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Opticurrent, LLC v. Power Integrations, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Marshall Division

April 18, 2017

OPTICURRENT, LLC, Plaintiffs,
v.
POWER INTEGRATIONS, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          RODNEY GILSTRAP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is the opening claim construction brief of Plaintiff Opticurrent, LLC. (“Plaintiff”) (Dkt. No. 44, filed on January 20, 2017), the response of Defendant Power Integrations, Inc. (“Defendant”) (Dkt. No. 48, filed on February 3, 2017), and the reply of Plaintiff (Dkt. No. 49, filed on February 10, 2017). The Court held a claim construction hearing on March 28, 2017. Having considered the arguments and evidence presented by the parties at the hearing and in their claim construction briefing, the Court issues this Claim Construction Order.

         Table of Contents

         I. BACKGROUND ....................................................................................................................... 3

         II. LEGAL PRINCIPLES ........................................................................................................... 4

         III. CONSTRUCTION OF AGREED TERMS ........................................................................ 6

         IV. CONSTRUCTION OF DISPUTED TERMS ..................................................................... 6

         A. “terminal” .............................................................................................................................. 6

         B. “A noninverting transistor switch having only three terminals” .......................................... 9

         C. “voltage stabilizer” ............................................................................................................. 14

         D. “connected to” ..................................................................................................................... 18

         E. “said COMS inverter interrupting …” ................................................................................ 21

         V. CONCLUSION ...................................................................................................................... 24

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff brings suit alleging infringement of United States Patent No. 6, 958, 623 (“the '623 patent” or “patent-in-suit”) by the Defendant.

         The application leading to the '623 patent was filed on January 7, 2004, but is based on a PCT application filed on January 18, 2002, which claims priority to U.S. provisional patent application 60/262, 755, filed on January 19, 2001. The '623 patent issued on October 25, 2005 and is entitled “Three Terminal Noninverting Transistor Switch.” In general, the '623 patent is directed to a three terminal noninverting switch that (among other items) is stated to reduce current leakage during high input signal voltages. The Abstract of the '623 patent states:

A noninverting transistor switch having only a first terminal, a second terminal and a third terminal includes a transistor connected to the second and third terminals, the transistor having an on switching state in which current is able to pass between the second and third terminals and an off switching state in which current is interrupted from passing between the second and third terminals. The transistor switch also includes a voltage stabilizer connected to the second and third terminals. The transistor switch further includes a CMOS inverter connected to the first terminal, the second terminal, the transistor and the voltage stabilizer. In use, the CMOS inverter interrupts the passing of current between the voltage stabilizer and the second terminal when the transistor is in its off switching state.

         Claim 1 of the '623 patent is shown below:

1. A noninverting transistor switch having only three terminals, said three terminals being a first terminal, a second terminal and a third terminal, said noninverting transistor switch comprising:
(a) a transistor connected to the second and third terminals, said transistor having an on switching state in which current is able pass between the second and third terminals and an off switching state in which current is interrupted from passing between the second and third terminals,
(b) a voltage stabilizer connected to the second and third terminals, and
(c) a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) inverter connected to the first terminal, the second terminal, said transistor and said voltage stabilizer, said CMOS inverter interrupting the passing of current between said voltage stabilizer and the second terminal when said transistor is in its off switching state.

         II. LEGAL PRINCIPLES

         This Court's claim construction analysis is guided by the Federal Circuit's decision in Phillips v. AWH Corporation, 415 F.3d 1303 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc). In Phillips, the court reiterated that “the claims of a patent define the invention to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude.” 415 F.3d at 1312 (quoting Innova/Pure Water, Inc. v. Safari Water Filtration Sys., Inc., 381 F.3d 1111, 1115 (Fed. Cir. 2004)). “The 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.” Id. at 1316 (quoting Renishaw PLC v. Marposs Societa' per Azioni, 158 F.3d 1243, 1250 (Fed. Cir. 1998)).

         In claim construction, patent 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.” Id. at 1312-13. This principle of patent law flows naturally from the recognition that inventors are usually persons who are skilled in the field of the invention and that patents are addressed to, and intended to be read by, others skilled in the particular art. Id.

         Despite the importance of claim terms, Phillips made clear that “the person of ordinary skill in the art is deemed to read the claim term not only in the context of the particular claim in which the disputed term appears, but in the context of the entire patent, including the specification.” Id. The written description set forth in the specification, for example, “may act as a sort of dictionary, which explains the invention and may define terms used in the claims.” Markman, 52 F.3d at 979. Thus, as the Phillips court emphasized, the specification is “the primary basis for construing the claims.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1314-17. However, it is the claims, not the specification, which set forth the limits of the patentee's invention. Otherwise, “there would be no need for claims.” SRI Int'l v. Matsushita Elec. Corp., 775 F.2d 1107, 1121 (Fed. Cir. 1985) (en banc).

         The prosecution history also plays an important role in claim interpretation as intrinsic evidence that is relevant to the determination of how the inventor understood the invention and whether the inventor limited the invention during prosecution by narrowing the scope of the claims. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1314-17; see also Microsoft Corp. v. Multi-Tech Sys., Inc., 357 F.3d 1340, 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (noting that “a patentee's statements during prosecution, whether relied on by the examiner or not, are relevant to claim interpretation”). In this sense, the prosecution history helps to demonstrate how the inventor and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) understood the patent. Id. at 1317. Because the prosecution history, however, “represents an ongoing negotiation between the PTO and the applicant, ” it may sometimes lack the clarity of the specification and thus be less useful in claim construction. Id.

         Courts are also permitted to rely on extrinsic evidence, such as “expert and inventor testimony, dictionaries, and learned treatises, ” id. (quoting Markman, 52 F.3d at 980), but Phillips rejected any claim construction approach that sacrifices the intrinsic record in favor of extrinsic evidence. Id. at 1319. Instead, the court assigned extrinsic evidence, such as dictionaries, a role subordinate to the intrinsic record. In doing so, the court emphasized that claim construction issues are not resolved by any magic formula or particular sequence of steps. Id. at 1323-25. Rather, Phillips held that a court must attach the appropriate weight to the sources offered in support of a proposed claim construction, bearing in mind the general rule that the claims measure the scope of the patent grant. “In cases where . . . subsidiary facts are in dispute, courts will need to make subsidiary factual findings about [the] extrinsic evidence. These are the ‘evidentiary underpinnings' of claim construction [discussed] in Markman, and this subsidiary factfinding must be reviewed for clear error on appeal.” Teva Pharm. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 831, 841 (2015).

         The Supreme Court of the United States has “read [35 U.S.C.] § 112, ¶ 2 to require that a patent's claims, viewed in light of the specification and prosecution history, 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 determination of claim indefiniteness is a legal conclusion that is drawn from the court's performance of its duty as the construer of patent claims.” Datamize, LLC v. Plumtree Software, Inc., 417 F.3d 1342, 1347 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted), abrogated on other grounds by Nautilus, 134 S.Ct. 2120.

         III. CONSTRUCTION OF AGREED TERMS

         The parties have not agreed upon any terms.

         IV. CONSTRUCTION OF DISPUTED TERMS

         The parties' positions and the Court's analysis as to the disputed terms are presented below.

         A. ...


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