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Displayed Instructions on Payphone Do Not Meet Claim Requirement for Spoken Instructions

March 06, 2001

Decision icon Decision

Last Month at the Federal Circuit - April 2001

Judges: per curiam

In Maltezos v. AT&T Corp., No. 00-1529 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 8, 2001) (nonprecedential decision), the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of SJ that AT&T Corp.’s (“AT&T”) Public Phone 2000 (“Phone 2000”) did not infringe U.S. Patent No. 5,014,310 (“the ‘310 patent”), either literally or under the DOE.

Alexandros Maltezos sued AT&T, charging that Phone 2000 infringed the ‘310 patent directed to a payphone that provides voice instructions in multiple languages. The claimed payphone in the ‘310 patent requires “a digital voice device” that provides operational instructions in a language chosen by the payphone user. The Phone 2000 provides operational instructions in multiple languages, but in a digital, graphic display.

The Federal Circuit agreed with the district court’s claim construction that the ‘310 patent requires the claimed payphone “to have a digital voice device to provide audible instructions in a chosen language.” First, the Federal Circuit agreed that the ordinary meaning of the claimed “digital voice device” requires that the device provide audible output. Furthermore, the Federal Circuit noted that the district court’s construction was entirely consistent with the written description, citing several sections of the ‘301 patent describing “voice,” “voice chip,” and “spoken words.”

Turning to the literal infringement analysis, the Federal Circuit agreed with the district court’s finding that Phone 2000 did not contain a digital voice device and did not provide audible instructions. Accordingly, the Federal Circuit agreed that Phone 2000 did not literally infringe the ‘301 patent as a matter of law.

The Federal Circuit also agreed with the district court that Phone 2000 did not infringe the ‘301 patent under the DOE. Specifically invoking the classical function-way-result test for equivalence, the Federal Circuit agreed with the district court’s finding that Phone 2000 did not have the capacity to perform the same function as the digital voice device recited in the ‘301 patent. Accordingly, the Federal Circuit concluded that the district court’s SJ ruling was appropriate because no reasonable fact finder could find otherwise.