Meta’s Claim CON-struction

In 2020, Masterobjects Inc. filed patent infringement case against Meta using four of its patents related to querying a search engine.

Key Technology:  Providing users the search results as they type a query, rather than requiring the user to input the complete search term before generating results.

Claim 1 of an asserted patent (8,539,024):

  1. A system comprising:

a server system, including one or more computers, which is configured to receive query messages from a client object, the server system asynchronously receiving and responding to the query messages from the client object over a network; 


the client object that, while a user is providing input comprising a lengthening string of characters, sends query messages to the server system;


wherein the server system, while receiving said query messages, uses the input to query data available to the server system and send return messages to the client object containing results in response to the input; and


The bone of contention was the claim construction done by META of two below terms

1)     Query message

2)     Asynchronously

Meta proposed the construction of query message such that only the changes in the user query are sent to the server to fetch the results (an embodiment of the specifications supports this). Masterobjects inc. proposed its plain and ordinary meaning and also mentioned that it’s limiting to construe claims basis one embodiment of the disclosure.

Further for the term “asynchronously” Meta suggested that server was required to initiate the communication with the client, While Masterobjects proposed that “asynchronously” term indicates the timing of communication after initiation of communication.

Masterobjects construed it like both parties’ client and server are free to communicate with each other in a non-blocking manner (and not limiting to just initiation itself). However, Meta wanted to construe it like both client and server can initiate communication at any moment in time. 

Texas Court agreed to the Masterobjects construction.

However, there is a twist in the tale, with the turn of interesting events the case moved to California and judgement was given in favor of Meta.

 The California court’s assessment:

 based on certain sections (embodiment) of the specifications concluded that just the changes are sent to the server while sending query messages to the server. Further California court refined “asynchronously” interpretation suggesting that in the specifications its mentioned that the system is bidirectional and asynchronous and therefore the client and server any of the two can initiate the communication at any moment in time.

Basis this construction California court gave summary judgement of non-infringement in favor of META.

Federal Circuit at rescue for this CON-struction:

Masterobject’s construction of “query message” as plain and ordinary meaning was retained that means the query message not limited to the just the changes but entire string typed by the user can also be sent as query message. The specification mentions just an embodiment, however Meta argued on the term” The present invention” in the context of paragraph utilized for this interpretation, however Federal circuit didn’t agree as the nothing in the claims limits it to the interpretation of only just the changes to be sent to the server. Further, even if the patent described only one embodiment in the specs doesn’t limits the claims to be construed to be limited to that embodiment.

Meta’s argument was heavily relying on suggestion that Masterobjects acted as own lexicographer and mentioned in the specifications that “bi-directional and asynchronous, in that both the Client and the Server can initiate communications at any moment in time.”  

However, court suggested that this is just limited to one embodiment and patentee didn’t act its own lexicographer there is no intent. A patentee must clearly express an intent to redefine the term. Further, the capital letter in “Client” and “Server” in the para indicates its limited to just that one embodiment/preferred embodiment in agreement with California court’s construction.

Therefore, “asynchronously” construed as after initiation of communication both the parties can initiate communication without waiting for other side.

What could be the possible reasons for these CON-structions:

May be Meta found some negative evidence for the infringement theory based on their understanding how queries are processed at the back end of its own platform. 

Further, for the asynchronously term construction as well, what if client initiates the communication wrt Meta’s systems therefore a contradictory construction that deviates from alleged infringing product may lead to non-infringement.

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