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Plain meaning

A defining moment for the value of a patent comes during the Markman hearing in a patent infringement lawsuit, when the judge determines the meanings of terms found in the disputed claims. Judges may use any of several methods to decide the definitions of claims, which will be used throughout the trial and will form the basis of the arguments for and against infringement as well as validity of the patents themselves.

Two recent rulings by judges from separate U.S. federal courts illustrate how different the interpretations can be.

Last week, Judge Jeremy Fogel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California issued a Markman ruling in two suits filed by Affymetrix Inc. (AFFX, Santa Clara, Calif.) against

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