Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reporting Patent Cases is Hard

Patent matters are tough to report. Most outlets get things wrong. Take what you read with a grain of salt.

As mentioned in my previous post, the U.S. International Trade Commission gave notice today of a fairly intricate set of determinations in an investigation involving Kodak, Apple, and RIM. As is invariably the case with patent matters, the details of the determinations are being misreported.

This is not surprising. These are complex matters both procedurally and technically. However, it's important that readers know that what they are reading is not always correct. I'll pick out a few such inaccuracies from today's articles to demonstrate.

First, from the AP:

The federal agency did find limited patent infringement. It also sent some matters back to the judge for further review, and Kodak could still prevail in the remaining claims.

The Commission did not find "limited patent infringement." The Commission found that the accused products "infringed" or "practiced" certain limitations of the one patent claim at issue, but the Commission did not itself render an infringement determination. The question of infringement is remanded.

Also from the AP:

The commission also found that Apple and RIM infringed on a patent related to "initiating capture of a still image while previewing a motion image." ...

The commission ruled that Apple and RIM did infringe a Kodak patent under the commission's revised definition of "at least three different colors."

Again, there was no determination by the Commission of infringement announced today, and there is only one patent, and one claim of that patent, at issue. The Commission modified constructions of claim terms and remanded the matter.

From TUAW:

However, two other claims have been restructured by the ITC, siding with Kodak on one claim and not making a determination on a third. The entire case is being sent back to lower courts for further review, giving Eastman Kodak Co. a remote possibility of prevailing with the other claims.

Multiple claims were not "restructured." There is only one patent claim at issue in the investigation. The Commission modified the constructions of terms within multiple limitations of that one claim. The case is also not being sent back to "lower courts." The matter is remanded to the administrative law judge at the ITC.

From AppleInsider:

The commission did however rule that Apple and RIM were guilty of infringing on a Kodak patent related to "initiating capture of a still image while previewing a motion image," and another under the commission's revised definition of "at least three different colors."

Again, the Commission made no such ruling. The Commission found that under the modified constructions, the accused products meet some of the claim limitations. No finding was made regarding overall infringement of that patent claim.


Patent cases are very tough to report accurately, especially for a general tech reporter or blogger without a legal background. If you really are interested in patent issues, however, consider taking the extra time and look to more legally-oriented sources who might have a firmer grasp on the subject matter and terminology. You might find that things make more sense.

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