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Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. v. T-Mobile US, Inc.

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

May 24, 2017

HUAWEI TECHNOLOGIES CO. LTD, Plaintiff,
v.
T-MOBILE US, INC., Defendants, NOKIA SOLUTIONS AND NETWORKS U.S. LLC, NOKIA SOLUTIONS AND NETWORKS OY, TELEFONAKTIEBOLAGET LM ERICSSON, and ERICSSON INC. Intervenors.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROY S. PAVNE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         On March 16, 2017, the Court held a hearing to determine the proper construction of the disputed claim terms in United States Patent Nos. 8, 638, 750 (“the '750 Patent”), 8, 537, 779 (“the '779 Patent”), and 8, 031, 677 (“the '677 Patent”) (collectively “the Asserted Patents”). The Court has considered the arguments made by the parties at the hearing and in their claim construction briefs. Dkt. Nos. 124, 130, 131, & 139.[1] The Court has also considered the intrinsic evidence and made subsidiary factual findings about the extrinsic evidence. See Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1314 (Fed. Cir. 2005); Teva Pharm. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 831, 841 (2015). The Court issues this Claim Construction Memorandum and Order in light of these considerations.

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

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

         II. APPLICABLE LAW .......................................................................................................... 7

         III. CONSTRUCTION OF AGREED TERMS ...................................................................... 12

         IV. CONSTRUCTION OF DISPUTED TERMS ................................................................... 14

1. “receiver, ” “transmitter, ” and “mobility management network device” ...... 14
2. “obtaining unit, ” “identifying unit, ” and “processing unit” ......................... 28
3. “Create Bearer Request message” ................................................................ 40
4. “Create Default Bearer Request Message” ................................................... 44
5. “A method for detaching a user equipment (UE) when a handover from a 3rd generation partnership project (3GPP) network to a non- 3GPP network occurs, comprising:” ........................................................................................................ 46
6. “detaching, by the MME, the UE from the 3GPP network” / “detach the UE from the 3GPP network” ..................................................................................... 50

         V. CONCLUSION ................................................................................................................. 57

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The '779 and '750 Patents

         The '779 Patent was filed on October 19, 2009, issued on September 17, 2013, and is titled “Method, System, and Apparatus for Registration Processing.” The '750 Patent was filed on July 27, 2009, issued on January 28, 2014, and is titled “Method and Network Device for Creating and Deleting Resources.” The '779 and '750 Patents generally relate to a “handover between a 3GPP access system (such as GERAN/UTRAN/E-UTRAN) and a Non-3GPP access system (such as WLAN/Wimax and so on).” '750 Patent at 1:61-63. The specification discusses a number of drawbacks in the existing handover process. Specifically, the specification states the following:

1. [NO MECHANISM TO RECOVER RESOURCES] During handover from the Non-3GPP system to the 3GPP system, in order to guarantee service continuity for the UE, the 3GPP system need recover the resources used by the UE in the Non-3GPP system access system, however, there is no such a mechanism in the existing handover process from the Non-3GPP system to the 3GPP system.
2. [NO MECHANISM FOR DIFFERENTIATING ACCESS PROCESSES] In a normal 3GPP access process, the 3GPP system only creates a default bearer for the UE. However, in an access process during handover from the Non-3GPP system to the 3GPP system, the 3GPP system need recover the resources used by the UE in the Non-3GPP system access system. Above two access processes are different, and the 3GPP system need differentiate the two different access processes, but there is no such a mechanism for differentiating the different access processes in the existing 3GPP system.
3. [ONLY ONE DEFAULT BEARER IS CREATED] In an access process in the existing 3GPP system, the UE initiates the establishment of one default bearer only, in other words, the MME can only initiates a Create Default Bearer process to one PDN GW. If the UE uses multiple PDN GWs in the Non-3GPP access system, the existing mechanism cannot work.
4. [SERVICE INTERRUPTIONS AND OUTAGES] In the prior art, the handover between the Non-3GPP system and the 3GPP system is a “loosely coupled” handover, in other words, the UE firstly disconnects form the source system, and then completes the handover through the access process in the destination system. In such a way of handover, the service may be interrupted for a long time and may possibly be turned down. There is no mechanism in prior art about how to optimize the handover between the Non-3GPP system and the 3GPP system so as to decrease the service interruption time for the UE.
5. [RESOURCES NOT RELEASED] When the UE accesses a Non-3GPP access system, the Non-3GPP access system may allocate resources to the UE. When abnormal switch off or offline occurs on the UE, the resources allocated to the UE by the Non-3GPP access system will not be released. When the UE newly accesses to a 3GPP access system, the resources which was allocated to the UE by the Non-3GPP access system need be released, however there is no such a mechanism for handling this in the prior art.

Id. at 2:47-3:19 (Annotated).

         To address these problems, the specification states that “[t]he present invention aims at providing a method for creating resources, a method for deleting resources, and a network device, in which an initial access process and a handover process for a User Equipment (UE) may be differentiated so as to perform corresponding processes on resources.” Id. at 3:23-28. For example, the '779 Patent discloses an “optimized handover mechanism” such that, during a handover from a non-3GPP network to a 3GPP network, the target 3GPP network receives a notice “to create the bearer on the access network side in the handover process in order to speed up service recovery time after the UE hands over to the target access network.” '779 Patent at 1:51-67. To accomplish this, the network receives an additional piece of information, such as an “information element (IE) indicating handover” in its attach request message to the LTE system. Id. at 6:37-47, Claim 1. Because the attach request message includes a handover indication, the LTE system knows it must initiate a bearer creation procedure to re-create the UE's bearers. Id. at 8:12-17, Claim 1.

         Claim 1 of the '779 Patent is an exemplary claim and recites the following elements:

1. A handover processing method, comprising:
receiving, by a Mobility Management Entity (MME), an attach request message sent by a User Equipment (UE) during a handover from a non 3rd Generation Partnership Project (non-3GPP) network to a 3rd Generation Partnership (3GPP) network, wherein the attach request message comprises an information element (IE) indicating handover; identifying, by the MME, a Packet Data Network Gateway (PDN GW) whose address is used by the UE in the non-3GPP network by communicating with a Home Subscriber Server (HSS); and requesting, by the MME, the PDN GW to initiate a bearer creation procedure.

         The '779 Patent is primarily directed toward a procedure that results in the recreation of the non-3GPP bearers in the 3GPP network. The '750 Patent is primarily directed toward the messaging in this procedure by indicating to the PDN GW that different resources are to be created. See e.g., '750 Patent at 6:10-8:57. Specifically, the '750 Patent describes the particular messaging between the UE, MME, and PDN-GW during a handover procedure. See, e.g., id. at Claim 1.

         Claim 1 of the '750 Patent is an exemplary claim and recites the following elements (disputed term in italics):

         1. A mobility management network device comprising:

a receiver; and a transmitter configured to communicatively connect with the receiver,
wherein, during a handover from a non-3rd Generation Partnership Project (non-3GPP) access system to a 3GPP access system, the receiver is configured to receive, from a user equipment (UE), an access request message for access the 3GPP access system; and the transmitter is configured to send a resource request message to a packet data network gateway (PDN GW) to create resources for the UE to be used in the 3GPP access system,
wherein the access request message includes first handover indication information indicating that the access is a handover access;
wherein, in response to the first handover indication information being included in the access request message, the resource request message is configured to include second handover indication information, which indicates that the resource request message is caused by a handover access; and
wherein the second handover indication information is configured to be carried by an indication flag of the resource request message, the indication flag including one of a handover indication flag, a create type flag which is set to be handover create, and cause flag which is set to be handover cause.

         B. The '677 Patent

         The '677 Patent was filed on June 27, 2011, issued on October 4, 2011, and is titled “Method, System, and Device for User Detachment When a Handover or Change Occurs in Heterogeneous Network.” The '677 Patent generally relates to handovers from a 3GPP network (e.g., LTE) to a non-3GPP network (e.g., Wi-Fi). As background, the specification indicates that context information for the UE is stored in the MME. See, e.g., '677 Patent at 2:60-65. The specification describes the problem with the prior art handover procedure as follows: “when the UE is handed over or switched from a 3GPP network to a non-3GPP network, the 3GPP network merely deletes the bearer resources of the UE, but does not delete the mobility management context of the UE.” Id. at 3:10-16.

         To address this problem, the specification discloses inserting a “cause” information element in the delete bearer request that is received by the MME. Id. at 12:49-54 (“In step 608a, . . . the serving GW sends the received delete bearer request message to the MME, and adds a cause IE in the delete bearer request message to indicate the reason of the deletion.”). The “cause IE” indicates to the MME that “the bearer deletion [is] caused by the handover or switching of the UE from the 3GPP network to the non-3GPP network.” Id. at 12:55-60. This enables the MME to distinguish between delete bearer requests caused by a handover (i.e., those that trigger a deletion of the MM context) and those that are caused by other procedures where it may be beneficial to retain the context. After receiving the delete bearer request with the “cause IE, ” the MME then deletes the bearers associated with the UE and detaches it from the network (i.e., deletes the MM context associated with the UE). Id. at Claim 1.

         Claim 1 of the '677 Patent is an exemplary claim and recites the following elements (disputed term in italics):

1. A method for detaching a user equipment (UE) when a handover from a 3rd generation partnership project (3GPP) network to a non-3GPP network occurs, comprising:
receiving, by a mobility management entity (MME) of the 3GPP network, a delete bearer request sent by a serving gateway (GW) of the 3GPP network which carries a cause information element (IE), wherein the cause IE indicates the UE handovers from the 3GPP network to the non-3GPP network;
deleting, by the MME, bearer resources of the UE;
detaching, by the MME, the UE from the 3GPP network when all the bearer resources of the UE are deleted.

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         A. Claim Construction

         “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) (en banc) (quoting Innova/Pure Water Inc. v. Safari Water Filtration Sys., Inc., 381 F.3d 1111, 1115 (Fed. Cir. 2004)). To determine the meaning of the claims, courts start by considering the intrinsic evidence. Id. at 1313; C.R. Bard, Inc. v. U.S. Surgical Corp., 388 F.3d 858, 861 (Fed. Cir. 2004); Bell Atl. Network Servs., Inc. v. Covad Commc'ns Group, Inc., 262 F.3d 1258, 1267 (Fed. Cir. 2001). The intrinsic evidence includes the claims themselves, the specification, and the prosecution history. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1314; C.R. Bard, Inc., 388 F.3d at 861. The general rule-subject to certain specific exceptions discussed infra-is that each claim term is construed according to its ordinary and accustomed meaning as understood by one of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention in the context of the patent. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312-13; Alloc, Inc. v. Int'l Trade Comm'n, 342 F.3d 1361, 1368 (Fed. Cir. 2003); Azure Networks, LLC v. CSR PLC, 771 F.3d 1336, 1347 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (“There is a heavy presumption that claim terms carry their accustomed meaning in the relevant community at the relevant time.”) (vacated on other grounds).

         “The claim construction inquiry. . . begins and ends in all cases with the actual words of the claim.” Renishaw PLC v. Marposs Societa' per Azioni, 158 F.3d 1243, 1248 (Fed. Cir. 1998). “[I]n all aspects of claim construction, ‘the name of the game is the claim.'” Apple Inc. v. Motorola, Inc., 757 F.3d 1286, 1298 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (quoting In re Hiniker Co., 150 F.3d 1362, 1369 (Fed. Cir. 1998)). First, a term's context in the asserted claim can be instructive. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1314. Other asserted or unasserted claims can also aid in determining the claim's meaning, because claim terms are typically used consistently throughout the patent. Id. Differences among the claim terms can also assist in understanding a term's meaning. Id. For example, when a dependent claim adds a limitation to an independent claim, it is presumed that the independent claim does not include the limitation. Id. at 1314-15.

         “[C]laims ‘must be read in view of the specification, of which they are a part.'” Id. (quoting Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 979 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (en banc)). “[T]he 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.'” Id. (quoting Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996)); Teleflex, Inc. v. Ficosa N. Am. Corp., 299 F.3d 1313, 1325 (Fed. Cir. 2002). But, “‘[a]lthough the specification may aid the court in interpreting the meaning of disputed claim language, particular embodiments and examples appearing in the specification will not generally be read into the claims.'” Comark Commc'ns, Inc. v. Harris Corp., 156 F.3d 1182, 1187 (Fed. Cir. 1998) (quoting Constant v. Advanced Micro-Devices, Inc., 848 F.2d 1560, 1571 (Fed. Cir. 1988)); see also Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1323. “[I]t is improper to read limitations from a preferred embodiment described in the specification-even if it is the only embodiment-into the claims absent a clear indication in the intrinsic record that the patentee intended the claims to be so limited.” Liebel-Flarsheim Co. v. Medrad, Inc., 358 F.3d 898, 913 (Fed. Cir. 2004).

         The prosecution history is another tool to supply the proper context for claim construction because, like the specification, the prosecution history provides evidence of how the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) and the inventor understood the patent. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. However, “because the prosecution history represents an ongoing negotiation between the PTO and the applicant, rather than the final product of that negotiation, it often lacks the clarity of the specification and thus is less useful for claim construction purposes.” Id. at 1318; see also Athletic Alternatives, Inc. v. Prince Mfg., 73 F.3d 1573, 1580 (Fed. Cir. 1996) (ambiguous prosecution history may be “unhelpful as an interpretive resource”).

         Although extrinsic evidence can also be useful, it is “‘less significant than the intrinsic record in determining the legally operative meaning of claim language.'” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317 (quoting C.R. Bard, Inc., 388 F.3d at 862). Technical dictionaries and treatises may help a court understand the underlying technology and the manner in which one skilled in the art might use claim terms, but technical dictionaries and treatises may provide definitions that are too broad or may not be indicative of how the term is used in the patent. Id. at 1318. Similarly, expert testimony may aid a court in understanding the underlying technology and determining the particular meaning of a term in the pertinent field, but an expert's conclusory, unsupported assertions as to a term's definition are entirely unhelpful to a court. Id. Generally, extrinsic evidence is “less reliable than the patent and its prosecution history in determining how to read claim terms.” Id. The Supreme Court recently explained the role of extrinsic evidence in claim construction:

In some cases, however, 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. See, e.g., Seymour v. Osborne, 11 Wall. 516, 546 (1871) (a patent may be “so interspersed with technical terms and terms of art that the testimony of scientific witnesses is indispensable to a correct understanding of its meaning”). In cases where those subsidiary facts are in dispute, courts will need to make subsidiary factual findings about that extrinsic evidence. These are the “evidentiary underpinnings” of claim construction that we 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).

         B. Functional Claiming and 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6 (pre-AIA) / § 112(f) (AIA)[2]

         A patent claim may be expressed using functional language. See 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6; Williamson v. Citrix Online, LLC, 792 F.3d 1339, 1347-49 & n.3 (Fed. Cir. 2015) (en banc in relevant portion). Section 112, Paragraph 6, provides that a structure may be claimed as a “means . . . for performing a specified function” and that an act may be claimed as a “step for performing a specified function.” Masco Corp. v. United States, 303 F.3d 1316, 1326 (Fed. Cir. 2002).

         But § 112, ¶ 6 does not apply to all functional claim language. There is a rebuttable presumption that § 112, ¶ 6 applies when the claim language includes “means” or “step for” terms, and that it does not apply in the absence of those terms. Masco Corp., 303 F.3d at 1326; Williamson, 792 F.3d at 1348. The presumption stands or falls according to whether one of ordinary skill in the art would understand the claim with the functional language, in the context of the entire specification, to denote sufficiently definite structure or acts for performing the function. See Media Rights Techs., Inc. v. Capital One Fin. Corp., 800 F.3d 1366, 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2015) (§ 112, ¶ 6 does not apply when “the claim language, read in light of the specification, recites sufficiently definite structure” (quotation marks omitted) (citing Williamson, 792 F.3d at 1349; Robert Bosch, LLC v. Snap-On Inc., 769 F.3d 1094, 1099 (Fed. Cir. 2014))); Williamson, 792 F.3d at 1349 (§ 112, ¶ 6 does not apply when “the words of the claim are understood by persons of ordinary skill in the art to have sufficiently definite meaning as the name for structure”); Masco Corp., 303 F.3d at 1326 (§ 112, ¶ 6 does not apply when the claim includes an “act” corresponding to “how the function is performed”); Personalized Media Communications, L.L.C. v. International Trade Commission, 161 F.3d 696, 704 (Fed. Cir. 1998) (§ 112, ¶ 6 does not apply when the claim includes “sufficient structure, material, or acts within the claim itself to perform entirely the recited function . . . even if the claim uses the term ‘means.'” (quotation marks and citation omitted)).

         When it applies, § 112, ¶ 6 limits the scope of the functional term “to only the structure, materials, or acts described in the specification as corresponding to the claimed function and equivalents thereof.” Williamson, 792 F.3d at 1347. Construing a means-plus-function limitation involves multiple steps. “The first step . . . is a determination of the function of the means-plus-function limitation.” Medtronic, Inc. v. Advanced Cardiovascular Sys., Inc., 248 F.3d 1303, 1311 (Fed. Cir. 2001). “[T]he next step is to determine the corresponding structure disclosed in the specification and equivalents thereof.” Id. A “structure disclosed in the specification is ‘corresponding' structure only if the specification or prosecution history clearly links or associates that structure to the function recited in the claim.” Id. The focus of the “corresponding structure” inquiry is not merely whether a structure is capable of performing the recited function, but rather whether the corresponding structure is “clearly linked or associated with the [recited] function.” Id. The corresponding structure “must include all structure that actually performs the recited function.” Default Proof Credit Card Sys. v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 412 F.3d 1291, 1298 (Fed. Cir. 2005). However, § 112 does not permit “incorporation of structure from the written description beyond that necessary to perform the claimed function.” Micro Chem., Inc. v. Great Plains Chem. Co., 194 F.3d 1250, 1258 (Fed. Cir. 1999).

         For § 112, ¶ 6 limitations implemented by a programmed general purpose computer or microprocessor, the corresponding structure described in the patent specification must include an algorithm for performing the function. WMS Gaming Inc. v. Int'l Game Tech., 184 F.3d 1339, 1349 (Fed. Cir. 1999). The corresponding structure is not a general purpose computer but rather the special purpose computer programmed to perform the disclosed algorithm. Aristocrat Techs. Austl. Pty Ltd. v. Int'l Game Tech., 521 F.3d 1328, 1333 (Fed. Cir. 2008).

         III. CONSTRUCTION OF AGREED TERMS

         During the claim construction hearing, the parties agreed to the construction of the following term:

Claim Term/Phrase

Agreed Construction

“attach request” ('750 Patent, claims 2, 3, 8, 9, 14, 15)

“attach request message”


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