Monday, August 31, 2009

BPAI ignores Applicant's definition of DSP (Ex parte Giacalone)

Ex parte Giacalone
Decided August 10, 2009
(Appeal 2009-004743, Appl. No. 10/242,202, Tech. Center 2100)

In Ex parte Giacalone, one of the main issues considered by the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences was the meaning of the term "digital signal processor" (DSP). The Examiner parsed the individual words in the claim and took the position that a DSP is a "processor that processes signals in a digital form." (Examiner's Answer, p.5.) The Applicant provided two definitions of the term DSP as understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art: a special-purpose microprocessor designed specifically for digital signal processing; and a special-purpose CPU for used for digital signal processing applications. (Reply Brief, p. 3.) The Applicant also provided a definition of "digital signal processing", and then argued that the Examiner had provided no evidence that the video coprocessor in the Hong reference was specialized/special-purpose for digital signal processing. (Reply Brief, pp. 3-4.)

The Board brought in its own definition of "digital signal processing." (Manipulating images, sounds, and other real-world signals, Decision, p. 7.) Based on this definition, the Board found that the coprocessor in Hong was a DSP because "it processes video, i.e. images." (Decision, p. 8.)

The Board got one thing right: it ignored the Examiner's unreasonably broad definition of DSP, which would make every processor a DSP since "processor" already implies digital. However, it appears that the Board ignored the special-purpose/specialized aspect of the DSP definition provided by the Applicant.

In doing so, I say the Board got this one wrong. The issue isn't the type of data (here, video) that is processed the processor must be designed to process certain types of data, typically through specialized instructions (as noted in the Applicant's definition).

In finding that the Hong reference "processes video," the Board also misunderstood Hong. The Board quoted Hong as disclosing "a video processor 200 [which] is a coprocessor in a system or integrated circuit that includes a control processor (CPU) and input/output resources such as a video interface unit." (Decision, p. 7.)  So Hong does teach that the system as a whole especially the codec processes video. But the only thing that video processor 200 itself does is perform a quantization operation on particular inputs.

I think the Applicant had another good argument which wasn't made: that Hong's block 200 was not a processor even though it was described as one. A person of ordinary skill in the art understands "processor" as an entity that executes instructions, while "video processor 200" is a single-purpose logic block which always performs a quantization operation on a divisor input and a dividend input.

Note that the Applicant submitted an actual definition for the term at issue, rather than merely making argument about what the term means. If you merely argue about the meaning of a term, without providing evidence, you're vulnerable to the Board ignoring your argument as "mere attorney argument."

No comments: