What is a Markman Hearing?
A Markman hearing is a proceeding before a federal district court judge in which the judge decides the meaning of certain words and phrases of a patent claim. The outcome of a Markman hearing is known as a claim construction.
Why does the Markman hearing matter?
The claims of a patent define the scope of the protection the patent confers upon the inventor. A judge’s narrow interpretation of a claim word or phrase may weaken an inventor’s ability to pursue claims of patent infringement. Conversely, a broad interpretation can make the claim vulnerable to invalidation on the grounds of obviousness or anticipation.
What happens during the Markman hearing?
Each party presents evidence about what it believes to be the correct interpretation of the claim language. The most persuasive type of evidence regarding a claim’s meaning is intrinsic evidence, which includes the patent claims, the patent specification, and the patent’s prosecution history. The patent specification may, for instance, include special definitions given to words that later appear in the claim.
But parties may also introduce extrinsic evidence, such as testimony from the inventor, definitions from technical and general dictionaries, and testimony from an expert in the relevant field. Extrinsic evidence cannot, however, be used to change a claim’s meaning if the meaning is apparent from the intrinsic evidence.
After reviewing the evidence presented by all the parties, the judge must pronounce as a matter of law his or her construction of the claim language. That construction will then govern the remainder of the litigation.
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