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Zeroclick, LLC v. Apple Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

June 1, 2018

ZEROCLICK, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
APPLE INC., Defendant-Appellee

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in No. 3:15-cv-04417-JST, Judge Jon S. Tigar.

          Brian David Ledahl, Russ August & Kabat, Los Angeles, CA, argued for plaintiff-appellant. Also represented by Marc Aaron Fenster.

          Joseph R. Palmore, Morrison & Foerster LLP, Washington, DC, argued for defendant-appellee. Also represented by Seth W. Lloyd, Brian Robert Matsui; Scott F. Llewellyn, Denver, CO.

          Before Reyna, Taranto, and Hughes, Circuit Judges.

          Hughes, Circuit Judge.

         Zeroclick, LLC sued Apple Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, asserting claims 2 and 52 of U.S. Patent No. 7, 818, 691 and claim 19 of U.S. Patent No. 8, 549, 443. The district court found the asserted claims invalid for indefiniteness, reasoning that the claims recited means-plus-function terms for which the specifications do not disclose sufficient structure. Because the district court failed to undertake the relevant inquiry and make related factual findings to support its conclusion that the asserted claims recited means-plus-function terms, we vacate and remand.

         I

         The '691 and '443 patents relate to modifications to the graphical user interfaces of devices such as computers and mobile phones, modifications that allow the interfaces to be controlled using pre-defined pointer or touch movements instead of mouse clicks.[1] J.A. 3-4. More specifically, the claimed invention contemplates updating existing user interface programs by using a two-step method recited in claims 2 and 52 of the '691 patent, or by making two configuration changes to the user interface code as recited in claim 19 of the '443 patent.

         Claim 2 of the '691 patent recites:

2. A graphical user interface (GUI), which may comprise an update of an existing program, that may fully operate a GUI by a two step method of movement of a pointer (0) to operate one or more functions within the GUI, wherein, said existing program is any existing program that can operate the movement of the pointer (0) over a screen (300) and has one or more functions operated by one or more other methods apart from said two step method,
and/or one or more functions operated by said one or more other methods in said existing program can be updated to operate by said two step method,
wherein said GUI executes one or more functions within the GUI by the completion of the following said two step method:
first said pointer (0) is immediately adjacent or passes within a control area (1), which is an area of the screen (300) that may be any size including from a pixel on the screen (300) to occupying the whole screen (300), and
second by the completion of a subsequent movement of said pointer (0) according to a specified movement generates a 'click' event, thereby triggering one ...

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