United States District Court, D. Delaware
Brian E. Farnan, Michael J. Farnan, FARNAN, LLP, Wilmington, DE, Steve W. Berman, Mark S. Carlson, HAGENS BERMAN SOBOL SHAPIRO, LLP, Seattle, WA, Attorneys for Plaintiff FlatWorld Interactives LLC.
Richard L. Horwitz, David E. Moore, Erich W. Struble, Bindu A. Palapura, POTTER ANDERSON & CORROON, LLP, Wilmington, DE, Victor H. Polk, GREENBERG TRAURIG, LLP, Boston, MA, Richard A. Edlin, Hyun Chung, Chang Joo Kim, Joshua L. Raskin, Kate Hutchins, John Handy, GREENBERG TRAURIG, LLP, New York, NY, Attorneys for Defendants Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., Samsung Electronics America, Inc., and Samsung Telecommunications America, LLC.
John W. Shaw, Karen E. Keller, David M. Fry, SHAW KELLER, LLP, Wilmington, DE, Steven Lieberman, Brian A. Tollefson, Joo Mee Kim, ROTHWELL, FIGG, ERNST & MANBECK, P.C., Washington, D.C., Y.S. Lee, Sonja Bae, LG ELECTRONICS, Seoul, Korea, Attorneys for Defendants LG Electronics, Inc., LG Electronics U.S.A., Inc., LG Electronics Mobilcomm U.S.A., Inc.
LEONARD P. STARK, District Judge.
Presently before the Court is the issue of claim construction of various disputed terms of U.S. Pat. No. RE43, 318 ("the 318 patent").
Plaintiff FlatWorld Interactives LLC ("Plaintiff') filed these patent infringement actions on June 22, 2012 against defendants Samsung Electronics America Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., and Samsung Telecommunications America LLC (C.A. No. 12-804-LPS D.I. 1) and on July 20, 2012 against defendants LG Electronics Inc., LG Electronics Mobilecomm U.S.A. Inc., and LG Electronics U.S.A. Inc. (collectively, "Defendants") (C.A. No. 12-964-LPS D.I. 1), alleging infringement of the 318 patent. The 318 patent is entitled, "User interface for removing an object from a display" and relates to a system for manipulating images on a display using a touch-sensitive screen. In particular, the patent-in-suit discloses a system that removes an image from a screen display by the gesture of "throwing" it from the screen. The 318 patent is a reissue of U.S. Patent No. 6, 920, 619 ("the 619 patent").
The parties initially completed their claim construction briefing on October 15, 2013. (D.I. 55, 57, 67, 73) In addition to the briefs, the parties submitted technology tutorials. (D.I. 65, 66) The Court held a Markman hearing on November 15, 2013. (D.I. 101) (hereinafter "Tr.") Almost immediately after the hearing, on November 19 and 22, 2013, Plaintiff and Defendants, respectively, wrote the Court letters attempting to clarify the meaning of statements made during the hearing. ( See D.I. 97, 99)
On January 3, 2014, the Honorable William H. Orrick of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued a claim construction ruling in the case of FlatWorld Interactives LLC v. Apple Inc., 2014 WL 31392 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 3, 2014) (hereinafter, "Apple" ). Apple involves the same 318 patent which is the patent-in-suit here. The Court ordered and received supplemental briefs from the parties addressing the impact, if any, of the Apple Court's construction on the disputes pending here. ( See D.I. 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 113, 114, 120) As the parties appear to agree, while the Apple Court's construction of the same disputed claim terms is not binding on this Court, it can and should be considered persuasive authority. See, e.g., Biovail Labs. Intl v. Intelgenx Corp., 2010 WL 5625746 (D. Del. Dec. 27, 2010); see also D.I. 113 at 2-3; D.I. 114 at 6-7.
On June 2, 2014, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 2120 (2014), relating to indefiniteness. As the disputes pending before the Court include Defendants' contentions that certain claim terms are invalid as indefinite, the Court ordered and received supplemental briefing on the impact of Nautilus. ( See D.I. 121, 122, 123, 125, 126)
II. LEGAL STANDARDS
"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) (internal quotation marks omitted). Construing the claims of a patent presents a question of law. See Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 977-78 (Fed. Cir. 1995), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370, 388-90 (1996). "[T]here is no magic formula or catechism for conducting claim construction." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1324. Instead, the court is free to attach the appropriate weight to appropriate sources "in light of the statutes and policies that inform patent law." Id.
"[T]he 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." Id. at 1312-13 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). "[T]he ordinary meaning of a claim term is its meaning to the ordinary artisan after reading the entire patent." Id. at 1321 (internal quotation marks omitted). The patent 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." Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996).
While "the claims themselves provide substantial guidance as to the meaning of particular claim terms, " the context of the surrounding words of the claim also must be considered. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1314. Furthermore, "[o]ther claims of the patent in question, both asserted and unasserted, can also be valuable sources of enlightenment... [b]ecause claim terms are normally used consistently throughout the patent...." Id. (internal citation omitted).
It is likewise true that "[d]ifferences among claims can also be a useful guide.... For example, the presence of a dependent claim that adds a particular limitation gives rise to a presumption that the limitation in question is not present in the independent claim." Id. at 1314-15 (internal citation omitted). This "presumption is especially strong when the limitation in dispute is the only meaningful difference between an independent and dependent claim, and one party is urging that the limitation in the dependent claim should be read into the independent claim." SunRace Roots Enter. Co., Ltd. v. SRAM Corp., 336 F.3d 1298, 1303 (Fed. Cir. 2003).
It is also possible that "the specification may reveal a special definition given to a claim term by the patentee that differs from the meaning it would otherwise possess. In such cases, the inventor's lexicography governs." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1316. It bears emphasis that "[e]ven when the specification describes only a single embodiment, the claims of the patent will not be read restrictively unless the patentee has demonstrated a clear intention to limit the claim scope using words or expressions of manifest exclusion or restriction." Liebel-Flarsheim Co. v. Medrad, Inc., 358 F.3d 898, 906 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted), aff'd, 481 F.3d 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2007).
In addition to the specification, a court "should also consider the patent's prosecution history, if it is in evidence." Markman, 52 F.3d at 980. The prosecution history, which is "intrinsic evidence, " "consists of the complete record of the proceedings before the PTO [Patent and Trademark Office] and includes the prior art cited during the examination of the patent." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. "[T]he prosecution history can often inform the meaning of the claim language by demonstrating how the inventor understood the invention and whether the inventor limited the invention in the course of prosecution, making the claim scope narrower than it would otherwise be." Id.
A court also may rely on "extrinsic evidence, " which "consists of all evidence external to the patent and prosecution history, including expert and inventor testimony, dictionaries, and learned treatises." Markman, 52 F.3d at 980. For instance, technical dictionaries can assist the court in determining the meaning of a term to those of skill in the relevant art because such dictionaries "endeavor to collect the accepted meanings of terms used in various fields of science and technology." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1318. In addition, expert testimony can be useful "to ensure that the court's understanding of the technical aspects of the patent is consistent with that of a person of ordinary skill in the art, or to establish that a particular term in the patent or the prior art has a particular meaning in the pertinent field." Id. Nonetheless, courts must not lose sight of the fact that "expert reports and testimony [are] generated at the time of and for the purpose of litigation and thus can suffer from bias that is not present in intrinsic evidence." Id. Overall, while extrinsic evidence "may be useful" to the court, it is "less reliable" than intrinsic evidence, and its consideration "is unlikely to result in a reliable interpretation of patent claim scope unless considered in the context of the intrinsic evidence." Id, at 1318-19. Finally, "[t]he construction that stays true to the claim language and most naturally aligns with the patent's description of the invention will be, in the end, the correct construction." 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. ITC, 505 F.3d 1351, 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2007).
III. CONSTRUCTION OF DISPUTED TERMS
A. "dragged" [claims 1, 3, 18]
Plaintiff's Proposed "caused to move in response to the touched point or to track Construction location inputs" Defendants' Proposed plain and ordinary meaning Construction Court's Construction plain and ordinary meaning
Plaintiff contends the term "dragged" should be construed as "caused to move in response to the touched point or to track location inputs." (D.I. 57 at 9) (emphasis added) Defendants contend that the term is readily understandable and should be construed in accordance with its plain and ordinary meaning. (D.I. 55 at 12-13) The Court agrees with Defendants.
The words of a claim should generally be construed in accordance with their plain and ordinary meaning, unless an exception applies, such as where the specification includes a special definition or the inventor intentionally narrows the meaning of the claim term. See Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312-16 (internal citations omitted). In support of its proposed construction, Plaintiff cites claim 1, which is the only independent claim that includes the term "dragged." Claim 1 states expressly that there must be a "computer causing the images to be manipulated in response to location inputs." (118 patent at 15:4-5) Thus, when "the image is being dragged in response to location inputs, " the plain language of the claim makes clear it is the computer specifically that is causing the movement of the image inside the screen, in response to touch inputs on the exterior of the screen. ( See id. at 15:8-9) Plaintiff's proposed construction, by contrast, would appear to indicate that the touch (e.g., of a user's finger) is actually causing the image to be moved.
"[A]bsent contravening evidence from the specification or prosecution history, plain and unambiguous claim language controls the construction analysis." REckitt Benckiser Inc. v. Watson Labs., Inc., 430 F.Appx. 871, 875-76 (Fed. Cir. 2011) (citing DSW, Inc. v. Shoe Pavilion, Inc., 537 F.3d 1342, 1347 (Fed. Cir. 2008)). Plaintiff identifies no such evidence here. Accordingly, the Court rejects Plaintiff's "caused to" language and construes "dragged" to have its plain and ordinary meaning.
B. "continually moved" [claim 15]
Plaintiff's Proposed "a movement that causes an image to be dragged across the Construction screen" Defendants' Proposed "moved without interruption" Construction Court's Construction "when the ...