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Combining Known Modulation with Known Wireless Technology

Posted by James Juo | Aug 22, 2023 | 0 Comments

Obviousness is a question of law based on underlying factual findings. In re NTP, Inc., 654 F.3d 1279, 1297 (Fed. Cir. 2011). On appeal, factual findings are reviewed for substantial evidence, while legal conclusions are reviewed de novo. Gen. Elec. Co. v. Raytheon Techs. Corp., 983 F.3d 1334, 1345 (Fed. Cir. 2020). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938); see also Consolo v. Fed. Mar. Comm'n, 383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966) (“the possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not prevent an administrative agency's finding from being supported by substantial evidence”).

Relaying Key Code Signals Through a Remote Control Device

In Universal Electronics, Inc. v. Roku, Inc., No. 21-1992 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 18, 2023) (nonprecedential) (Newman, J.), the Federal Circuit found there was substantial evidence supporting the PTAB's findings for the obviousness of patents entitled “Relaying Key Code Signals Through a Remote Control Device.”

The patents-in-suit relate “to relaying key code signals through a remote control device to operate an electronic consumer device . . . such as televisions, stereo radios, digital video disk players, video cassette recorders, set-top cable television boxes and set-top satellite boxes.” U.S. Patent No. 7,589,642 (col. 1, ll. 6–16). The patents-in-suit discuss problems of electronic remote control technology and describe a method to relay a key code through a “remote control device to control a selected one of multiple different electronic consumer devices without requiring the codeset associated with the selected electronic consumer device to be stored on the remote control device.” Id., col. 1, ll. 51–55.

          The Board found that [the prior art references] describe wirelessly transmitting a key code signal from a set-top box to a remote control. The Board found that a person of ordinary skill in this field would have been motivated to combine known modulation techniques with known wireless transmission, for the references are in closely related fields of endeavor, and the Board's conclusion was supported by expert testimony and citations to relevant references.

          The parties repeat the debate on this appeal. We conclude that substantial evidence supports the Board's findings concerning the combination of references, in turn supporting the Board's conclusion that it would have been obvious to a skilled artisan to combine [certain prior art] modulation and timing information with the wireless key code transmission of [other prior art]. This conclusion is founded on the content of the references and the expert testimony, and is in accordance with law.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB's decisions of invalidity of the claims at issue because a skilled artisan would have been motivated to combine known wireless transmission technology with known modulation techniques.

The patent attorneys at Thomas P. Howard, LLC enforce patents and defend against infringement in litigation nationwide including in Colorado.

About the Author

James Juo

James Juo is an experienced intellectual property attorney. He has successfully litigated various intellectual property disputes involving patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. He also has counseled clients on the scope and validity of patent and trademark rights.


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