The Art of the Claim Chart
Protecting your company’s intellectual property is a vital business practice. IP protection ensures that the unique elements of your products and processes are protected and solidifies your standing in the industry. When it comes to patentable technology, patent claims are your first line of defense as they put the world on notice to the subject area and boundaries of your invention. When a competitor crosses those lines, crying “foul” isn’t going to stop him from making or using your patented invention—you have to prove it!
In the patent world, claims charts are used to illustrate how a real-world product or service is allegedly infringing your patent claim . Infringement must be proven by showing that the product or service (the “use”) infringes each and every element of the asserted claims. It is a detailed process that results in a simplified, aesthetically pleasing, textual and graphical comparison of the claims and the potentially infringing use. Because claim charts navigate the features of the product or service using claim terms, the explained potential infringement is often referred to as a “mapping.”
The depth of a claim chart can be dependent upon how it will be used. For instance, general claim charts, or other charts demonstrating “Evidence of Use,” may provide an overview of a patent’s claims and how a family of products or materials may be covered by those claims. Highly sophisticated claims charts will have more details from a thorough investigation of the products and services, and often point to support from the patent’s written specification to bolster an interpretation of a claim term. Generalized claim charts are typically used as internal tools to communicate about existing products and IP, and are typically used as stepping stones for licensing strategies. The more highly sophisticated claim charts are a necessary step for demonstrating actual infringement of each claim element and examining possible interpretations of the claim in preparation for patent litigation.
Claim Charts in Court
Highly sophisticated claim charts are a necessity when preparing to go to court. The claim charts will be the basis for the majority of petitions, briefs, and reports presented to the court. They are a vital tool in quickly and simply demonstrating the claims of the patent in relation to the product, service or other use in question. During trials, certain technologies and uses may require a more delicate approach as presenting the most-detailed claim charts may be overwhelming to anyone without an advanced degree. Claim charts must be tailored to the situation.
Whether asserting your patent rights against an alleged infringer or defending a product against a company’s patent infringement claim, well-planned, highly-developed claim charts set the tone of the trial and convey a depth of understanding and support that cannot be accomplished with other tools.
Knowledge is Power
In addition to the complex technology in the subject matter of some patents, patent laws can be complicated—and so can patent claims. It is unwise to expect that each person in the courtroom has the ability to evaluate claim language at a level that is necessary to quickly compare the claim to the product and make a determination of infringement. Claim charts lay out the claim elements, as well as the corresponding, allegedly infringing features of the use, in a way that the infringement (or non-infringement) is plain to the viewer. Claim charts are the accepted way of communicating complex process and analysis findings without burying the courtroom in high-tech jargon or legalese.
Perhaps the most powerful use of claim charts during trial is when they are explained by your expert witness. A well-qualified expert who can compare and explain each element of the claim and how the product- or service-in-question infringes is often the focal point of a patent infringement trial. Through declarations, expert reports, rebuttal reports, depositions, testimony and other presentations, the expert witness has the opportunity to walk a judge and jury through the alleged infringement with ease via the claim charts.
Burden of Proof
The hard truth is that it can be extremely difficult for the accusing company to win a case of patent infringement. Public policy is generally in favor of allowing businesses to grow and promoting a free marketplace where individuals are permitted to develop products and services without the fear of a meritless patent infringement claim.
To that end, the burden of proof lies with the accuser. If your patent is being infringed, it is advantageous to develop a detailed and comprehensive claim chart that clearly demonstrates the relationship between the patent claims and the suspect product or service. The clear and logical presentation of this information may mean the difference between winning and losing.
Many patent professionals, experts, and attorneys assert their proficiency at developing the most sophisticated claim charts. As claim charts are typically the basis of any patent infringement case, the key is to find an experienced team with industry knowledge and expert insight to help develop a rock solid case for you and your company’s needs.
Ready to learn more about claim charts and how to develop a winning patent infringement case? Contact the patent portfolio experts at TechPats today.