printer and electronic processing circuitry can be
structures for outputting data, nothing in the patent specifications
links those structures to the CCD for data output — instead they
are linked with the dart games themselves (see 5:57-59, 7:54-57,
Merit proposes that "connecting" be construed as meaning "establishing
an electrical continuity between" the CCD and dart games (M. Mem.
11-12). That proposal is drawn primarily from the definition of
"connection" found in an electrical engineering dictionary.
But even apart from Merit's potentially suspect transmutation from
"connecting" (the word used in Patent '155) to "connection,"*fn11
Merit's attempt to engraft the word "electrical" as a limitation on the
term "connecting" is inappropriate for several reasons, As indicated
earlier, the relevant art here is not electrical engineering per se.
Further, a dictionary definition may not be used if it contradicts or
varies the claim language (Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1584), and that is
precisely what Merit's proposed definition would do here. Nothing in
Patent '155 specifies that the connection between the CCD and the dart
games must be "electrical." It is at least questionable whether the
preferred embodiment of a modem qualifies as an "electrical" connection
and another specified embodiment — the use of game cards and
routemen — obviously does not include electrical connection.*fn12
Intrinsic evidence from Patent '155 plainly supports Arachnid's
construction of "connecting" as having the less restricted meaning of
simply joining in a communications path (A. Mem. 26-28). That
construction is adopted.
"via a communication medium"
Merit again proposes a construction paraphrased from definitions in an
electrical engineering dictionary: "the physical environment by which an
electromagnetic communication signal may travel between two points
without signal alternation or modification" (M. Mem. 13). Once again that
proposal seeks to impose restrictions that are in no way supported by the
intrinsic patent evidence. Patent '155 lists a number of possible
communication media: telephone lines and modems, electric wires and
routemen manually transporting player and operator cards. That normal and
nonrestrictive meaning is adopted.
Merit asserts at its Mem. 15-16 that for communication to be
bidirectional, "data must proceed in both directions while the
communication is occurring" (M. Mem. 15). In an effort to support that.,
contention, M. Mem. 15 quotes a definition of "bidirectional." from an
electrical engineering dictionary (Hargrave's Communications Dictionary
(2001)) as "capable of operation in both a forward and reverse
direction." But that quotation itself belies Merit's proposed
construction, for it requires only that data be able to flow in either
direction, not that data must flow in both directions at the same time.
And nothing in Patent '155 justifies Merit's strained construction of
Arachnid's proposed more straightforward meaning of the
term as "transferring information in both directions between the dart
games and the CCD" (A. Mem. 32) is adopted.
Claim 3 incorporates all aspects of Claim 1 and Claim 2,*fn13
adding this language (8:22-37):
each dart game further comprising means for displaying
data, said method further comprising the steps of:
recording play-by-play of each player automatically
via the game storing means upon impact of a dart
thrown by a player striking a dart board on said
player's respective dart game;
calculating a score of each player resulting from
a dart thrown by a player striking a respective
dart board of the player;
displaying at each location current scores of
every player participating at that location; and
polling each remote location by the central
control device via the communication medium at a
predetermined time in order to upload data from
each remote location and process data.
Several of the terms in that claim are the subject of disagreement
between the parties.
"means for displaying data"
This just-quoted means-plus-function element discloses the function of
displaying data (A. Mem. 33, M. Mem. 22). Arachnid contends that the
structures specified in Patent '155 that perform that. function are "one
or more of a video monitor, display, CRT screen, lighted display or
printer associated with it to display data" (A. Mem. 34). Predictably
Merit submits a narrower construction, proposing that the structure be
limited to "an external portable video display connected to the dart
game" (M. Mem. 22)
Intrinsic patent evidence discloses two structures that do fulfill this
function: a portable display such as a video display connected to the
master dart game (5:42-45) and, disproving Merit's overly narrow
reading, the visual displays internal to the individual dart games
(5:57-59). And as for Arachnid's contention that a printer also qualifies
as a "display" structure, it cannot be disputed (1) that a printer is a
"means" and (2) thatjts function is that of "displaying data" —
thus validating the rest of Arachnid's position as to the element now
"game storing means"
Merit argues that the just-quoted term is indefinite and incapable of
construction (M. Mem. 23). But that argument disregards the fact that
Claim 3 is dependent on Claim 1, 50 that the fully-quoted term ("the game
storing means") clearly refers back to the Claim 1 term "dart game having
means for . . . storing."
Merit attempts to counter that [t]he applicants' failure to
unambiguously identify the `game storing means' as the dart game's `means
for storing' makes it unclear whether the element is found at the CCD,
dart game or some other intermediate point" (M. Resp. 12). But that
argument in turn ignores the plain language of Claim 3, which in part
discloses "each dart game further comprising means for displaying data,
said method further comprising
the steps of: recording play-by-play of
each player automatically via the game storing means . . ." (8:21-25,
In sum, "game storing means" is not at all indefinite, it plainly
refers to structures within the dart games, and it is therefore subject
to the same construction already given to "means for storing" in Claim
"polling each remote location by the CCD"
Even though both parties expend considerable energy expounding on the
construction of the just-quoted term, in the end both also concede that
they agree on its plain meaning: requesting information from each remote
location of the dart game to facilitate data transfer (A. Mem. 38, M.
Mem. 23).*fn14 That construction is adopted.
Claim 14 incorporates all aspects of Claims 1 and 2 and adds in part
a communication medium coupling the plurality of
remotely located electronic dart games to the central
control device and enabling bidirectional communication
between the central control device and the plurality of
remotely located electronic dart games, wherein the
receiving and transmitting means of the dart games and
the inputting and outputting means of the CCD interface
with the communication medium.
As such, Claim 14 is the apparatus counterpart to the method of Claim 1.
That being so, the parties agree that analogous terms of Claim 14 must be
interpreted in a manner consistent with the construction of Claim 1.
Three of those terms have been disputed by the parties.
"Coupling" is the counterpart to the Claim 1 term "connecting."
Accordingly, the same meaning-establishing an association to allow
communication between electronic devices — is adopted.
"enabling bidirectional communication"
"Bidirectional communication" is the counterpart to the Claim 1 term
"communicating bidirectionally." Hence the same construction —
transferring information in both directions, but with no requirement that
data must flow in both directions at the same time — is adopted.
"interface with the communication medium"
Merit has misread the word "interface" in Claim 14 as a noun, proposing
a construction of "a shared electrical boundary" (M. Mem. 25). But as A.
Resp. 21 correctly points out, "interface" is indisputably a verb in
Claim 14. Despite some reluctance to endorse such a classic
patent-lawyer-talk term as "therebetween," this Court accepts Arachnid's
statement of the plain meaning of the element in question: "the receiving
means and transmitting means of the dart games and inputting means and
outputting means of the CCD are configured to effect a data exchange
therebetween" (a reading to which Merit does not object).
Claim 18 reads (10:19-32):
In an electronic dart game apparatus especially for use
in a dart league or
tournament, the combination
electronic input means for receiving player data and
league or tournament player pairings information
from at least one external source and game
storage means within the dart game apparatus for
storing the external data and game statistics
generated within the dart game; and
output means for transmitting the player data and
game statistics to a location external to the dart
Three terms in that claim require construction.