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Weil Secures Summary Judgment and Complete Federal Circuit Victory for Microsoft in Patent Dispute

On May 22, 2015, Weil obtained a significant victory on behalf of Microsoft Corp. when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court’s rulings granting summary judgment of non-infringement and invalidity on patent claims asserted by Allvoice Developments US LLC. Plaintiff Allvoice alleged Microsoft infringed its patent on software that creates an interface between speech-recognition and word processing programs and that Microsoft Word and the Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 operating systems infringed the asserted patent. Allvoice’s Complaint sought an injunction and treble damages for alleged willful infringement.

Allvoice originally filed the Complaint in 2009 in the Eastern District of Texas, claiming that Microsoft's accused products infringed U.S. Patent No. 5,799,273 (the ’273 patent), entitled “Automated proofreading using interface linking recognized words to their audio data while text is being changed.” Weil filed a motion to transfer the case to the Western District of Washington, where Microsoft is headquartered, though the district court in Texas denied the transfer. The Weil team then petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, seeking a writ of mandamus ordering transfer of the case – a form of relief that is available only in “extraordinary situations.” In a precedential opinion, the Federal Circuit ordered the transfer of the case on January 5, 2011.

After the case was transferred, Weil successfully argued before the Washington district court that certain of the asserted patent claims were invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 because they merely claim intangible software instructions without any hardware limitations. Because these claims fail to recite a manufacture or any other statutorily-recognized category of patentable subject matter, the court granted partial summary judgment of invalidity. As to the remaining asserted patent claims, Weil successfully argued that Microsoft’s accused products do not employ several required features of the ’273 patent, including “link data,” “audio identifiers,” and “selectively disabling” the speech recognition engine to store audio messages. As a result, the court ruled in Microsoft’s favor, granting summary judgment of non-infringement on all remaining claims.

On appeal, Allvoice argued that the invalidity determination should be reversed, contending that the claimed software instructions must necessarily be in the form of a tangible manufacture in order to exist. Rejecting Allvoice’s argument, the Federal Circuit affirmed the summary judgment of invalidity under 35 U.S.C. § 101 because the claims do not recite a process or a tangible or physical object.

Allvoice further argued that the non-infringement determination should be reversed, contending that the district court abused its discretion in determining that (i) Allvoice’s infringement contentions did not disclose its only infringement theory for the “link data” limitation, and (ii) Allvoice was not diligent in seeking to amend its infringement contentions as required by the court’s local patent rules. Allvoice further contended that the district court erred in adopting Microsoft’s construction of “link data.” The Federal Circuit rejected Allvoice’s arguments, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion or err in claim construction. Because Allvoice had no admissible theory as to how Microsoft’s products allegedly satisfied the “link data” limitation, the Federal Circuit affirmed the summary judgment of non-infringement.

Weil partner David Lender argued the appeal. The team also included partner Doug McClellan in Houston and associate Melissa Hotze in Houston.