subject matter ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101 as including transitory media. Sequoia appealed.
The Federal Circuit concluded that the district court erred in construing “computer-readable recording medium.” Starting with the claim language, the Court noted that the claim recited a “computer-readable recording medium storing instructions” and not simply a “computer-readable medium.” The Court reasoned that an ordinarily skilled artisan would understand transitory signals to be incompatible with the claimed invention because such fleeting signals would not persist for sufficient time to store instructions. Turning to the specification, the Court explained that although the specification did use open-ended “including” language to describe a computer-readable medium, the relevant portion of the specification defined computer-readable media as “including compact disc read only memory (CDROM), random access memory (RAM), floppy disk, hard disk, and magneto-optical disk,” all of which are non-transient [...]