Ex parte Jourdan
Appeal 2008-005499, Appl. No. 10/676,310, Tech. Center 2100
Decided July 19, 2010
The claims were directed to microprocessor technology, and specifically, to multiple branch paths in a microprocessor. The Applicant attempted to distinguish the reference by arguing that "Sharangapani teaches a single assignment to a group of instructions rather than an assignment to 'each of a plurality of micro-operations'." The Applicant further argued that "the cited claim language as a whole explicitly requires that a separate ID is assigned to each of a plurality of micro-operations."
The Board found:
Here, claim 1 does not require that the ID assigned to each operation be "separate" i.e., unique. We refuse to read such a requirement into the representative claim. Assigning the same ID to each micro-operation in one of the reference's instruction streams is enough to anticipate the disputed limitations.
My two cents: This is an example of what I call devious claim construction: the Examiner/Board interpreted the claim in a way that is unconventional, but is perhaps not as unreasonable as it appears at first glance, once you've heard the explanation.
I can think of various ways to express the feature of assigning different identifiers.
- #1: assigning a different identifier to each of a plurality of micro-operations
- #2: assigning each of a plurality of different identifiers to each of a plurality of micro-operations
- #3: assigning a different one of a plurality of identifiers to each of a plurality of micro-operations
- #4: assigning a different identifier of a plurality of identifiers to each of a plurality of micro-operations
- #5: uniquely assigning an identifier to each of a plurality of micro-operations
Some would say that #3 limits you to a single identifier per operation, but that there is no such limitation in #1 or #2 (one vs. a).
#2, #3 and #4 may be more convenient if you want to refer later in in the claim to the plurality of different identifiers. Some Examiners may tell you that there is no antecedent basis for the plurality of different identifiers in the #1.
I don't like #5 because I think the accused infringer will argue that "unique" is way more narrow than "different." As in, "unique across all the world and across all time." On the other hand, "differently assigning" just sounds kinda funny. But in some scenarios, modifying the verb (assigning) rather than the noun (identifier) might give you different scope.
Related Posts: I see the basic issue here as a variation on "ambiguous relationships between elements", which I posted about here.