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I have a patent containing multiple placeholders such as "a vision processing module" and "a mapping module" which have been regarded as means-plus-function and invoked 35 U.S.C. 112(f).

In my embodiment, I did not write the detailed structures of these two modules but wrote about their respective functions as I thought the structure of these two modules are obvious (simply processing hardware that can perform vision and mapping algorithm).

Is there any prior cases that have successfully argued over this situation? Much appreciated if anyone can comment on the validity of my thought.

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  • Is this an issued patent of yours, or just an application? I'm not sure you are really asking about a prior art request (as indicated by your tags). In those cases an actual patent or application is presented and linked and the request is for prior art to invalidate it.
    – Eric S
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 23:36
  • @EricS sorry for the confusion, it is still an application. I am looking for cases which use similar placeholders (such as mapping module and vision processing module) that are allowed by the Federal Circuit. I have removed the prior-art-request tag to be clearer.
    – mathnerd
    Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 1:21
  • I'm not a lawyer so I'll leave the answering to those who are. I do think it matters how you define the "vision processing module" and "mapping module" in the specification. Has the application issued? If so, you might consider linking it.
    – Eric S
    Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 16:25
  • Has the application been published?
    – George White
    Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 17:26
  • You might need to provide the complete claim and the relevant text in the office action in order to get a useful answer. Consider that you will not likely get a very definitive answer anyway when thinking about disclosing more. A recent patent issued using similar terms with no problems. patents.google.com/patent/US11080540B2
    – George White
    Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 17:34

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As an example - The issued patent https://patents.google.com/patent/US20210248353A1 uses “vision processing module” in claims without a problem. The reason is it contains the wording —

“In some embodiments, the vision processing module comprises a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) or an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC). In some embodiments, the 3D vision processing algorithms comprise simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) algorithms.”

I do not see anything like that in your application. Without some structural examples you will have a hard time getting through the system.

Overall the application is extremely short and lacks detail. I imagine it was translated from the CN priority document with little added or modified for US practice.

Note that module essentially means “thing”, environmental compensation circuitry or even environmental compensation software would have had more structure than “environmental compensation thing”.

Separately, as an example, a lens doesn’t capture an image, a camera (includes a lens and a sensor) captures images. One of your elements is “a face capturing camera lens”. I’m guessing it’s a translation issue. You can go back to the Chinese priority document and amend the US application based on improved translation. Ask your attorney of record. I’m not sure how many problems can be addressed that way.

The case that decided “module means means” was Williamson vs Citrix On Line.

The court agreed that “module” was a “well-known nonce word” which was “simply a generic description for software or hardware that performs a specified function,” and the prefix “distributed learning control” did not add any definite structure.10 The court did not find enough detail in the claims or the specification to show “how the distributed learning control module, by its interaction with the other components in the distributed learning control server, is understood as the name for structure.”

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