Post-Verdict Claim Construction: Impermissible Reconstruction or Permissible Clarification?

Author: Shawn S. Chang
Editor: Jeff T. Watson

In Wi-LAN, Inc. v. Apple Inc., Nos. 14-1437, -1485 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 8, 2016), the Federal Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of JMOL of no invalidity, finding the court’s reconstruction of the claims altered the scope of the original construction.

The Federal Circuit explained: “[I]t is too late at the JMOL stage to argue for or adopt a new and more detailed interpretation of the claim language and test the jury verdict by that new and more detailed interpretation.” Slip op. at 16 (quoting Hewlett-Packard Co. v. Mustek Sys., Inc., 340 F.3d 1314, 1321 (Fed. Cir. 2003)). According to the Court, the original construction did not provide for a certain component required by the district court’s new claim construction, and nothing in the portions of the specification that were identified for the jury mentioned that component.

The Court explained that a district court may “adjust constructions post-trial if the court merely elaborates on a meaning inherent in the previous construction” or makes “plain . . . what should have been obvious to the jury.”  Given the parties did not agree whether the terms required the specific component, however, the Court found the inclusion of the component was not obvious to the jury, and the post-verdict reconstruction went beyond clarifying a meaning inherent in the construction or making plain what should have been obvious to the jury.

 

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