Asked in Patents (Intellectual Property)

Q: What distance is defined as remote in relation to remote configuration?

how far away does something have to be to make it remote? and if is is connected by cables i.e. a computer to a tv, is this classed as remote?

1 Lawyer Answer
Kevin E. Flynn
Kevin E. Flynn
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Chapel Hill, NC

A: Your question which seems narrow is actually at the heart of patent claim interpretation. In the United States, there is a hierarchy of sources for answering this question. The highest tier is what the applicant expressly wrote in the application or in the written record of arguments made to the examiner. If the applicant said that remote meant not directly connected by a single cable or having to run through a networking device, then the applicant is bound to that definition. If the applicant stated that remote means that the command comes from outside the device being configured, then a broader definition would apply.

Sometimes you can tell the breadth of the meaning of the term by looking at the dependent claims. To the extent that one of the dependent claims mentions use of a specific type of cable for the remote configuration then that means that cables may be enough.

Often the applicant and examiner just assume a meaning of a key term and it is not expressly defined. In that case, the process of defining the meaning of remote in this situation will use the prior art, specialized technical dictionaries, and maybe some expert testimony as what remote configuration meant to those of skill in the art at the time that the application was written.

The lowest tier is a general dictionary as that is often the least useful given that a dictionary can have multiple meanings for a given word and some of the meanings will lead to divergent results.

As you can see, often the entire issue of infringement can lie in the interpretation of a single word. Discerning what is the best interpretation is one of the actions done by an attorney in a Freedom-to-Operate opinion. .

Conversely, dialing in the right meaning of words by carefully defining terms or avoiding unduly narrowing arguments in responses to Office Actions is part of the craft of being a patent attorney.

If you found this answer helpful, you may want to look at my answers to other questions about patent law are available at the bottom of my profile page at

Kevin E Flynn

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