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Y2K Patent Invalid

September 18, 2001

Decision icon Decision

Last Month at the Federal Circuit - October 2001

Judges: Judges: Newman (author), Clevenger, and Mayer (dissenting)

In Brown v. 3M, No. 00-1552 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 18, 2001), the Federal Circuit affirmed a SJ that claim 16 of U.S. Patent No. 5,852,824 (“the ‘824 patent”) is invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 102.

The ‘824 patent, owned by Dr. Roger Brown, is directed to the Year-2000 problem, and specifically to a system for correcting year-date data in a computer database. Claim 16 of the ‘824 patent is directed to a system for setting a computer clock to an offset time, applicable to records with year-date data “represented by at least one of two-digit, three-digit, or four-digit year-date representations.”

The district court had construed this limitation of claim 16 to mean that the apparatus could convert only two-digit; only three-digit; only four-digit; or any combination of two-, three-, and four-digit date data. Thus, the district court held claim 16 to be anticipated under 35 U.S.C. § 102 by U.S. Patent No. 5,600,836 (“the ‘836 patent”), which discloses correcting yeardate data in two-digit format.

The Federal Circuit agreed with the district court’s construction of claim 16, noting that it is in accord with the plain meaning of the claim text. The Court accepted Brown’s argument on appeal that the ‘836 patent does not teach correction of other than twodigit, year-date data, but concluded that because claim 16 is written in the alternative, it is clearly anticipated under § 102 by the disclosure of a system correcting only two-digit, year-date data.

Judge Mayer dissented, concluding that the claim required the system to have the capacity to correct year-date data in two-digit, three-digit, and four-digit format.