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Siemens Industry, Inc. v. Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corp.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

November 6, 2017

SIEMENS INDUSTRY, INC, Plaintiff,
v.
WESTINGHOUSE AIR BRAKE TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION d/b/a WABTEC CORPORATION and WABTEC RAILWAY ELECTRONICS, INC, Defendants.

          Jack B. Blumenfeld, Karen Jacobs, MORRIS, NICHOLS, ARSHT & TUNNELL LLP Wilmington, DE Mark M. Supko, Kathryn L. Clune, Vincent J. Galluzzo, CROWELL & MORING LLP, Washington, D.C. Jacob Z. Zambrzycki, CROWELL & MORING LLP, New York, NY Attorneys for Plaintiff Siemens Industry, Inc.

          Steven L. Caponi, K&L GATES LLP, Wilmington DE Alan L. Barry, Jason A. Engel, Benjamin E. Weed, Devon C. Beane, Katherine L. Hoffee, K&L GATES, Chicago, IL Attorneys for Defendants Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corporation(d/b/a Wabtec Corporation) and W abtec Railway Electronics, Inc.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STARK, U.S. District Judge:

         Plaintiff Siemens Industry, Inc. ("Siemens") alleges that Defendants Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corporation (d/b/a Wabtec Corporation) and Wabtec Railway Electronics, Inc. (collectively, "Wabtec") infringe 13 patents directed to different aspects of train safety and control. The 13 patents can be broken into three technological buckets: patents relating to the onboard unit ("OBU"); patents directed to the back office server ("BOS"); and patents relating to end-of-train ("EOT") systems.[1]

         Presently before the Court is the issue of claim construction. The parties submitted briefs (see D.I. 107, 109, 119, 121) and technology tutorials (D.I. 106, 110). The Court held a claim construction hearing on September 5, 2017. (See D.I. 49)

         I. LEGAL STANDARDS

         The ultimate question of the proper construction of a patent is a question of law. See TevaPharm. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 831, 837 (2015) (citingMarkman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 388-91 (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 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 "[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).

         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.3dat 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." Hill-Rom Servs., Inc. v. Stryker Corp., 755 F.3d 1367, 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (quotingLiebel-Flarsheim Co. v. Medrad, Inc., 358 F.3d 898, 906 (Fed. Cir. 2004)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In addition to the specification, a court "should also consider the patent's prosecution history, if it is in evidence." Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 980 (Fed. Cir. 1995), affd, 517 U.S. 370 (1996). 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.

         In some cases, "the district court will need to look beyond the patent's intrinsic evidence and to consult extrinsic evidence in order to understand, for example, the background science or the meaning of a term in the relevant art during the relevant time period." Teva, 135 S.Ct. at 841. Extrinsic evidence "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. 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. Where the intrinsic record unambiguously describes the scope of the patented invention, reliance on any extrinsic evidence is improper. See Pitney Bowes, Inc. v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 182 F.3d 1298, 1308 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (citing Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1583).

         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) (quoting Modine Mfg. Co. v. U.S. Int'l Trade Comm % 75 F.3d 1545, 1550 (Fed. Cir. 1996)).

         II. CONSTRUCTION OF DISPUTED TERMS[2]

         A. OBU Patents

         1. "weight of the train" [3]

Siemens

No construction necessary. [4]

Alternative: The combined weight of the cars making up the train.

Wabtec

The actual weight of the train.

Court

The combined weight of the cars making up the train.

         The parties dispute whether the "weight of the train" must be the actual weight (Wabtec's proposal) or an estimated weight (Siemens' proposal). Wabtec contends that the patent was meant to overcome the "worst-case" assumption used in the fixed braking curve system of the prior art - a system that stops the train by calculating the time and distance before the train reaches a stop signal based on the assumption that the train is "traveling downhill on the most steeply graded section of track, and that the train is at the maximum weight." '801patent at 3:22-25. One problem with the prior art fixed braking curve system is that it resulted in the train stopping too early, and thus, the system operating inefficiently. According to Wabtec, because the prior art was based on an estimated weight of the train, and because the patent was meant to overcome this problem of stopping too early, the "weight of the train" here must be construed as the actual, rather than the estimated, weight of the train. (D.I. 109 at 11-12)

         While the patent was meant to overcome the fixed braking curve system of the prior art, Siemens contends that the solution was based on an innovation other than a transition from using an estimated weight to the actual weight of the train. (D.I. 119 at 2-3) Instead, the patent "identifies numerous factors that may be taken into account to more accurately determine when and how to automatically apply a train's brakes." (Id. at 3) For example, the patent calculates the time and/or distance required to stop the train depending on factors such as "the speed of the train, the weight and length of the train, the grade and amount of curvature of the upcoming track ..., braking power, braking ratios, type of brake equipment, aerodynamic drag of the train, etc." '801 patent at 11:26-33. Siemens contends that "nowhere in the claims or the specification are words such as 'actual, ' 'exact, ' or 'precise' used with respect to weight, nor is there even any discussion of how the weight of the train is to be determined as a practical matter." (D.I. 119 at 3)

         The Court agrees with Siemens. The patent uses the term "weight of the train" only generally; nowhere does it indicate whether that weight must be exact or whether a specific method must be used to calculate it. The specification makes clear that the patented invention uses many factors to calculate the speed/distance required to stop the train, rather than simply assuming the worst-case scenario, see '801 patent at 11:26-33, and none of the listed factors involve using an exact or precise weight. Instead, the patented method considers multiple factors not considered by the prior art (e.g., length of the train, track curvature, braking power, etc.) in order to create a more efficient system. Nothing in the claims or specification preclude using an estimated weight of the train.[5]

         Accordingly, the Court will adopt Siemens' proposed construction of "the combined weight of the cars making up the train."

         2."determining when a train is in danger of violating the speed restriction"[6]

Siemens

No construction necessary.

Alternative: Ascertaining that a train is likely to exceed a maximum allowable speed.

Wabtec

Indefinite.

Court

Ascertaining that a train is likely to exceed a maximum allowable speed.

         Wabtec contends that the term "determining when a train is in danger of violating the speed restriction" is indefinite because the patent "provides zero guidance on how the claimed train control system actually determines what constitutes 'danger' versus what does not." (D.I. 109 at 29) Siemens counters that the term is not indefinite, and further that it is a non-technical phrase that requires no construction. (D.I. 107 at 4-5) According to Siemens, the ordinary meaning of the term is explained in the specification, which teaches that the invention may be implemented with a computer that monitors the speed of the train in order "to warn the conductor or engineer if an authority (speed, position, etc.) is about to be exceeded and, if required, to automatically stop or slow down the train before the authority is exceeded." '801 patent at 12:60-13:4; id. at 5:65-6:3. Furthermore, Siemens explains that, "[w]hether and when such a warning is given can be based on a variety of factors, including the grade of the track (e.g., uphill, downhill) and the weight of the train." (D.I. 107 at 5) .

         The Court agrees with Siemens.[7] Wabtec has failed to show that the patents do not provide a person of ordinary skill in the art at least reasonable certainty as to the scope of its claims. See Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 2120, 2124 (2014).

         While the specification does not explicitly define when a train is in "danger" of violating a certain restriction, the ordinary meaning of the term and the specification provide enough detail that one of ordinary skill in the art is able to determine the scope of the claims. As explained in relation to the term "weight of the train, " the patented invention calculates the time and/or distance required to stop the train - e.g., when it is in danger of violating a restriction - based on multiple factors. Given the multiple variables that go into such a determination, it is sensible that the patent does not delineate each potential circumstance in which the train may be in danger of such a violation. The record reveals no basis to doubt that a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand that a train is in danger of violating the speed restriction when the train is likely to exceed a maximum allowable speed, based on various factors (including those expressly identified in the specification).

         3."in compliance with a regulation" [8]

Siemens

No construction necessary.

Alternative: In accordance with a rule or directive mandated by an authority.

Wabtec

Indefinite.

Court

In accordance with a rule or directive mandated by an authority.

         Wabtec contends the term "in compliance with a regulation" is indefinite because "the first time the term appears in the ' 110 Patent is in the claims themselves, " and "the term lacks any clarity regarding the regulations to which it refers." (D.I. 109 at 30) Siemens counters that the fact that the term does not appear in the patent prior to the claims does not mandate finding the term indefinite. (D.I. 119 at 6) (citing All Dental Prox, LLC v. Advantage Dental Prods., Inc., 309 F.3d 774, 779 (Fed. Cir. 2002)) Instead, in Siemens' view, because a person of ordinary skill in the art reading the patent would understand the regulations to which the term refers, the term is not indefinite. Siemens also points out ...


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