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Sony Corp. v. Iancu

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

May 22, 2019

SONY CORPORATION, Appellant
v.
ANDREI IANCU, UNDER SECRETARY OF COMMERCE FOR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AND DIRECTOR OF THE UNITED STATES PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE, Intervenor

          Appeal from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patent Trial and Appeal Board in No. IPR2016-00834.

          Scott Anthony McKeown, Ropes & Gray LLP, Washington, DC, argued for appellant. Also represented by Douglas Hallward-Driemeier; Henry Huang, East Palo Alto, CA.

          Robert McBride, Office of the Solicitor, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Alexandria, VA, argued for intervenor. Also represented by Thomas W. Krause.

          Before Prost, Chief Judge, Newman and Dyk, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          Dyk, Circuit Judge

         Sony Corp. is the owner of U.S. Patent No. 6, 097, 676 ("the '676 patent"). It appeals the Patent Trial and Appeal Board's ("Board's") final decision in IPR No. 2016-00834. The Board found claims 5 and 8 of the '676 patent un-patentable as obvious. We vacate and remand.

         Background

         The '676 patent is directed to "an information recording medium" (e.g., a compact disk, video disk, or magneto-optical disk) that can store audio data having multiple channels and "a reproducing device" that can select which channel to play based on a default code or value stored in nonvolatile memory. '676 patent, Abstract; id. col. 1, ll. 11- 15. The specification states that the reproducing device is provided with "storing means" for storing the audio information (e.g., audio data recorded in different languages), "reading means" for reading codes associated with the audio information (e.g., 0, 1, 2, and 3 for English, French, German, and Japanese, respectively), and "reproducing means" for reproducing the audio information based on the default code or value. Id. col. 3, ll. 4-11.

         The specification gives the example of a device manufactured to record and store audio data (e.g., of a movie) in multiple different languages for various countries. Id. col. 3, ll. 36-42; id. col. 10, l. 60-col. 11, l. 9. A single device can be manufactured for use in any of those countries "provided that the default [value (e.g., 0, 1, 2, or 3)] is . . . changed and set for every destination country." Id. col. 3, ll. 36-42.

         Claim 5 of the '676 patent recites:

5. An information reproducing device for reproducing an information recording medium in which audio data of plural channels are multiplexedly recorded, the information reproducing device comprising:
storing means for storing a default value for designating one of the plural channels to be reproduced; and
reproducing means for reproducing the audio data of the channel designated by the default value stored in the storing means; and
wherein a plurality of voice data, each voice data having similar contents translated into different languages are multiplexedly recorded as audio data of plural channels; and a default value for designating the voice data corresponding to one of the different languages is stored in the storing means.

Id. col. 12, ll. 28-43. Claim 8 recites the same limitations as claim 5 and additionally recites that "codes representing the kinds of the audio data" are multiplexedly recorded in the information recording medium, that the information reproducing device includes "reading means" for reading the codes, and that the reproducing means is for reproducing the audio data "according to the codes read by the reading means." Id. col. 13, ll. 1-21.

         The Board instituted inter partes review as to claims 5 and 8 of the '676 patent. The primary focus during inter partes review was whether the "reproducing means" limitation was computer-implemented and required an algorithm.

         On September 28, 2017, the Board issued a final decision finding the claims unpatentable as obvious over U.S. Patent No. 5, 130, 816 to Yoshio ("Yoshio"). The Board construed the "reproducing means" limitation as a means-plus-function limitation. The Board explained that the recited function is "reproducing the audio data of the channel designated by the default value stored in the storing means." Arris Int'l PLC v. Sony Corp., IPR2016-00834, 2017 WL 4349410, at *4 (P.T.A.B. Sept. 28, 2017). The Board determined that the structure that performs these functions is "a controller and a synthesizer, or the equivalent." Id. at *12. The Board further concluded that the limitation is not computer-implemented and does not require an ...


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