MOVE, INC. v. REAL ESTATE ALLIANCE LTD.
United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit.
Decided: March 22, 2011.
The court acknowledged that the plain language of the claim, creating a database "of" properties, rather than "for" properties, implies that the database is populated with properties when it is created. The court reasoned, however, that "the database is not populated by the inventor, but rather by third-party users, who wish to sell a property." J.A. 15. The court further noted that the claimed database is "dynamic and not fixed," and concluded that "the database is not `created' anew each time the database is updated with a new property listing file." Id. The court further stated that it was "not sure what the inventor could possibly have patented beyond the structure and the schema that permits this dynamic process of database population and maintenance to occur." J.A. 16.
On appeal, REAL argues, and we agree, that the plain language of the claim precludes the district court's construction. The claim recites creating a database of available properties. Thus, the database must be populated with at least two properties upon creation. These available properties are first mentioned in the preamble, and they are displayed in step (g) and identified in step (h). Moreover, dependent claims 7-11 require that "the database. . . created in step (a)" includes available residential properties, commercial properties, and rental properties. Accordingly, we conclude that the result of the creating step is a database populated with available properties.
REAL also argues that the district court's construction improperly limits "database" to databases having tables and fields, and that the term database is broad enough to encompass a sequential list database with no tables or fields—e.g., a flat file. We agree. Nothing in the specification limits the term database to any particular type of database. "Absent a clear disavowal or contrary definition in the specification or the prosecution history, the patentee is entitled to the full scope of its claim language." Home Diagnostics, Inc. v. Lifescan, Inc., 381 F.3d 1352, 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2004). Nothing before us indicates that the inventor disavowed any particular database implementation. Accordingly, we conclude that step (a) means creating a database containing data representing two or more available real estate properties.II. Steps (c), (f) — Selecting an Area
The district court construed step (c), "selecting a first area having boundaries . . ." to mean a user "choosing a geographic area of interest by causing a boundary to be superimposed over the displayed map using the first area selection cursor." J.A. 16. According to the district court, to practice the claimed invention, the user manipulates the resizable first area selection cursor to enclose the area to be selected. For example, the '989 patent at FIG. 3A, col.1 ll.49-68, and col.9 ll.37-56 describes the user moving and resizing a resizable rectangular "window box" or "rubberband" on the map to define an area before zooming in on that selected area. The district court similarly construed step (f), "selecting a second area having boundaries . . .," to mean "choosing a search area by causing a boundary to be superimposed over the displayed map using the second area selection cursor." J.A. 16. An example may be seen at FIG. 3B, illustrating a user positioning a rubberband circle to define the second area. '989 patent, col.9 ll.57-65.
Thus, the district court's construction limits these selecting steps to a user defining and selecting an area using a resizable selection tool. The district court stated that its construction was "in keeping with the meaning [it] gave these terms" when construing the parent '576 patent. J.A. 6, 8. The terms construed for the '576 patent, however, included "selecting a landmark" and "first area selection cursor," which are not recited in this claim.
1. Selecting an Area Does Not Require Defining the Area