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TQ Delta LLC v. Adtran Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

April 27, 2018

TQ DELTA, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
ADTRAN, INC., Defendant. ADTRAN, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
TQ DELTA, LLC, Defendant.

          Rosemary J. Piergiovanni, FARNAN LLP, Wilmington, DE; Peter J. McAndrews (argued) and Michael Tomsa (argued), MCANDREWS, HELD & MALLOY, Chicago, IL. Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          Kenneth L. Dorsney, MORRIS JAMES LLP, Wilmington, DE; Jeffrey D. Dyess and Benn C. Wilson (argued), BRADLEY ARANT BOULT CUMMINGS, Birmingham, AL. Attorneys for Defendant Adtran Inc.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANDREWS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently before the Court is the issue of claim construction of multiple terms in U.S. Patent No. 8, 625, 660 ("the '660 patent"). The Court has considered the Parties' Joint Claim Construction Brief. (Civ. Act. No. 14-00954-RGA, D.I. 318; Civ. Act. No. 15-00121-RGA; D.I. 321).[1] The Court heard oral argument on February 27, 2018. (D.I. 370). Prior to oral argument, the parties agreed on a construction for the term "carriers." (D.I. 348).

         I. BACKGROUND

         The patent-in-suit represents "Family 10" of the patents that Plaintiff has asserted against Defendant Adtran. (D.I. 318, p. 1). The '660 patent relates to increasing the data rate and impairment immunity of multicarrier communications systems by assigning different margins to individual carriers. The '660 patent claims both methods and systems for modulating bits onto sets of carriers using different signal to noise ratio margins.

         II. 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. AWHCorp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc) (citation 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.'" SoftView LLC v. Apple Inc., 2013 WL 4758195, at *1 (D. Del. Sept. 4, 2013) (quoting Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1324) (alteration in original). When construing patent claims, 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, 979-80 (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.

         "[T]he words of a claim are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning. . . . [This 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. "[T]he ordinary meaning of a claim term is its meaning to [an] ordinary artisan after reading the entire patent." Id. at 1321. "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.

         When a court relies solely upon the intrinsic evidence-the patent claims, the specification, and the prosecution history-the court's construction is a determination of law. See Teva Pharm. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 831, 841 (2015). The court may also make factual findings based upon consideration of extrinsic evidence, which "consists of all evidence external to the patent and prosecution history, including expert and inventor testimony, dictionaries, and learned treatises." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317-19. Extrinsic evidence may assist the court in understanding the underlying technology, the meaning of terms to one skilled in the art, and how the invention works. Id. Extrinsic evidence, however, is less reliable and less useful in claim construction than the patent and its prosecution history. Id.

         "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) (citation omitted).

         III. CONSTRUCTION OF DISPUTED TERMS Plaintiff asserts claims 5 and 14 of the '660 patent. (D.I. 318, pp. 11-12).

         Claim 5 of the '660 patent reads as follows:

5. An apparatus comprising:
a multicarrier communications transceiver operable to modulate a first plurality of bits onto a first plurality of carriers using a first Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) margin and to modulate a second plurality of bits onto a second plurality of carriers using a second SNR margin, wherein the first plurality of carriers is different than the second plurality of carriers, wherein the first SNR margin specifies a first value for an increase in noise associated with the first plurality of subcarriers, wherein the second SNR margin specifies a second value for an increase in noise associated with the ...

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