construction. The text of these claims appears in full in the Appendix.
In general, the `984 patent describes a system for use with a telephone
network that controls callers' access to interactive voice applications
to prevent misuse. The system can restrict callers' access to interactive
voice applications by qualifying calls in different modes, such as "800"
mode, "900" mode, or area code mode.
1. Claim 4
a. "First Response Unit Means"
The first term presented by the parties to the Court for construction
from the `984 patent is "first response unit means." The term in context
reads "first response unit means for receiving calls in said `800' call
mode." The plaintiffs argue that this term is not subject to
means-plus-function analysis, despite the use of the word "means."
The Court concludes that "first response unit means" is not subject to
means plus function analysis, despite the presumption to the contrary due
to the word "means." The article presented by the plaintiffs, entitled
"AT & T 2: Reaches Agreement with Rockwell" and dated August 26, 1986,
discusses the use of audio response units in merging computer speech
technology with automatic call distribution systems. (Ex. 362). The Court
concludes that this article demonstrates that the term "audio response
unit" or "ARU" was used by people in the art of computer telephony and
would have connoted sufficient structure to those of ordinary skill in
the art at the time. See Greenberg v. Ethicon Endo- Surgery, Inc.,
91 F.3d 1580, 1583 (Fed.Cir. 1996).
The parties also dispute the meaning of the term "800 call mode" which
appears in the same limitation. The plaintiffs contend that this term
encompasses "800," "888," and other "toll-free" calls. The defendants
agree with this construction, but argue that the term encompasses any
call in which the charges are reversed and the call is free to the
caller, including foreign access calls and "collect" calls.
Column 1, line 66 through Column 2, line 2 of the `984 patent provides
that "[t]elephone calls may be accommodated without charge using `800'
service or calling mode. Generally, the `800' calling mode accommodates
free calls by callers in various areas to a particular station incurring
the charges." The Court concludes that it is not proper to determine at
the construction stage whether "foreign access calls" and the like are
specifically encompassed in the term "800 call mode." The Court agrees
with the parties that the proper construction of "800 call mode" is: a
toll-free call, ie. a call in which the caller is not charged for the
call, such as an "800" or "888" call and the like.
b. "Qualification Means"
The term "qualification means" appears in context as "qualification
means for qualifying said calls in said `800' call mode received by said
first response unit to provide qualified calls." The parties agree that
this term is subject to means- plus-function analysis under § 112,
Column 4 lines 9 through 14 of the `984 patent provide that "with
overall supervision by the control unit 28, the audio response units,
18, 20, and 22 answer and preliminarily qualify callers from the
terminals T1-TN for connection through the coupler 24. to the interface
processor 26." Column 4, lines 47 through 50 provide that "`[t]he audio
response unit 18 is coupled to a free-call memory 32.' Generally, the
unit 18 in cooperation with the memory 32 operates with the control unit
28 to qualify acceptable calls in the `800' mode."
The Court concludes that "qualification means" is subject to
means-plus-function analysis. The Court concludes that the structures
which correspond to the means and perform the function of qualifying said
calls in `800' call mode are the audio response unit 18, control unit
28, and the free-call memory 32 in Figure 1 and the
required software to perform the function of qualifying callers.
c. "Second Response Unit Means for Receiving Calls in a Second Call
The third limitation in Claim 1 of the `984 patent, upon which Claim 4
depends, provides for a "second response unit means for receiving calls
in a second call mode." The parties' dispute the meaning of the term
"second call mode." The plaintiffs contend that the second call mode
could encompass anything other than the 800 call mode, which is called
out in the first limitation of the claim. The defendants contend that the
second call mode must encompass a 900 call mode because a 900 call mode
is called out in the preamble to the claim.
The preamble of Claim 4, which appears Claim 1, reads in part "[a]
telephone call processing system for receiving calls from a multitude of
terminals in different call modes including an `800' call mode and a
`900' call mode." The central dispute is whether the recitation of "`900'
call mode" in the preamble is a limitation on the claim such that the
second call mode called out in the third limitation must be a 900 call
In determining whether the preamble is an additional limitation to the
claim, a court must divine the function that the words of the preamble
serve. If the claim preamble recites structural limitations of the
invention, a court should consider the preamble a limitation on the
claim. See Rowe v. Dror, 112 F.3d 473, 478 (Fed. Cir. 1997). If the claim
preamble recites a purpose or intended use for the invention in the
preamble and the claim body recites a structurally complete invention, the
preamble is not a claim limitation. Id. The patent as a whole should be
reviewed to determine whether the preamble is structural or a mere
statement of the purpose or use of the invention. Id.
The preamble of Claim 1 of the `984' patent calls out a system "for
receiving calls from a multitude of terminals in different call modes
including an `800' call mode and a `900' call mode." This quoted language
does not invoke or refer to any structure of the invention. Similarly,
the second response unit limitation recites that the second response unit
receives calls in a second call mode. This language describes no
structure as well. Thus, the Court concludes that the plain language of
the Claim 1 indicates that the term "900 call mode" describes a function
of managing the calls or a use of the invention, rather than a structural
component of the system.
The specification is consistent with the claim language. Column 1,
lines 54 through 66 of the `984 patent provides that
[t]he `900' calling mode is useful for implementing
games and contest with telephone interface systems;
however, certain problems are encountered.
Specifically, certain telephone terminals, e.g. pay
phones, do not accommodate `900' service. Also, with
respect to certain forms of games and contests, it is
important to offer members of the public an
alternative `free' method of participation. In
general, the system of the present invention may be
employed to implement `900' calling modes while
accommodating `free' participation with reasonable
This passage indicates that the invention may be used with a 900 call
mode as a method of solving the problems discussed in the specification.
Column 2, lines 3 through 17 discusses the problems with using
traditional area code numbers with interface systems, including the
possibility that an overwhelming number of people will respond. This
passage indicates that another use of the invention is addressing problems
with area code calls. Thus, the Court concludes that using a 900 call
mode is only one of the uses of the invention.