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Round Rock Research, LLC v. Sandisk Corp.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

December 17, 2014

ROUND ROCK RESEARCH, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
SANDISK CORPORATION, Defendant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Brian Farnan, Esquire of Farnan, LLP, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Plaintiffs. Of Paul A. Bandar, Esquire, Jon T. Hohenthaner, Esquire, John C. Spaccarotella, Esquire, Richard M. Cowell, Esquire, Tamir Packin, Esquire, Eric J. Stieglitz, Esquire, Ameet A. Modi, Esquire and Elizabeth Kimmel, Esquire of Desmarais LLP.

Jack B. Blumenfeld, Esquire, Rodger D. Smith II, Esquire, and Jeremy A. Tigan, Esquire of Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell LLP, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendants. Of Christopher V. Ryan, Esquire, Efren Garcia, Esquire and Seth Linder, Esquire of Vinson & Elkins LLP, and Robert A. Van Nest, Esquire, Leo L. Lam, Esquire, Ajay S. Krishnan, Esquire, Ryan Wong, Esquire, and Erin Meyer, Esquire of Keker & Van Nest LLP.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

Sue L. RobinsonSue L. Robinson, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On May 3, 2012, plaintiff Round Rock Research, LLC (" Round Rock" ) instituted

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suit against defendant SanDisk Corporation (" SanDisk" ), alleging infringement of eleven patents, of which five are the subject of the current litigation:[1] U.S. Patent Nos. 5,615,159 (" the '159 patent" )[2], 6,728,798 (" the 798 patent" ), 6,948,041 (" the '041 patent" ), 7,336,531 (" the '531 patent" ), and 8,060,719 (" the '719 patent" ). [3] (D.I. 1) Round Rock filed an amended complaint on May 14, 2012. (D.I. 5) On July 9, 2012, SanDisk answered and asserted the affirmative defenses of non-infringement, patent invalidity, prosecution history estoppel, statutory limitations on damages, equitable doctrines, costs unavailable, license and patent exhaustion, standing and estoppel. (D.I. 8) SanDisk also asserted counterclaims for non-infringement and invalidity. Id. The parties submitted their competing claim construction briefs and, on July 21, 2014, the court issued a memorandum order with its claim construction. (D.I. 172)

Round Rock is a Delaware limited liability company with its principal place of business in New York. SanDisk is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of Delaware with its principal place of business in California.

Presently before the court are: (1) SanDisk's motion for summary judgment of invalidity of the '159 and '041 patents and partial summary judgment on priority dates (D.I. 213); (2) SanDisk's motion for summary judgment of non-infringement of the '159, '798 and '041 patents (D.I. 215); and (3) Round Rock's motion for summary judgment of infringement and partial summary judgment of no anticipation (D.I. 217). The court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § § 1331 and 1338(a).

II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

A. Summary Judgment

" The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 n.10, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986), A party asserting that a fact cannot be--or, alternatively, is--genuinely disputed must support the assertion either by citing to " particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for the purposes of the motions only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials," or by " showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A) & (B). If the moving party has carried its burden, the nonmovant must then " come forward with specific facts showing that there is a

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genuine issue for trial." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (internal quotation marks omitted). The court will " draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v, Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000).

To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must " do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586-87; see also Podohnik v. U.S. Postal Service, 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005) (stating party opposing summary judgment " must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions to show the existence of a genuine issue" ) (internal quotation marks omitted). Although the " mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment," a factual dispute is genuine where " the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). " If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (stating entry of summary judgment is mandated " against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial" ).

B. Infringement

A patent is infringed when a person " without authority makes, uses or sells any patented invention, within the United States . . . during the term of the patent." 35 U.S.C. § 271(a). A two-step analysis is employed in making an infringement determination. See Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 976 (Fed. Cir. 1995). First, the court must construe the asserted claims to ascertain their meaning and scope. See id. Construction of the claims is a question of law subject to de novo review. See Cybor Corp. v. FAS Techs., 138 F.3d 1448, 1454 (Fed. Cir. 1998). The trier of fact must then compare the properly construed claims with the accused infringing product. See Markman, 52 F.3d at 976. This second step is a question of fact. See Bai v. L & L Wings, Inc., 160 F.3d 1350, 1353 (Fed. Cir. 1998).

" Direct infringement requires a party to perform each and every step or element of a claimed method or product." BMC Res., Inc. v. Paymentech, L.P., 498 F.3d 1373, 1378 (Fed. Cir. 2007), overruled on other grounds by 692 F.3d 1301 (Fed. Cir. 2012). " If any claim limitation is absent from the accused device, there is no literal infringement as a matter of law." Bayer AG v. Elan Pharm. Research Corp., 212 F.3d 1241, 1247 (Fed. Cir. 2000). If an accused product does not infringe an independent claim, it also does not infringe any claim depending thereon. See Wahpeton Canvas Co. v. Frontier, Inc., 870 F.2d 1546, 1553 (Fed. Cir. 1989). However, " [o]ne may infringe an independent claim and not infringe a claim dependent on that claim." Monsanto Co. v. Syngenta Seeds, Inc., 503 F.3d 1352, 1359 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (quoting Wahpeton Canvas, 870 F.2d at 1552) (internal quotations omitted). A product that does not literally infringe a patent claim may still infringe under the doctrine of equivalents if the differences between an individual limitation of the claimed invention and an element of the

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accused product are insubstantial. See Warner-Jenkinson Co. v. Hilton Davis Chem. Co., 520 U.S. 17, 24, 117 S.Ct. 1040, 137 L.Ed.2d 146 (1997). The patent owner has the burden of proving infringement and must meet its burden by a preponderance of the evidence. See SmithKline Diagnostics, Inc. v. Helena Lab. Corp., 859 F.2d 878, 889 (Fed. Cir. 1988) (citations omitted).

When an accused infringer moves for summary judgment of non-infringement, such relief may be granted only if one or more limitations of the claim in question does not read on an element of the accused product, either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents. See Chimie v. PPG Indus., Inc., 402 F.3d 1371, 1376 (Fed. Cir. 2005); see also TechSearch, L.L.C. v. Intel Corp., 286 F.3d 1360, 1369 (Fed. Cir. 2002) (" Summary judgment of noninfringement is ... appropriate where the patent owner's proof is deficient in meeting an essential part of the legal standard for infringement, because such failure will render all other facts immaterial," ). Thus, summary judgment of non-infringement can only be granted if, after viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant, there is no genuine issue as to whether the accused product is covered by the claims (as construed by the court). See Pitney Bowes, Inc. v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 182 F.3d 1298, 1304 (Fed. Cir. 1999).

" [A] method claim is not directly infringed by the sale of an apparatus even though it is capable of performing only the patented method. The sale of the apparatus is not a sale of the method. A method claim is directly infringed only by one practicing the patented method." Joy Techs., Inc. v. Flakt, Inc., 6 F.3d 770, 775 (Fed. Cir. 1993). Therefore, " an accused infringer must perform all the steps of the claimed method, either personally or through another acting under his direction or control." Akamai Technologies, Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc., 692 F.3d 1301, 1307 (Fed. Cir. 2012).

With respect to apparatus claims, " to infringe a claim that recites capability and not actual operation, an accused device 'need only be capable of operating in the described mode.'" Finjan, Inc. v. Secure Computing Corp., 626 F.3d 1197, 1204 (Fed. Cir. 2010) (citing Intel Corp. v. U.S. Int'l Trade Comm'n, 946 F.2d 821, 832 (Fed. Cir. 1991). However, if an apparatus claim requires " software [to] be configured in a particular way to infringe," infringement does not occur merely because the apparatus could be used in an infringing fashion. Finjan, 626 F.3d at 1204-05.

C. Anticipation

Under 35 U.S.C. § 102(b), " [a] person shall be entitled to a patent unless the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country . . . more than one year prior to the date of the application for patent in the United States." The Federal Circuit has stated that " [t]here must be no difference between the claimed invention and the referenced disclosure, as viewed by a person of ordinary skill in the field of the invention." Scripps Clinic & Research Found. v. Genentech, Inc., 927 F.2d 1565, 1576 (Fed. Cir. 1991). In determining whether a patented invention is explicitly anticipated, the claims are read in the context of the patent specification in which they arise and in which the invention is described. Glaverbel Societe Anonyme v. Northlake Mktg. & Supply, Inc., 45 F.3d 1550, 1554 (Fed. Cir. 1995). The prosecution history and the prior art may be consulted if needed to impart clarity or to avoid ambiguity in ascertaining whether the invention is novel or was previously known in the art. Id. The prior art need not be ipsissimis verbis

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(i.e., use identical words as those recited in the claims) to be anticipating. Structural Rubber Prods. Co. v. Park Rubber Co., 749 F.2d 707, 716 (Fed. Cir. 1984).

A prior art reference also may anticipate without explicitly disclosing a feature of the claimed invention if that missing characteristic is inherently present in the single anticipating reference. Continental Can Co. v. Monsanto Co., 948 F.2d 1264, 1268 (Fed. Cir. 1991). The Federal Circuit has explained that an inherent limitation is one that is necessarily present and not one that may be established by probabilities or possibilities. Id. That is, " [t]he mere fact that a certain thing may result from a given set of circumstances is not sufficient." Id. The Federal Circuit also has observed that " [i]nherency operates to anticipate entire inventions as well as single limitations within an invention." Schering Corp. v. Geneva Pharms. Inc., 339 F.3d 1373, 1380 (Fed. Cir. 2003). Moreover, recognition of an inherent limitation by a person of ordinary skill in the art before the critical date is not required to establish inherent anticipation. Id. at 1377.

An anticipation inquiry involves two steps. First, the court must construe the claims of the patent in suit as a matter of law. Key Pharms. v. Hercon Labs. Corp., 161 F.3d 709, 714 (Fed. Cir. 1998). Second, the finder of fact must compare the construed claims against the prior art. Id. A finding of anticipation will invalidate the patent. Applied Med. Res. Corp. v. U.S. Surgical Corp., 147 F.3d 1374, 1378 (Fed. Cir. 1998).

III. DISCUSSION

A. The '041 Patent

The '041 patent, entitled " Permanent Memory Block Protection in a Flash Memory Device," issued on September 20, 2005 and claims priority to an October 24, 2002 filing date. The '041 patent is directed to " a method for permanent memory block protection in a Flash memory device." ('041 patent, col. 1:51-53) One of the characteristics of Flash memory devices is that individual memory " cells" cannot be erased independently -- instead, an " erase" operation typically erases all of the memory cells on a given device at once. The '041 patent discloses a " secure command" function that protects specific blocks of memory from being erased. Unlike temporary memory block protection, the memory block protection ...


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