Ancora Tech., Inc. v. Apple, Inc., No. 13-1378 (Fed. Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Ancora’s patent, entitled “Method of Restricting Software Operation within a License Limitation,” describes a method of preventing unauthorized software use by checking whether a program is operating within its license and taking remedial action if it is not. Methods for checking license coverage of software were known at the time of application, but some were vulnerable to hacking, while others were expensive and inconvenient to distribute. The specification claims to overcome those problems by using memory space associated with the computer’s basic input/output system (BIOS), rather than other space, to store encrypted license information for the verification process. While the contents of BIOS space may be modified, the level of expertise needed to do so is unusually high, and the risk of accidentally rendering the computer inoperable is too high for the ordinary hacker. The method eliminates the expense and inconvenience of using additional hardware. Ancora sued, alleging that products running Apple’s iOS operating system infringed the patent. Ancora stipulated to non-infringement under the district court’s construction of the claim term “program” and appealed that construction. Apple cross-appealed. The Federal Circuit reverses the construction of “program” as limited to application programs, affirmed a conclusion that the terms “volatile memory” and “non-volatile memory” are not indefinite, and remanded.