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Cellular Communications Equipment LLC v. HTC Corp.

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

January 8, 2018

CELLULAR COMMUNICATIONS EQUIPMENT LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
HTC CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          K. NICOLE MITCHELL, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This Memorandum Opinion construes the disputed claim terms in United States Patent Nos. 8, 385, 966 (“the '966 Patent”) and 9, 037, 129 (“the '129 Patent”) asserted in this suit by Plaintiff Cellular Communications Equipment LLC (“CCE”) against Defendants HTC Corporation, HTC America, Inc., and ZTE (USA), Inc. (collectively, “Defendants”).

         On September 14, 2017, the parties presented oral arguments on the disputed claim terms at a Markman hearing. For the reasons stated herein, the court ADOPTS the constructions set forth below.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff CCE asserts four patents in the present case, United States Patent Nos. 7, 941, 174, 8, 055, 820, 8, 385, 966, and 9, 037, 129 (collectively, the “patents-in-suit”). The patents-in-suit relate to cellular networks. This claim construction involves only the '966 Patent and the '129 Patent.

         The Court previously construed the '966 Patent in Cellular Communications Equipment LLC v. LG Electronics, Inc., et al., No. 6:14-CV-982, Doc. No. 206 (E.D. Tex. May 13, 2016) (“LG” or “the '982 Markman Order”).[1] The '982 Markman Order also construed United States Patent No. 8, 868, 060 (“the '060 Patent”), and the '129 Patent is a child of the '060 Patent. Shortly after the Court issued the '982 Markman Order, the case settled. See Cellular Communications Equipment LLC v. LG Electronics, Inc., et al., No. 6:14-CV-982, Doc. No. 216 (E.D. Tex. Aug. 8, 2016).[2]

         APPLICABLE LAW

         “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)). The Court examines a patent's intrinsic evidence to define the patented invention's scope. Id. at 1313-1314; Bell Atl. Network Servs., Inc. v. Covad Commc'ns Group, Inc., 262 F.3d 1258, 1267 (Fed. Cir. 2001). Intrinsic evidence includes the claims, the specification, and the prosecution history. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312-13; Bell Atl. Network Servs., 262 F.3d at 1267. Courts give claim terms their ordinary and customary meaning as understood by one of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention in the context of the patent as a whole. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312-13; Alloc, Inc. v. Int'l Trade Comm'n, 342 F.3d 1361, 1368 (Fed. Cir. 2003).

         Claim language provides substantial guidance in the Court's construction of claim terms. 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 un-asserted, can provide additional instruction because “terms are normally used consistently throughout the patent.” Id. The differences among claims, such as additional limitations in dependent claims, can provide further guidance. Id.

         “[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), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370, 116 S.Ct. 1384, 134 L.Ed.2d 577 (1996)). “[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)); see also Teleflex, Inc. v. Ficosa N. Am. Corp., 299 F.3d 1313, 1325 (Fed. Cir. 2002). In the specification, a patentee may define his own terms, give a claim term a different meaning than the ordinary meaning of the term, or disclaim or disavow the claim scope. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1316. While the Court generally presumes terms possess their ordinary meaning, statements of clear disclaimer can overcome this presumption. See SciMed Life Sys., Inc. v. Advanced Cardiovascular Sys., Inc., 242 F.3d 1337, 1343-44 (Fed. Cir. 2001). Further, this presumption does not arise when the patentee acts as his own lexicographer. See Irdeto Access, Inc. v. EchoStar Satellite Corp., 383 F.3d 1295, 1301 (Fed. Cir. 2004).

         The specification may resolve ambiguous claim terms “where the ordinary and accustomed meaning of the words used in the claims lack sufficient clarity to permit the scope of the claim to be ascertained from the words alone.” Teleflex, Inc., 299 F.3d at 1325. For example, “[a] claim interpretation that excludes a preferred embodiment from the scope of the claim ‘is rarely, if ever, correct.” Globetrotter Software, Inc. v. Elan Computer Group Inc., 362 F.3d 1367, 1381 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (quoting Vitronics Corp., 90 F.3d at 1583). But, “[a]lthough the specification may aid the court in interpreting the meaning of disputed language in the claims, particular embodiments and examples appearing in the specification will not generally be read into the claims.” Constant v. Advanced Micro-Devices, Inc., 848 F.2d 1560, 1571 (Fed. Cir. 1988); see also Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1323.

         The prosecution history is another tool to supply the proper context for claim construction because a patentee may define a term during prosecution of the patent. Home Diagnostics Inc. v. LifeScan, Inc., 381 F.3d 1352, 1356 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (“As in the case of the specification, a patent applicant may define a term in prosecuting a patent”). The well-established doctrine of prosecution disclaimer “preclud[es] patentees from recapturing through claim interpretation specific meanings disclaimed during prosecution.” Omega Eng'g Inc. v. Raytek Corp., 334 F.3d 1314, 1323 (Fed. Cir. 2003). The prosecution history must show that the patentee clearly and unambiguously disclaimed or disavowed the proposed interpretation during prosecution to obtain claim allowance. Middleton Inc. v. 3M Co., 311 F.3d 1384, 1388 (Fed. Cir. 2002); see also Springs Window Fashions LP v. Novo Indus., L.P., 323 F.3d 989, 994 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (“The disclaimer . . . must be effected with ‘reasonable clarity and deliberateness.'”) (citations omitted). “Indeed, by distinguishing the claimed invention over the prior art, an applicant is indicating what the claims do not cover.” Spectrum Int'l v. Sterilite Corp., 164 F.3d 1372, 1378-79 (Fed. Cir. 1988) (quotation omitted). “As a basic principle of claim interpretation, prosecution disclaimer promotes the public notice function of the intrinsic evidence and protects the public's reliance on definitive statements made during prosecution.” Omega Eng'g, Inc., 334 F.3d at 1324.

         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 (quotation omitted). 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 such sources may also provide overly broad definitions or may not be indicative of how the term is used in the patent. Id. at 1318. 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. Generally, extrinsic evidence is “less reliable than the patent and its prosecution history in determining how to read claim terms.” Id.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Disputed Terms in the ʼ966 Patent[3]

         The '966 Patent, titled “Method, Apparatus and Computer Program for Power Control Related to Random Access Procedures, ” issued on February 26, 2013, and bears an earliest priority date of May 5, 2008. The Abstract states:

A first power control adjustment state g(i) and a second power control adjustment state f(i) are initialized for i=0 to each reflect an open loop power control error. An initial transmit power for a shared uplink channel is computed using full pathloss compensation. The computed initial transmit power depends on a preamble power of a first message sent on an access channel, and the initial transmit power is initialized with the second power control adjustment state f(0). A third message is sent from a transmitter on an uplink shared channel at the initial transmit power. In various implementations, the power for i=0 on the uplink control channel is also initialized similar to the initial transmit power for the third message and using full pathloss compensation, and after the third message (and retransmissions of it), subsequent messages sent on the uplink shared channel are sent at a power that is computed using fractional pathloss compensation.

         a. “preamble power” (Claims 1, 2, 5, and 9-11) / “wherein the initial transmit power depends on a preamble power of a first message sent on an access channel and the second power control adjustment state f(0)” (Claims 1, 9, and 10)

Term

Plaintiff's Proposed Construction

Defendants' Proposed Construction

preamble power

No construction necessary.

“a transmit power of a preamble sent on an access channel”

wherein the initial transmit power depends on a preamble power of a first message sent on an access channel and the second power control adjustment state f(0)

No construction necessary.

“wherein the initial transmit power takes into account both the preamble power and the second power control adjustment state f(0)”

         The underlying disputes here are: (1) whether a preamble power must necessarily be a transmit power; and (2) whether the initial transmit power depends on both the preamble power and the second power control adjustment state f(0).

         Plaintiff argues that the claim language is not unclear. Doc. No. 116 at 5. Plaintiff contends that Defendants' proposal of “takes into account” does not clarify the term and instead “invites unintended consequences.” Id. at 6. Plaintiff also argues that with respect to “preamble power, ” the patentee knew how to claim a “transmit power” but chose not to. Id. at 7. Further, Plaintiff argues that Defendants' deletion of the phrase “of a first message” “undermines antecedent basis for subsequent references to ‘the first mesasge [sic, message]' in dependent claims.” Id.

         Defendants contend that their proposed construction “is fully consistent with the claim language and the specification.” Doc. No. 120 at 8.

         Plaintiff replies that it has never argued that: “the plain meaning of the term allows ‘consideration of either value, but not both.' The meaning of ‘depends on' is straightforward and requires no construction.” Doc. No. 121 at 1. With respect to “preamble power, ” Plaintiff contends that “[e]ven if [Defendants'] construction were consistent with the claims, that is not a reason to limit the scope of ‘preamble power.'” Id. Plaintiff argues that there is nothing in the independent claims that limits what type of preamble power is implicated. Id. at 2.

         In LG, the parties originally presented these terms for construction but then agreed that no construction was necessary. See '982 Markman Order at 6 n. 1.

         Claim 1 of the '966 Patent recites:

1. A method comprising:
using a processor to initialize for i=0 a first power control adjustment state g(i) for an uplink control channel and a second power control adjustment state f(i) for an uplink shared channel to each reflect an open loop power control error;
using the processor to compute an initial transmit power for the uplink shared channel using full path loss compensation, wherein the initial transmit power depends on a preamble power of a first message sent on an access channel and the second power control adjustment state f(0); and
sending from a transmitter a third message on the uplink shared channel at the initial transmit power; wherein the second power control adjustment state f(i) for i=0 is initialized as:
P0_uepuschf(0)=ΔP pcΔPrampup; in which:
P0_uepusch is a power control constant for the uplink shared channel that is specific for a user equipment executing the method;
ΔPrampup is a ramp-up power for preamble transmissions; and
ΔPpc is a power control command indicated in a second message that is received in response to sending the first message.

         This claim expressly recites “an initial transmit power for the uplink shared channel” but does not use the word “transmit” in conjunction with the “preamble power.” Nonetheless, this “initial transmit power” depends in part upon the preamble power, which implies that the preamble power is also a transmit power. Further, the claim recites that “ ΔPrampup is a ramp-up power for preamble transmissions, ” which is consistent with Defendants' proposal that the “preamble power” is a “transmit power.” Claims 9 and 10 of the '966 Patent also recite this limitation. Further, the specification refers to Ppreamble in the context of “the UE's [(user equipment's)] transmission . . .” '966 Patent at 6:18-19 (emphasis added); see Id. at 2:37-3:10. On balance, Plaintiff has not persuasively shown how the “preamble power” could be anything other than a “transmit” power.

Moreover, the specification refers to:
[U]sing the processor to compute an initial transmit power for the uplink shared channel using full pathloss compensation, wherein the initial transmit power depends on a preamble power of a first message sent on an access channel, and is initialized with the second power control adjustment state f(0).

Id. at 3:22-25 (emphasis added); see Id. at 11:27-29.

         Thus, the specification is consistent with Defendants' proposal that the recital of “depends on” in the “initial transmit power” term refers to both a “preamble power of a first message sent on an access channel” and “the second power control adjustment state f(0).” Plaintiff's reply brief agrees with this interpretation. Doc. No. 121 at 1 (“[Plaintiff] has never contended that the plain meaning of the term allows ‘consideration of either value, but not both.'”).[4]

         Additionally, during the Markman hearing, Defendants conceded that its proposal of “sent on an access channel” in its proposed construction for “preamble power” is redundant, as this limitation is already expressly recited in the claim and thus does not need to be included in the construction of “preamble power.” See Markman hearing recording at 9:19 AM.

         Therefore, the Court construes the disputed terms as follows:

         “preamble power” means “a transmit power of a preamble”

         “wherein the initial transmit power depends on a preamble power of a first message sent on an access channel and the second power control adjustment state f(0)” means “wherein the initial transmit power depends on both: (1) a preamble power of a first message sent on an access channel; and (2) the second power control adjustment state f(0).”

         b. “wherein the first power control adjustment state g(i) for i=0 is initialized as: P0_UE_PUCCH g(0) = ΔPPC ΔPrampup (Claims 3 and 12) / “wherein the second [accumulation] power control adjustment state f(i) for i=0 is initialized as: P0_UE_PUCCH f(0) = ΔPPC ΔPrampup” (Claims 1, 9, and 10)

Term

Plaintiff's Proposed Construction

Defendants' Proposed Construction

wherein the first power control adjustment state g(i) for i=0 is initialized as: P0_UE_PUCCH g(0) = ΔPPC ΔPrampup

“wherein the first power control adjustment state g(i) for i=0 is set such that P0_UE_PUCCH g(0) = ΔPPC ΔPrampup

“wherein the first power control adjustment state g(i) for i=0 is calculated such that P0_UE_PUCCH g(0) = ΔPPC ΔPrampup

wherein the second [accumulation] power control adjustment state f(i) for i=0 is initialized as: P0_UE_PUCCH f(0) = ΔPPC ΔPrampup

“wherein the second [accumulation] power control adjustment state f(i) for i=0 is set such that P0_UE_PUCCH f(0) = ΔPPC ΔPrampup

“wherein the second [accumulation] power control adjustment state f(i) for i=0 is calculated such that P0_UE_PUCCH f(0) = ΔPPC ΔPrampup

         The underlying dispute is whether “initialize” requires computation. Plaintiff states that “initialize” has a well-understood ordinary meaning: to “set to a starting position or value.” Doc. No. 116 at 8. Plaintiff contends that this meaning is broader than Defendants' proposal of “calculated.” Id. at 9. Plaintiff further argues that its proposal of ‘so that' clarifies “the power control state is set in a way designed to satisfy the relationship.” Id.

         Defendants propose the Court's previous construction in LG. Doc. No. 120 at 6. Defendants submit that “the Court made clear [in LG] that [the] problem with [Plaintiffs] construction lies with the word ‘set, ' which would broadly (and wrongly) encompass initialization without any calculation at all.” Id. at 8.

         Plaintiff replies that it is not barred from proposing modified constructions because LG was settled prior to judgment. Doc. No. 121 at 2. Plaintiff argues that “[s]etting a value so that it satisfies a particular relationship necessarily involves a computation of some sort, whether it is first computing a sum of two values and then setting the value to the sum or first setting the value and then comparing it to the sum of two values to determine whether the two are equal.” Id.

         Ultimately, Plaintiff has not shown that the Court erred in LG nor has Plaintiff otherwise demonstrated that modification ...


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