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Facebook Beats Indacon in Claim Construction Game

Facebook has squeezed out of lower court ruling that the company infringed on a Texas-based software developer's database patent, inelegantly named the "Database system and method for data acquisition and perusal."

Software company Indacon sued Facebook in 2010 alleging that the social media company infringed on patent no. 6,834,276, which it claimed was violated when Facebook integrated linking and searching features into the Facebook interface.

The Material Terms

At issue were the proper claim construction of several terms, including "alias," "custom link," "custom linking relationship," and "link term."

Against Indacon's contentions, the court found that the term "alias" was limited strictly to the textual expression of that term and not to the meta-file that it referred to, and that the rest of the terms were limited by instance to be identified and displayed as a link.

Specifically, during claim construction at the trial level, the court found that every instance of a specified link term be linked. This distinction between "all" and "not specified" should have been included in the definitions of "link term" and "custom link." Here's the relevant language from the opinion.

"Here, the patentees repeatedly described their invention both in the specification and the prosecution history as allowing "every instance" or "all instances" of a defined term to be identified and displayed as a link. Under these circumstances, the district court did not err in limiting the link claim terms as such."

Lesson repeated: keep it simple.

Deep in "The Art"

It appears that the terms "link term" and "custom link" are not defined in the art and that inconsistencies in the use of "instances" as opposed to "all instances" can only lead to the rational understanding that the two terms must mean different things. Getting to the heart of the claim differentiation may cause the courts to run around in perpetual circles, however. It appears that Indacon probably could have bypassed this issue with a proper drafting of the petition.

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