Monday, December 7, 2009

Source Search Technologies v. LendingTree

Obviousness. The claims at issue in this case involved “a computerized procurement service for matching potential buyers with potential vendors over a network.” One limitation, as construed, required that the system return from potential sellers “quotes” that included “price and other terms of a particular transaction in sufficient detail to constitute an offer capable of acceptance.” (p. 12.) Because there were at least factual issues about whether the prior art disclosed the use of such “quotes,” the district court’s grant of summary judgment of obviousness was vacated.

Infringement. The district court had also found that the accused system infringed. This finding was also vacated for a related reason—there were fact issues regarding whether the accused system returned “quotes” as construed (capable of acceptance) from potential buyers. (p. 19.)

Collateral estoppel. The patentee contended that the defendant should not be able to argue that its “quotes” were non-infringing based on positions it had taken in another litigation. The court agreed with the district court that collateral estoppel was not appropriate because the prior issue involved “an unrelated patent, with different asserted claims, and dissimilar claim constructions.” (p. 17.)

Indefiniteness. The defendant also argued that the claims were indefinite because a person of skill could not differentiate between the claimed “standard” and unclaimed non-standard goods and services. While noting that completely subjective claim terms were improper, the court rejected this argument, finding that a person of skill could determine what was standard once a market was chosen. “To hold otherwise would require the patent to list every possible good or service. This court does not load the indefiniteness requirement with this unreasonable baggage. Although at times difficult to determine the bounds of a “standard” product or service, a person having ordinary skill in the art will possess an understanding of the system that will supply an objective definition to the various markets and applications of the system.” (p. 21.)