TIRE PRESSURE COURT RULING

In a ruling issued April 4, 2017, the Federal Circuit has upheld a PTAB decision to invalidate claims 1-5, 10-19, and 21 of patent 5,602,524 to Wasica Finance GmbH and Bleuarc Finance AG (the ‘524 patent).  The ‘524 patent is related to a tire pressure monitoring system where pressure data received from respective pressure measuring devices are sent to corresponding receivers with corresponding, unique identification signals that specify the original transmitter.  The Federal Circuit found that the claims were anticipated by Italian Patent No. 1,219,753 (“Oselin”) and/or obvious over Oselin and various secondary references.  Oselin discloses vehicular systems for monitoring tire pressure.  The crux of the asserted differences between the claims of the ‘524 patent and Oselin lied in the construction of the claim terms “pressure measuring device,” “electrical pressure signal,” and “pressure transmitting signal.”  Therein, Wasica asserted Oselin failed to disclose such elements because Oselin disclosed a switch-type pressure sensor that output a binary normal/abnormal pressure signal, while the pressure signals claimed in the ‘524 patent “as properly construed” require a numerical representation of the tire’s pressure.  Both the Board and the Court disagreed with this construction of the pressure signals, ruling that the terms as broadly understood do not require a numerical representation, nor does the ‘524 specification require the terms to be limited to a numerical representation. 

Thus, one take-home lesson from the ruling is that while broad claims may seem to be the most-desirable option for wide coverage of an invention, broad claims may be hard to defend if the claim terms are not clearly defined in the claims themselves.  Relying on the Board or Court to “properly construe” generally broad claim terms may be risky, should the claims come under re-examination.