DSS TECHNOLOGY MANAGEMENT, INC. v. APPLE INC., 16-2523, 16-2524, decided March 23, 2018

U.S. Patent No. 6, 128,290, directed to wireless for single hose and multiple peripherals.

In “low duty cycle pulsed mode of operation,” each peripheral and the base station are allocated a subset of time slots for communications, allowing power down at other times (page 3).  The transmitters are “energized in low duty cycle RF bursts” (pages 4-5).  In an obviousness decision, the Board held that Natarajan taught the limitation by teaching scheduled access multi-access protocol for the mobile units, alleging it would have been plainly obvious to do the same in an base station (pages 5-9).  The obviousness is based on the power conservation, which is taught for battery-operated mobile devices and within the skill to apply to a base station (pages 9-10).  The Federal Circuit noted that reliance on common sense and common knowledge supplies a missing limitation only where unusually simple and particularly straightforward (page 11).  The Boards use of “ordinary creativity” was not enough (page 12).  Since a complex communications protocol is used, it is not unusually simple or particularly straightforward to apply low duty cycle to the base station (page 12).

Hindsight:  It does seem a simple thing to apply the duty cycle to the base station, but the complexities in the specification lead two Judges of the panel to think otherwise.  While a better written opinion by the Broad may have resulted in a different decision, the specification including details indicating complexity helps.  It may be better to include more detail even for simple seeming changes.