Ambercite - the “Patent Invalidator”.
While the claims for this patent are legalistic as patent claims can sometimes be, in effect it combines a:
Functional mode, for selecting an overall function for keyboard (see the four functions on the right marked with a 10 above)
A domain-level control for selecting a list of command within each function - see the four domains on the left marked with a 20 above
Input keys - marked with a 30 above. Note the differing inputs selected by these keys, which are dependent on the function and the domain
A display which shows the input that the keys are configured for - marked with a 32 above.
Are the likes of Apple and Samsung infringing this patent? We will leave this for others to assess, but I do wonder if this patent was novel and therefore patentable at its priority date. This sounds like an ideal invalidation search for Ambercite Ai. Ambercite AI uses an advanced AI algorithms to find what can be highly similar patents, irrespective of keywords or class codes used.
The priority date for this patent is 2001-09-20, so we are looking for patents published or filed before this date. The patent has granted in 2004, and there were 12 patents cited against this patent. These are well worth looking at of course, but the beauty of a search tool such as Ambercite Ai is that it can also find so called ‘unknown citations’ - what can be highly relevant patents but not previously recognised as prior art.
How to search for prior art for US6703963 using the Ambercite AI search tool
This search is very straightforward - simply being the query shown below. We limited the results to those with a priority before October 2001 as the priority date for US6703693 was September 2001. This search, not surprisingly, returned 100 results (click on this image to see a fully interactive set of results)
The first handful of results is shown below, and in the top four results there are three ‘known’ citations, and one ‘unknown’ citation.
Altogether there were 87 unknown citations in this list of 100 similar patents. Each of these unknown citations may be of value in litigation as it is new information, i.e. has not been examined in depth by the examiner when they decided to grant US6703963. They can also be in patent reexamination as they are unlikely to blocked by patent file estoppel.
In fact, it is a more subtle than this, in this particular case. Ambercite looks at patents on a ‘family by family’ basis, and a ‘Known’ citation is a known citation to any member of the patent family - which can be later members. In this case there were 18 family members in total, including seven US family members, with application dates ranging from 2002 to 2014. It is possible that this led to 18 different patent searches. But if we concentrate on the asserted US6703963, there are only a small number of citations listed for this particular patent, which are shown below;
If we cross match the above list against say the top 10 list of found patents in the Ambercite search (i.e. what Ambercite thinks are the 10 most relevant against the above list of patents), only one of these patents is found in the Ambercite top 10 list, name US6348878, in 8th position on the Ambercite list. The other nine patents have not been directly cited against the asserted patent, and so were not considered by the US examiner during the examination of US6703963. They may very well disclose US6703963.
These nine patents include, for example the 5th ranked patent US6256020 Computer-telephony integration employing an intelligent keyboard and method for same which has a priority date of 1997, and which was (in PCT form) first published in 1998.
This patent appears to be pretty relevant as prior art to me. There are many others, including the 12th ranked ‘Unknown’ patent US4823311 Calculator keyboard with user definable function keys and with programmably alterable interactive labels for certain function keys, that have never been cited against any family member.
And there are a number of other patents in the list that are also relevant, right down to this patent in 89th position, such as US4447692, for a Control system for a interactive display.
Is this a case study of a “Patent Invalidator” in action?
While Ambercite does not work as well in all patent invalidation searches, in this case this process was both simple to do, fast, and led to significant outcomes. Ambercite truly can be a patent invalidator when given an opportunity (and in even more so if Ambercite is used in Augmented Searching mode, as discussed below.
What does this mean for patent attorneys and lawyers?
Some implications are obvious - if a patent is being asserted against your client, it is well worth running this patent through Ambercite to see what prior art is found.
But there is a second, perhaps less obvious implication, for patents attorneys and lawyers acting for patent owners. These attorneys are sometime happy to base their assertion on the status of the patent, i.e. if the patent is currently granted, it has been examined by a patent office and certified to be valid. But is it? A determination of validity is only an opinion at a point in time by an examiner, and sometimes examiners fail to find all of the relevant prior art, like the rest of us. As an attorney you are obligated to act in the best interests of the client, and sometimes this means questioning just how valid a granted patent may be. It can be embarrassing and expensive to commence the patent litigation process to then find out that the patent may not stand up under invalidation proceedings.
A full prior art search may be unrealistic for every patent assertion you run - this can be time consuming and end up replicating the examination process. But an Ambercite search such as the one above is easy, simple, and by using a very different process to a conventional prior art search, is a long way from replicating the original search, as this case study shows.
So for a patent attorney, lawyer or their clients, spending 5 to 10 minutes running an Ambercite search to check that there is nothing obvious that is going to knock out their asserted patent can be regarded as a form of appropriate due diligence, so providing a form of insurance for their professional reputation.
Want to try Ambercite for yourself?
Simply visit our website, sign up for a trial license, and you to could be using Ambercite to strengthen your patent searching.