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Wasica Finance GMBH v. Schrader International Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 4, 2019

WASICA FINANCE GMBH and BLUEARC FINANCE AG, Plaintiffs,
v.
SCHRADER INTERNATIONAL, INC., SCHRADER-BRIDGEPORT INTERNATIONAL, INC., SCHRADER ELECTRONICS LIMITED, and SCHRADER ELECTRONICS INC., Defendants.

          Jeremy D. Anderson, Fish & Richardson P.C., Wilmington, DE Michael J. Kane and Jason M. Zucchi, Fish & Richardson P.C., Minneapolis, ME Attorneys for Plaintiffs.

          Jeremy A. Tigan, Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnel LLP, Wilmington, DE Brian P. Collins and Robert M. Fuhrer, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, McLean, VA Attorneys for Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STARK, U.S DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs Wasica Finance GmbH and BlueArc Finance (together, "Wasica") sued Defendants Schrader International, Inc., Schrader Bridgeport International, Inc., Schrader Electronics Limited, and Schrader Electronics, Inc. (together, "Schrader"), alleging that Schrader infringes Wasica's U.S. Patent No. 5, 602, 524 ("the '524 patent"). (D.I. 60) The asserted patents describe devices for monitoring the air pressure in pneumatic tires. (See '524 patent, Abstract)

         Presently before the Court are the parties' disputes over the meaning of certain claim terms in the asserted claims. The parties submitted technology tutorials (D.I. 56, 58) and claim construction briefs (D.I. 54, 57, 62, 63). Wasica submitted objections to Schrader's technology tutorial. (D.I. 69) Wasica also moved to strike testimony from Schrader's expert, Dr. Ronald Williams, as to indefiniteness.[1] (D.I. 68) The Court held a claim construction hearing on December 3, 2018. (D.I. 80 ("Tr."))

         I. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Claim Construction

         The ultimate question of the proper construction of a patent is a question of law. See Teva Pharm. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 831, 837 (2015) (citing Markman 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. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (citation and 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.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." Hill-Rom Servs., Inc. v. Stryker Corp., 755 F.3d 1367, 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (quoting Liebel-Flarsheim Co. v. Medrad, Inc., 358 F.3d 898, 906 (Fed. Cir. 2004)) (alteration in original) (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), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370 (1996). The prosecution history, which is "intrinsic evidence," "consists of the complete record of the proceedings before the [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'n, 75 F.3d 1545, 1550 (Fed. Cir. 1996)).

         B. Indefiniteness

         A patent claim is indefinite if, "viewed in light of the specification and prosecution history, [it fails to] inform those skilled in the art about the scope of the invention with reasonable certainty." Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 2120, 2129 (2014). A claim may be indefinite if the patent does not convey with reasonable certainty how to measure a claimed feature. See Teva Pharm. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 789 F.3d 1335, 1341 (Fed. Cir. 2015). But "[i]f such an understanding of how to measure the claimed [feature] was within the scope of knowledge possessed by one of ordinary skill in the art, there is no requirement for the specification to identify a particular measurement technique." Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc. v. Covidien, Inc., 796 F.3d 1312, 1319 (Fed. Cir. 2015).

         II. CONSTRUCTION OF DISPUTED TERMS

         The asserted patent is entitled "Device for Monitoring the Air-Pressure in Pneumatic Tires Fitted on Vehicle Wheels." Claim 6, which is the only asserted claim, relates to a "device for monitoring the air pressure in the air chamber of pneumatic tires fitted on vehicle wheels."

         A. "signal-generating device which generates an identification signal which is unique for the transmitter and clearly identifies same"

Wasica

"signal-generating device" means "a device that is part of the claimed transmitter that generates an identification signal"

"generates an identification signal which is unique for the transmitter and clearly identifies same" means "produces an electrical signal that only one of the transmitters in the vehicle uses for identification and that clearly identifies that particular transmitter from the other transmitters in the vehicle"

Schrader

"signal-generating device" is a part of the claimed transmitter, distinct from the emitter-control device, that creates the data or sequence of values/digits that represent the unique identification information for the transmitter

"identification signal" refers to the unique identification information stored in the transmitter

Court

"signal-generating device" means "a device that is part of the claimed transmitter that generates an identification signal"

"generates an identification signal which is unique for the transmitter and clearly identifies same" means "produces an electrical signal that only one of the transmitters in the vehicle uses for identification and that clearly identifies that particular transmitter from the other transmitters in the vehicle"


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