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Patentee “Bit” by Plain Language of Claim

00-1353
July 02, 2001

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Last Month at the Federal Circuit - August 2001

Judges: Schall (author), Michel, and Dyk

In Datastrip (IOM) Ltd. v. Symbol Technologies, Inc., No. 00-1353 (Fed. Cir. July 2, 2001) (nonprecedential decision), the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court’s decision denying Plaintiff’s motion for JMOL, affirming that the patent-in-suit was not infringed.

Datastrip (IOM) Limited and Datastrip International Limited (collectively “Datastrip”) sued Symbol Technologies, Inc. (“Symbol”) and Tracker Corporation of America, alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 4,782,221 (“the ‘221 patent”).

The ‘221 patent is directed toward a printed data strip that contains encoded information that can be decoded by an optical scanner. The claimed invention has “a series of contiguous and parallel ‘data lines’ that are preferably read in sequence and each of which is made up of a series of areas of prepage determined size and uniform height and width, called ‘bit areas.’” The claim at issue recites “[a] data strip containing a plurality of encoded data bits for scanning by an optical scanner, said strip including . . . a plurality of aligned, contiguous parallel data lines, each said line being formed of contiguous bit areas, information being encoded [sic] in said bit areas by the presence or absence of printing thereon, . . . ” (emphasis added). The data strip of the preferred embodiment encodes information in “dibits” by using two adjacent bit areas.

Symbol designed a code, known as the PDF417, that contains multiple contiguous and parallel data lines. However, in the PDF417, in each data line information is encoded in the same manner information is encoded in a bar code, i.e., by variable-width encoding.

The district court had construed the term “encoding” to not require dibit encoding, but it did not determine whether the claim was limited to presence/absence encoding. After a jury found that Symbol did not literally infringe Datastrip’s patent, the district court denied Datastrip’s motion for JMOL, concluding that there was substantial evidence that Symbol’s device did not have information “encoded in said bit areas by the presence or absence of printing thereon.”

On appeal, Datastrip argued that this limitation, properly construed, only requires that the bit areas that are used to encode information be printed or not. Datastrip contended that the claim limitation also covers variable-width codes because they encode information by the presence or absence of printing at the bit area level.

The Federal Circuit looked to the plain language of the claim and the specification. The Court observed that the specification contrasts the bar-code prior art with the claimed invention, indicating that the invention provides bits of information by the presence or absence of printing.

As Symbol presented sufficient evidence to establish that PDF417 utilized variable-width encoding and that variable-width encoding was different than presence/absence encoding, the Federal Circuit upheld the district court’s denial of the JMOL finding that Symbol did not infringe the claim.