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Eon Corp. IP Holdings, LLC v. FLO TV Incorporated

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 4, 2014

EON CORP. IP HOLDINGS, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
FLO TV INCORPORATED, et al., Defendants. EON CORP. IP HOLDINGS, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
AT&T MOBILITY LLC, Defendant.

Gregory B. Williams, Esq., FOX ROTHSCHILD LLP, Wilmington, DE; Daniel R. Scardino, Esq. (argued), REED & SCARDINO LLP, Austin, TX; Steven P. Tepera, Esq. (argued), REED & SCARDINO LLP, Austin, TX; John L. Hendricks, Esq. (argued), REED & SCARDINO LLP, Austin, TX, Attorneys for Plaintiff EON Corp. IP Holdings, LLC.

Karen Jacobs Louden, Esq. (argued), MORRIS, NICHOLS, ARSHT & TUNNELL LLP Wilmington, DE; Jennifer Ying, Esq., MORRIS, NICHOLS, ARSHT & TUNNELL LLP, Wilmington, DE; Megan E. Dellinger, Esq., MORRIS, NICHOLS, ARSHT & TUNNELL LLP, Wilmington, DE; Heidi Keefe, Esq., COOLEY LLP, Palo Alto, CA, Attorneys for Defendant HTC America, Inc.

Michael J. Farnan, Esq., FARNAN LLP, Wilmington, DE; Laura E. Miller, Esq., DURIE TANGRI LLP, San Francisco, CA, Attorneys for Defendant MobiTV, Inc.

Jack B. Blumenfeld, Esq., MORRIS, NICHOLS, ARSHT & TUNNELL LLP, Wilmington, DE; Frederick L. Whitmer, Esq. (argued), KILPATRICK TOWNSEND & STOCKTON LLP, New York, NY; Carl E. Sanders, Esq., KILPATRICK TOWNSEND & STOCKTON LLP, Winston-Salem, NC, Attorneys for Defendant Motorola Mobility LLC.

Karen Jacobs Louden, Esq. (argued), MORRIS, NICHOLS, ARSHT & TUNNELL LLP, Wilmington, DE; Jennifer Ying, Esq., MORRIS, NICHOLS, ARSHT & TUNNELL LLP, Wilmington, DE; Megan E. Dellinger, Esq., MORRIS, NICHOLS, ARSHT & TUNNELL LLP, Wilmington, DE, Attorneys for Defendants Sprint and Simplexity.

Jack B. Blumenfeld, Esq., MORRIS, NICHOLS, ARSHT & TUNNELL LLP, Wilmington, DE; Diana M. Sangalli, Esq. (argued), DUANE MORRIS LLP, Houston, TX; Joseph A. Powers, Esq., DUANE MORRIS LLP, Philadelphia, PA, Attorneys for Defendant AT&T Mobility LLC.

Richard L. Horwitz, Esq., POTTER, ANDERSON & CORROON LLP, Wilmington, DE; Harrison J. (Buzz) Frahn IV, Esq. (argued), SIMPSON THACHER & BARTLETT LLP, Palo Alto, CA; Victor Cole, Esq., SIMPSON THACHER & BARTLETT LLP, New York, NY, Attorneys for Defendants FLO TV, Inc. and Qualcomm, Inc.

Steven J. Fineman, Esq., RICHARDS, LAYTON & FINGER, PA, Wilmington, DE, Attorney for Defendant U.S. Cellular Corporation.

Nitika Gupta, Esq., FISH & RICHARDSON P.C., Wilmington, DE, Attorney for Defendant LG Electronics MobileComm USA, Inc.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD G. ANDREWS, District Judge.

On September 23, 2010, EON Corp. IP Holdings, LLC filed suit against FLO TV Incorporated, GoTV Networks, Inc., HTC America, Inc., Kyocera Communications Inc., LG Electronics MobileComm USA, Inc., LetsTalk.com, Inc., MobiTV, Inc., Motorola, Inc., Palm, Inc., Qualcomm, Inc., Research in Motion Corporation, SPB Software, Inc., Samsung Telecommunications America LLC, Sprint Nextel Corporation, U.S. Cellular Corporation, Verizon Communications Inc., and Wirefly, Corp. (collectively, "FLO TV Defendants") alleging infringement of U.S. Pat. No. 5, 663, 757 ("the '757 patent"). (1:10-cv-812 D.I. 1). EON also claimed infringement of the '757 patent by AT&T Mobility, LLC ("AT&T"), [1] AT&T Mobility Puerto Rico, Inc., Puerto Rico Telephone Company, Inc., Telecomunicaciones de Puerto Rico, Inc., Telefonica de Puerto Rico, Inc., and Claro, Inc. in a suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico on June 14, 2011. (1:13-cv-910 D.I. 1). Judge Carreño-Coll severed all claims between EON and AT&T relating to the '757 patent from the Puerto Rico case and transferred them to the District of Delaware. (1:13-cv-910 D.I. 326). The Court then consolidated the cases for purposes of claim construction on August 7, 2013. (1:10-cv-812 D.I. 559).

Eight terms from the '757 patent are computer-implemented means-plus-function claims, and they have been singled out for construction in this memorandum opinion. (1:13-cv-910 D.I. 423 at 14).[2] The Court has considered the parties' claim construction briefing (D.I. 383-1 to 383-6; 1:10-cv-812 D.I. 400), appendix (1:10-cv-812 D.I. 401), oral argument on January 8, 2013 regarding claim construction (D.I. 419, 420), an evidentiary hearing on claim construction on February 5, 2013 (D.I. 423), and post-hearing briefing (1:10-cv-812 D.I. 891, 892, 896 & 897).

I. LEGAL STANDARD

"It is a bedrock principle of patent law that the claims of a patent define the invention to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude." Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[T]here is no magic formula or catechism for conducting claim construction.' Instead, the court is free to attach the appropriate weight to appropriate sources in light of the statutes and policies that inform patent law.'" Soft View LLC v. Apple Inc., 2013 WL 4758195, at *1 (D. Del. Sept. 4, 2013) (quoting Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1324). When construing patent claims, a matter of law, a court considers the literal language of the claim, the patent specification, and the prosecution history. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 977-80 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (en banc), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370 (1996). Of these sources, "the specification is always highly relevant to the claim construction analysis. Usually, it is dispositive; it is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1315 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

Furthermore, "the words of a claim are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning... [which is] the meaning that the term would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art in question at the time of the invention, i.e., as of the effective filing date of the patent application." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312-13 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). "[T]he ordinary meaning of a claim term is its meaning to [an] ordinary artisan after reading the entire patent." Id. at 1321 (internal quotation marks omitted). "In some cases, the ordinary meaning of claim language as understood by a person of skill in the art may be readily apparent even to lay judges, and claim construction in such cases involves little more than the application of the widely accepted meaning of commonly understood words." Id. at 1314 (internal citations omitted).

A court may consider extrinsic evidence, which "consists of all evidence external to the patent and prosecution history, including expert and inventor testimony, dictionaries, and learned treatises, " in order to assist the court in understanding the underlying technology, the meaning of terms to one skilled in the art and how the invention works. Id. at 1317-19 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). However, extrinsic evidence is less reliable and less useful in claim construction than the patent and its prosecution history. Id.

Moreover, "[a] claim construction is persuasive, not because it follows a certain rule, but because it defines terms in the context of the whole patent." Renishaw PLC v. Marposs Societa' per Azioni, 158 F.3d 1243, 1250 (Fed. Cir. 1998). It follows that "a claim interpretation that would exclude the inventor's device is rarely the correct interpretation." Osram GmbH v. Int'l Trade Comm'n, 505 F.3d 1351, 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

An additional set of principles governs the construction of means-plus-function terms. The Federal Circuit has recognized a presumption in favor of applying 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6[3] whenever the word "means" is used in the claim language to describe a limitation. See Net MoneyIN, Inc. v. Verisign, Inc., 545 F.3d 1359, 1366 (Fed. Cir. 2008) ("A claim element that contains the word means' and recites a function is presumed to be drafted in means-plus-function format under 35 U.S.C. § 112 ¶ 6."). The presumption can be overcome "where the claim, in addition to the functional language, recites structure sufficient to perform the claimed function in its entirety." Altiris, Inc. v. Symantec Corp., 318 F.3d 1363, 1375 (Fed. Cir. 2003). In order for there to be sufficient structure, the claim language must specify "the exact structure that performs the functions in question without need to resort to other portions of the specification or extrinsic evidence for an adequate understanding of the structure." TriMed, Inc. v. Stryker Corp., 514 F.3d 1256, 1259-60 (Fed. Cir. 2008).

Once it has been determined that the term is written as a means-plus-function limitation, courts employ a two-part test to construe the term. First, the court is required to determine the claimed function. Applied Med. Res. Corp. v. U.S. Surgical Corp., 448 F.3d 1324, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 2006). The second step is to "identify the corresponding structure in the written description of the patent that performs that function." Id. The identified structure is required to "permit one of ordinary skill in the art to know and understand what structure corresponds to the means limitation.'" Finisar Corp. v. DirecTV Grp., Inc., 523 F.3d 1323, 1340 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (quoting Biomedino, LLC v. Waters Techs. Corp., 490 F.3d 946, 950 (Fed. Cir. 2007)). Otherwise, the term is invalid. Id.

In the special case where the corresponding structure is a computer, the patent must disclose an algorithm for performing the claimed function. "[S]imply disclosing a computer as the structure designated to perform a particular function" is insufficient to limit the scope of the claim under§ 112, ¶ 6 because "a general purpose computer programmed to carry out a particular algorithm creates a new machine'...." Aristocrat Techs. Austl. Pty Ltd. v. Int'l Game Tech., 521 F.3d 1328, 1333 (Fed. Cir. 2008) ("[A] general purpose computer in effect becomes a special purpose computer once it is programmed to perform particular functions pursuant to instructions from program software.'" (quoting WMS Gaming, Inc. v. Int'l Game Tech., 184 F.3d 1339, 1348 (Fed. Cir. 1999)).

The Federal Circuit carved out an exception to this rule, holding that it is "not necessary to disclose more structure than the general purpose processor" when the claimed functions "can be achieved by any general purpose computer without special programming." In re Katz Interactive Call Processing Patent Litig., 639 F.3d 1303, 1316 (Fed. Cir. 2011). This exception is a "narrow" one, and an algorithm need not be disclosed "only in the rare circumstances where any general-purpose computer without any special programming can perform the function." Ergo Licensing, LLC v. CareFusion 303, Inc., 673 F.3d 1361, 1364-65 (Fed. Cir. 2012). Examples of functions that can be carried out by a general purpose computer without special programming include: processing, receiving, and storing. See In re Katz, 639 F.3d at 1316 ("Katz has not claimed a specific function performed by a special purpose computer, but has simply recited the claimed functions of processing, ' receiving, ' and storing.'"). By contrast, any function that involves "more than merely plugging in a general-purpose computer" requires special programming. Ergo Licensing, LLC, 673 F.3d at 1365 (finding claim language reciting function of"controlling the adjusting means" to require special programming).

Several recent decisions have addressed the functional capabilities of a general purpose computer. The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado held that a multi-tasking processing means for "coordinating data transfer" could be accomplished by a general purpose computer without special programming. Edisync Sys., Inc. v. Centra Software, Inc., 2012 WL 2196047, at *15-17 (D. Colo. June 15, 2012). I previously held that a general purpose computer without special programming could perform the function of displaying an icon. United Video Props., Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc., 2012 WL 2370318, at *11 (D. Del. June 22, 2012) ("[D]isplaying' an icon is a common function that can be achieved by any general purpose computer without special programming."); see also Soft View LLC v. Apple Inc., 2013 WL 4758195, at *11 (D. Del. Sept. 4, 2013) (finding no algorithm required for "processing means" claim element because that function could be achieved by a general purpose computer without special programming).

II. CONSTRUCTION OF DISPUTED TERMS

A. The '757 Patent

There are eight computer-implemented claim terms that the Court has been asked to construe. Claim 8 is representative and recites:

A local subscriber's data processing station for a wireless television program communication network coupling together a set of interactive subscriber television receiver stations, comprising in combination,
an operation control system in said data processing station for controlling video signals, system operating modes and interactive communications available to the subscriber,
a television receiver with a video display screen, program control means and television program channel selection means,
a plurality of sources of video text and television program channels available from said network for individual presentation on said display screen in response to operator control ...

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