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Collabo Innovations, Inc. v. Omnivision Technologies, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 25, 2017





         In this patent infringement action filed by plaintiff Collabo Innovations, Inc. ("Collabo") against defendant Omni Vision Technologies, Inc. ("Omni Vision"), Collabo alleges infringement of United States Patent Nos. 7, 411, 180 ("the '180 patent"), 8, 592, 880 ("the '880 patent"), 7, 944, 493 ("the '493 patent"), 7, 728, 895 ("the '895 patent"), and 8, 004, 026 ("the '026 patent") (the "asserted patents" or the "patents-in-suit"). Presently before the court is the matter of claim construction. This order sets forth the court's constructions for the disputed claim terms discussed in the briefing and at the Markman hearing held on July 12, 2017.

         II. BACKGROUND[2]

         A. The Parties

         Collabo is a Delaware corporation with its headquarters in Costa Mesa, California. (D.I. 14 at ¶ 1) Collabo is the sole owner by assignment of the patents-in-suit, which are directed to image sensors of semiconductor integrated circuits. (Id. at ¶¶ 6-10)

         OmniVision is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Santa Clara, California. (Id. at ¶ 2) OmniVision manufactures and sells semiconductor devices, including CMOS image sensors, which are incorporated into consumer electronics such as mobile handsets, tablets, automotive cameras, and gamepads. (Id. at ¶¶ 11-12)

         B. Procedural Posture

         Collabo filed suit against OmniVision on March 29, 2016, alleging that OmniVision makes, uses, offers to sell, and/or imports into the United States semiconductor devices, including complementary metal-oxide semiconductor ("CMOS") image sensors, which utilize technologies covered by the patents-in-suit. (D.I. 1 at ¶ 11) On July 19, 2016, this action was referred by Judge Robinson for discovery and all motions to dismiss, amend, transfer, and any discovery motions permitted. (D.I. 24) The parties completed briefing on claim construction on May 11, 2017. (D.I. 49; D.I. 55; D.I. 60; D.I. 63) On June 8, 2017, the parties consented to the jurisdiction of the magistrate judge for disposition on claim construction. (D.I. 71) A Markman hearing was held on July 12, 2017.


         Construing the claims of a patent presents a question of law, although subsidiary fact finding is sometimes necessary. Teva Pharms. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 831, 837-38 (2015) (citing Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 977-78 (Fed. Cir. 1995), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370, 388-90 (1996)). "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. AWHCorp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[T]here is no magic formula or catechism for conducting claim construction." Id. at 1324. Instead, the court may attach the appropriate weight to appropriate sources "in light of the statutes and policies that inform patent law." Id.

         The words of the claims "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 the ordinary artisan after reading the entire patent." Id. at 1321 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Eon Corp. IP Holdings v. Silver Spring Networks, Inc., 815 F.3d 1314, 1320 (Fed. Cir. 2016). Claim terms are typically used consistently throughout the patent, and "usage of a term in one claim can often illuminate the meaning of the same term in other claims." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1314 (observing that "[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. . . .").

         It is likewise true that "[differences 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) (citing Ecolab Inc. v. Paraclipse, Inc., 285 F.3d 1362, 1375 (Fed. Cir. 2002).

         Other intrinsic evidence, including 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). "[T]he 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 (citing CCS Fitness, Inc. v. Brunswick Corp., 288 F.3d 1359, 1366 (Fed. Cir. 2002)). 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). The specification "is not a substitute for, nor can it be used to rewrite, the chosen claim language." SuperGuide Corp. v. DirecTV Enters., Inc., 358 F.3d 870, 875 (Fed. Cir. 2004).

         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 also "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 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. ("[C]onclusory, unsupported assertions by experts as to the definition of a claim term are not useful to a court."). 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." Mat 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. Int'l Trade Comm'n, 505 F.3d 1351, 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2007).


         A. Claim Construction of the '180 Patent

         The parties represent that, after continued meet and confers, they have reached agreement on the disputed claim terms in the ' 180 patent. (7/12/17 Tr. at 79:15-80:11) In accordance with the parties' agreement, the claim terms of the '180 patent shall be construed in the following manner:


Agreed Construction

"transparent film" (' 180 patent, claim 1)

"a clear layer of material that allows light to pass through"

"transparent film on said micro-lenses" (' 180 patent, claim 1)

"transparent film directly on said micro-lenses"

"micro-lenses" ('180 patent, claims 1 & 2)

"multiple miniature bodies of material wherein each body is for focusing light"

         B. Claim Construction of the '895 Patent

         The '895 patent, entitled "Solid-state image sensing device having shared floating diffusion portions, " teaches ways to reduce the size of each pixel by allowing different pixels to share common parts. ('895 patent, col. 1:25-37) Specifically, the '895 patent teaches arranging the floating diffusion portions in a specific configuration to be shared among photoelectric conversion portions, thereby reducing the overall size. (Id. at col. 2:1-4) The reduction in pixel size allows designers of digital cameras, smart phones, and other devices containing image sensors to ...

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