Nautilus, the Vancouver, Wash.-based manufacturer of fitness equipment, has got the U.S. Supreme Court on its side.
The court on Monday handed the company a victory by throwing out an appeals court decision in a patent battle between Nautilus and Biosig Instruments over heart rate monitors, Reuters reported. It’s a decision that raises the bar on how clearly patents must be written.
Biosig Instruments had accused Nautilus of infringing on its patented technology for heart rate monitors built into fitness machines. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had ruled that the patent was valid.
But the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision said the appeals court had set the bar too low in allowing patents to be written vaguely. As Bloomberg.com reported, the justices told the Federal Circuit to reconsider the Biosig patent using a tougher test.
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The court issued its decision after hearing oral arguments on April 28.
In a news release Monday, Nautilus leaders hailed the court’s ruling.
“We asked the Supreme Court to accept this case because of our strong belief that the patent system is best served when patent claims are precise, definite, and certain,” Wayne Bolio, senior vice president of law and human resources for the company, said in a news release.
Bolio said the court’s decision not only helps Nautilus but also “numerous other companies facing similar circumstances. We believe this will, in turn, encourage innovation, whereas vaguely written patents encourage patent trolls and unnecessary litigation.”
The decision involving Nautilus “could be used to strike down vaguely worded patents, a problem that many technology companies complain about,” Brad Wright, a patent lawyer with Banner & Witcoff in Washington, D.C., who wasn’t involved in the case, told Bloomberg.com. “It is this vagueness that sometimes gives rise to gray areas in the law, allowing questionable claims to go forward. This might allow courts to rein those in more.”