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Valmont Industries, Inc. v. Lindsay Corp.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

November 14, 2018

VALMONT INDUSTRIES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
LINDSAY CORPORATION and LINDSAY SALES & SERVICES, LLC, Defendants.

          Susan E. Morrison, FISH & RICHARDSON P.C., Wilmington, DE P. Weston Musselman, Jr., Ricardo J. Bonilla, FISH & RICHARDSON P.C., Dallas, TX Attorneys for Plaintiff

          Rodger D. Smith II, Eleanor G. Tennyson, Jennifer A. Ward, MORRIS, NICHOLS, ARSHT & TUNNELL LLP, Wilmington, DE Attorneys for Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STARK, CS. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Valmont Industries, Inc. ("Plaintiff or "Valmont") asserts, in the operative Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"), that Defendants Lindsay Corporation and Lindsay Sales & Services, LLC ("Defendants" or "Lindsay") infringe Valmont's U.S. Patent No. 7, 003, 357 C2 (D.I. 66-1) ("the '357 Patent"), entitled "Method and Means for Reading the Status of and Controlling Irrigation Components." Lindsay filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), contending that the patent-in-suit fails to claim patent eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. (D.I. 68)

         I. Background

         The patent-in-suit is directed to the use and improvement of irrigation control and monitoring systems. (See '357 patent at Abstract) The patent teaches the use of a hand-held portable device to remotely display and control irrigation systems. The parties dispute whether the aim and inventiveness of the patent was directed to allowing remote and portable irrigation control (see D.I. 100 ("Tr.") at 86) (Defendants: "It's our view that they're just using the computer technology here, a hand-held computer as a tool to implement something that was well known.") or to overcome challenges in displaying irrigation status on a compact screen (see Tr. at 97) (Plaintiff arguing that patent is "about particular GUIs that allow a user to quickly and easily read a comprehensive set of information on a single screen").

         The '357 patent has been revised multiple times. First, all but claims 11 and 16 were found unpatentable during the inter partes review (IPR). (D.I. 30 at 2) Second, claim 16 was found unpatentable and claims 19-90 were added in the first ex parte reexamination. (D.I. 31 ¶ 13) Third, claims 19, 20, 21, and 23 were amended as a result of a second ex parte reexamination. (D.I. 66-3) Lastly, on May 9, 2018, the Federal Circuit on appeal from the IPR invalidated claim 11, leaving claims 1-18 invalidated with claims 19-90 remaining in effect. See Valmont Industries, Inc. v. Lindsay Corp., 730 Fed.Appx. 918 (Fed. Cir. 2018).

         Defendants point to claim 25 as representative of the asserted claims (25-90). (D.I. 69 at 3-4; Tr. at 92-93) Plaintiff contests the representativeness of claim 25, citing claims 79 and 37 as presenting different issues. (Tr. at 114-15) While the SAC focuses on claim 25, Plaintiff is asserting other claims as well, and the Court is not persuaded of its representativeness. Hence, the Court will address the three claims cited by the parties - claims 25, 37, and 79 - but will require additional briefing if either party seeks a ruling on any other claim.

         Claim 25 of the '357 patent recites:

A remote user interface for reading a status of and controlling irrigation equipment including a pivot and at least two end-guns affixed to the pivot, comprising:
a hand-held display;
a processor;
wireless telemetry means for transmitting signals and data between the remote user interface and the irrigation equipment; and
software operable on said processor for:
(a) displaying data received from the irrigation equipment as a plurality of graphic user interfaces (GUIs) that are configured to present said data as status information on said display, wherein said plurality of GUIs are shaped to identify particular types of irrigation equipment by comprising a pivot GUI that represents the pivot, at least two end-gun GUIs that represents the at least two end guns affixed to the pivot, and a spray pattern GUI that represents a setting of the at least two end-guns along a pivot path; wherein the pivot GUI has a shape representing the pivot path of the pivot, the shape partitioned into a plurality of wedges; wherein the spray pattern GUI has a spray pattern representing the setting of the at least two end-guns along the pivot path;
(b) receiving a user's commands to control the irrigation equipment, through said user's manipulation of said GUIs, wherein receiving the user's commands comprises: receiving the user's selection of a wedge; and receiving the user's selection of a change of a status of one of the least two end-guns for the selected wedged; and
(c) transmitting signals to the irrigation equipment to control the irrigation equipment in accordance with said user's commands; and (d) displaying a changed spray pattern of the selected wedge according to the change of the status of one of the least two end-guns.

('357 patent at 1:63-2:37)

         II. ...


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