Netlist v. Diablo ContinuesJuly 26, 2017

    On July 25, 2017, the Federal Circuit released a nonprecedential opinion vacating the Board’s decisions and remanding for further proceedings because of erroneous construction of certain language. The Board had previously deemed claims 15-17, 22, 24, 26 and 31-33 of U.S. Patent No. 7,881,150 and claims 1, 16, 17, 24 and 30-31 of U.S. Patent No. 8,081,536 obvious over prior art and therefore unpatentable. These patents cover designs for a memory module in a computer system.


    Netlist obtained these patents at a time when computers were limited in capacity for the number of memory modules that could be used without increasing the electrical load on a computer system. The ‘150 and ‘536 patents claim to solve this problem by providing a circuit activating only memory devices the computer is accessing, while electrically isolating memory devices that are not being accessed.

    The specific claim language at issue included “circuit configured to be mounted on a memory module,” “selectively isolating/isolate,” and “selectively electrically coupling.”

    To begin, the Board previously construed the term “circuit configured to be mounted on a memory module” as “circuitry configured to be mounted on at least a portion of a memory module,” which encompasses “at least a portion of circuitry configured to be mounted on at least a portion of a memory module.” The Court agreed with the Board in this instance.

    Next, the Board previously construed “selectively electrically coupling” as “making a selection between at least two components so as to transfer power or signal information from one selected component to at least the other selected component.” The Court agreed with Netlist on this term, and instead construed “selectively electrically coupling” as to coupling or decoupling specific data lines, and not the overall process of selecting components. The Court further explained that the Board erroneously construed “selectively isolating/isolate” based on the same analysis.

    The Court vacated the Board’s opinions with respect to the ‘150 and ‘536 patents and remanded for further proceedings.

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