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Meetrix IP, LLC v. Citrix Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

December 1, 2017




         Before the court in the above-styled and numbered cause are Plaintiff Meetrix IP, LLC's ("Meetrix") Opening Claim Construction Brief filed August 16, 2017 (Doc. #59); Defendants' Opening Claim Construction Brief filed August 17, 2017 (Doc. #60); Plaintiff Meetrix's Reply Claim Construction Brief filed September 11, 2017 (Doc. #61); Defendants' Responsive Claim Construction Brief filed September 11, 2017 (Doc. #62); the parties' Amended Joint Claim Construction Statement filed September 21, 2017 (Doc. #63); and the parties' claim-construction presentations.

         The court held a claim-construction hearing on September 25, 2017. See Markman v. Westview'Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 976 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (enbanc), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370 (1996). After considering the patents and their pro secution history, the parties' claim-construction briefs, the applicable law regarding claim construction, and argument of counsel, the court now renders its order with regard to claim construction.

         I. Introduction

         The court renders this memorandum opinion and order to construe the claims of United States Patent Nos. 9, 094, 525 ("the '525 Patent"), entitled "Audio-Video Multi-Participant Conference Systems Using PSTN and Internet Networks"; 9, 253, 332 ("the '332 patent"), entitled "Voice Conference Call using PSTN and Internet Networks"; and 8, 339, 997 ("the '997 Patent"), entitled "Media Based Collaboration Using Mixed-Mode PSTN and Internet Networks" (collectively "the Asserted Patents"). Meetrix is the owner of the Asserted Patents, which relate to the field of video-conferencing software. The software facilitates conferencing over virtual private networks (VPNs) and the public-switched telephone network (PSTN). The asserted claims relate generally to adding a telephone participant to a multi-participant video conference and mixing audio and video data received from various video-conference participants and transmitting the mixed data to other video-conference participants. Meetrix alleges that Defendants' infringing products and services include Defendant Citrix's GoToMeeting, Defendant LogMeIn's, and all other substantially similar products and services that provide video conferencing.

         II. Legal Principles of Claim Construction

         Determining infringement is a two-step process. See Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 384 (1996) ("[There are] two elements of a simple patent case, construing the patent and detennining whether infringement occurred ...."). First, the meaning and scope of the relevant claims must be ascertained. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 976 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (en banc). Second, the properly construed claims must be compared to the accused device. Id. Step one, claim construction, is the current issue before the court.

         The court construes patent claims without the aid of a jury. See Id. at 977-79. The "words of a claim 'are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning.'" Phillips v. A WH Corp. , 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (enbanc) (quoting Vitronics Corp v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996)). "[T]he ordinary and customary meaning of a claim term 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." Id. at 1313. The person of ordinary skill in the art is deemed to have read the claim term in the context of the entire patent. Id. Therefore, to ascertain the meaning of a claim, a court must look to the claim, the specification, and the patent's prosecution history. Id. at 1314-17; Markman, 52 F.3d at 979.

         The Federal Circuit has reaffirmed that a departure from the ordinary and customary meaning is the exception, not the rule. See Thorner v. Sony Computer Entm 't Am. LLC, 669 F.3d 1362, 1365 (Fed. Cir. 2012). There "are only two exceptions to this general rule: 1) when a patentee sets out a definition and acts as his own lexicographer, or 2) when the patentee disavows the full scope of a claim term either in the specification or during prosecution." Id.; see also Augme Techs., Inc. v. Yahoo! Inc., 755 F.3d 1326, 1339 (Fed. Cir. 2014) ("Neither the specification nor the prosecution history includes any lexicography or disavowal that would justify a departure from the plain meaning."). "To act as its own lexicographer, a patentee must 'clearly set forth a definition of the disputed claim term, ' and 'clearly express an intent to define the term.'" GE Lighting Solutions, LLC v. AgiLight, Inc., 750 F.3d 1304, 1309 (Fed. Cir. 2014). "It is not enough for a patentee to simply disclose a single embodiment or use a word in the same manner in all embodiments, the patentee must 'clearly express an intent' to redefine the term." Thorner, 669 F.3d at 1365.

         Claim language guides the court's construction of a claim term. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1314. "[T]he context in which a term is used in the asserted claim can be highly instructive." Id. Other claims, asserted and unasserted, can provide additional instruction because "terms are normally used consistently throughout the patent." Id. Differences among claims, such as additional limitations in dependent claims, can provide further guidance. Id. at 1314-15.

         Claims must also be read "in view of the specification, of which they are a part." Markman, 52 F.3d at 979. 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." Teleflex. Inc. v. Ficosa N. Am. Corp., 299 F.3d 1313, 1325 (Fed. Cir. 2002) (internal citations omitted). In the specification, a patentee may define a term to have a meaning that differs from the meaning that the term would otherwise possess. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1316. In such a case, the patentee's lexicography governs. Id. The specification may also reveal a patentee's intent to disclaim or disavow claim scope. Id. Such intention is dispositive of claim construction. Id. Although the specification may indicate that a certain embodiment is preferred, a particular embodiment appearing in the specification will not be read into the claim when the claim language is broader than the embodiment. Electro Med. Sys., S.A. v. Cooper Life Scis., Inc., 34 F.3d 1048, 1054 (Fed. Cir. 1994).

         The prosecution history is another tool to supply the proper context for claim construction because it demonstrates how the inventor understood the invention. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. A patentee may also serve as his own lexicographer and define a disputed term in prosecuting a patent. Home Diagnostics Inc. v. LifeScan, Inc., 381 F.3d 1352, 1356 (Fed. Cir. 2004). Similarly, distinguishing the claimed invention over the prior art during prosecution indicates what a claim does not cover. Spectrum Int'l v. SteriliteCorp., 164F.3d 1372, 1378-79 (Fed. Cir. 1988). The doctrine of prosecution disclaimer precludes a patentee from recapturing a specific meaning that was previously disclaimed during prosecution. Omega Eng'g Inc. v. Raytek Corp., 334 F.3d 1314, 1323 (Fed. Cir. 2003). A disclaimer of claim scope must be clear and unambiguous. Middleton Inc. v. 3M Co., 311 F.3d 1384, 1388 (Fed. Cir. 2002).

         Although, "less significant than the intrinsic record in determining the legally operative meaning of claim language, " the court may rely on extrinsic evidence to "shed useful light on the relevant art." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317 (internal quotations omitted). Technical dictionaries and treatises may help the court understand the underlying technology and the manner in which one skilled in the art might use a claim term, but such sources may also provide overly broad definitions or may not be indicative of how a term is used in the patent. See /c/. at 1318, 1321. Similarly, expert testimony may aid the court in determining the particular meaning of a term in the pertinent field, but "conclusory, unsupported assertions by experts as to the definition of a claim term are not useful." Id. at 1318. Generally, extrinsic evidence is "less reliable than the patent and its prosecution history in determining how to read claim terms." Id. Extrinsic evidence may be useful when considered in the context of the intrinsic evidence, id. at 1319, but it cannot "alter a claim construction dictated by a proper analysis of the intrinsic evidence, " On-Line Techs., Inc. v. Bodenseewerk Perkin-Elmer GmbH, 386 F.3d 1133, 1139 (Fed. Cir. 2004).


         The parties dispute whether claims 11-14 of the '997 patent are invalid as indefinite. A claim is indefinite if it does not reasonably inform a person of ordinary skill in the art of the claim scope. IPXL Holdings, L.L.C. v., Inc., 430 F.3d 1377, 1383-84 (Fed. Cir. 2005). A claim reciting both an apparatus and a method for using that apparatus is indefinite because it is unclear when infringement occurs. Id. at 1384. However, "apparatus claims are not necessarily indefinite for using functional language." Microprocessor Enhancement Corp. v. Texas Instruments Inc., 520 F.3d 1367, 1375 (Fed. Cir. 2008). A claim that is clearly limited to an apparatus "possessing the recited structure and capable of performing the recited functions" is not indefinite. UltimatePointer, LLC v. Nintendo Co., Ltd., 816 F.3d 816, 826 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (quoting Microprocessor, 520 F.3d at 1375). By contrast, limitations that reflect "activities of the user" rather than "capability of the structure" are likely indefinite. See Id. at 827; IPXL Holdings, 430 F.3d at 1384 (finding a system claim indefinite because it was unclear whether infringement required user action); In re Katz Interactive Call Processing Patent Litigation, 639 F.3d 1303, 1318 (Fed. Cir. 2011) (finding system claims indefinite based on claim language directed to user actions, "wherein... callers digitally enter data.").

         III. Discussion

         A. Agreed Constructions

         The parties agree to the construction of one claim term. The court adopts the agreed construction of this claim term, as used in claims 1, 4, and 12 of the '997 patent, as listed in the table below.[1]

Claim Term/Phrase

Adopted Agreed Construction

"conferencing server"

server for managing a conference

         B. Disputed Terms

         The parties dispute the construction of 9 terms. Each disputed term is discussed separately.

         1. "Multicast appliances"

         The parties' proposed constructions of this term, as used in claims 1, 3, 5, 11 and 13 of the '997 Patent, are listed in the following table:

Plaintiffs Proposed Construction

Defendants' Proposed Construction

Devices that provide information destined to multiple locations via a single transmission

Devices that use a group address to send information to multiple locations via a single transmission

         The parties disagree as to whether multicast appliances use a "group address" to transmit information to multiple locations via a single transmission.

         Meetrix argues that Defendants' inclusion of a "group address" is unnecessary to send information to multiple destinations. To support its construction, Meetrix claims that the plain and ordinary meaning of the claims does not require that the multicast appliances use a group address to transmit. Meetrix also asserts that claim differentiation precludes inclusion of the group address in the definition of multicast appliance because group addresses are separately claimed in independent and dependent claims. '997 Patent at claim 15.

         Defendants argue that Meetrix's construction improperly encompasses devices that indiscriminately broadcast messages. Defendants contend that the '997 specification uses a group address where it states that multicast information can be "broadcast." '997 Patent at 6:48-52. Defendants also assert that where the '997 specification discusses "multicast, " it indicates that multicast is performed using a group address. '997 Patent at 4:59-67, 7:23-27.

         To construe "multicast appliances, " the court first addresses Meetrix's claim-differentiation argument, then looks to the specification for further guidance. As to claim differentiation, the court agrees that differences among claims can be a "useful guide in understanding the meaning of particular claim terms." Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1314-15 (Fed. Cir. 2005). The court declines, however, to "apply the doctrine of claim differentiation where, as here, the claims are not otherwise identical in scope." Indacon, Inc. v. Facebook, Inc., 824 F.3d 1352, 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2016). Plaintiff cannot rely on claim 15, for example, to remove a group address from the operation of multicast appliances. Claim 15 contains other scope, including a "gateway" transforming data into "IP packets, " that prevents claim 15 from clarifying the meaning of "group address" in other claims. '997 Patent at claim 15. As claim differentiation does not resolve whether a multicast appliance uses a "group address, " the court looks to the teaching of the specification.

         The specification "is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term." Tele/lex, Inc. v. FicosaN. Am. Corp., 299 F.3d 1313, 1325 (Fed. Cir. 2002) (internal citations omitted). The '997 specification favors inclusion of a "group address" in the definition of "multicast appliances." The specification consistently teaches that multicast information is transmitted to a limited number of participants. '997 Patent at Figs. 3, 4, and 6. In the '997 specification's summary of the invention, multicast appliances provide "multicast data to . . . participants in the group address." '997 Patent at 4:65-67. The specification further describes configuring information "with a group address according to a multicast protocol." '997 Patent at 4:59-61. Where the specification discusses broadcasting information, it limits recipients to those listed in a group address. '997 Patent at 6:50-51, 7:23-26. Plaintiffs provide no support from the specification for a construction that encompasses broadcasting information without limitation.

         Accordingly, the court construes "multicast appliances" as devices that use a group address to send information to multiple locations via a single transmission.

         2. "Virtual Private Network (VPN)" and "VPN tunnel"

         The parties' proposed constructions of "virtual private network (VPN)", as used in claims 1, 3, and 11 of the '997 Patent and claims 13 and 14 of the '525 patent, as well as the parties proposed constructions of "VPN tunnel, " as used in claims 5 and 7 of the '525 patent and claims 1 and 5 of the '332 patent, are listed in the following table:

Plaintiffs Proposed Construction

Defendants' Proposed Construction

"Virtual Private Network (VPN)"

"Virtual Private Network (VPN)"

An approximation of a private network across a public network using encryption to privatize communication

Private networks of securely connected appliances across a public network

"virtual private network tunnel"

"virtual private network tunnel"

VPN, above, "tunnel": Encapsulation

Secure connection between two appliances in a private network across a public network

         The parties disagree as to the following: (1) whether a VPN is a network or an approximation thereof, (2) whether a VPN must use encryption, and (3) whether a VPN connects "appliances" or extends to participant's devices. The parties further disagree on the meaning of the word "tunnel, " with plaintiffs espousing that "tunneling" is synonymous with "encapsulation, " and defendants describing a "tunnel" as a connection. The court addresses each disagreement in turn.

         Approximation of a network

         Meetrix argues that a "virtual private network" (VPN) is an approximation of a private network because of the plain meaning of the word "virtual." Meetrix also appeals to the prosecution history of the '997 patent, which describes a VPN as "a private network that is configured within a public network" and explains that VPNs "enjoy the security of a private network." '997 Patent Prosecution History at 64, 73-74 (May 3, 2012 IDS and foreign reference WO 03/003665). Meetrix points to an extrinsic definition of "virtual private network" as "nodes on a public network" that communicate "as if the nodes were connected by private lines." MICROSOFT INTERNET AND Networking Dictionary 278 (2003).

         Defendants argue that a VPN is a network rather than an approximation of a network. The '997 specification uses the term "virtual private network" numerous times, but it nowhere mentions an "approximation" of a network. '997 Patent. Defendants assert that dictionaries cannot be used to contradict intrinsic evidence. Phillips v. AWH Corp.,415 F.3d 1303, 1322-23 (Fed. Cir. 2005). Defendants also contend that ...

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