Following the district court’s constructions for four claims terms, the parties stipulated to non-infringement, and the district court entered final judgment in favor of Facebook.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s constructions.

As to the meaning of the claim terms “alias” and “alias term,” the Federal Circuit agreed with the district court that “alias” is limited to textual expression (i.e., words) and does not include graphical expression or hyperlinks, as Indacon argued.  The specification defined “term” by referring to forms of textual expression. 

As to the meaning of the claim terms “custom link,” “custom linking relationship,” and “link term,” the Federal Circuit agreed with the district court’s constructions which limited each to “allowing each instance” of a link term to be identified and displayed as a link.  The Federal Circuit reasoned that terms that do not have a plain or established meaning in the art can be construed only as broadly as provided for by the disclosure in the specification, even in the absence of a disavowal or disclaimer. Addressing Indacon’s argument that certain statements made by the patentee during prosecution could not form the basis of a disavowal, the Federal Circuit noted that the public has the right to rely on such statements without having to figure out how they were understood by the examiner.  The Federal Circuit also reiterated that the doctrine of claim differentiation does not apply to independent claims, especially where the claims are not otherwise identical in scope. 

Indacon, Inc. v. Facebook, Inc., Case No. 2015-1129 (June 6, 2016); Opinion by: Stoll, joined by Newman and Reyna; Appealed From: United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Garcia, J.  Read the full opinion here.

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