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Lemaire Illumination Technologies, LLC v. HTC Corporation

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

May 6, 2019

LEMAIRE ILLUMINATION TECHNOLOGIES, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
HTC CORPORATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          RODNEY GILSTRAP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On March 21, 2019, the Court held a hearing to determine the proper construction of the disputed claim terms in United States Patent No. 6, 095, 611 (“the '661 Patent”). The Court has considered the arguments made by the Parties at the hearing and in their claim construction briefs. (See Dkt. Nos. 30, 33, 35.) 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); see also Teva Pharm. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 831, 841 (2015). The Court issues this Claim Construction Memorandum Opinion and Order in light of these considerations.

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

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

         II. APPLICABLE LAW .......................................................................................................... 4

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

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

         A. “selectively applies” ......................................................................................6.

         B. “pulsed power” ............................................................................................. 10

         C. “maintain a predetermined light output level” ............................................. 16

         V. CONCLUSION ................................................................................................................. 20

         I. BACKGROUND

         The '661 Patent was filed on March 19, 1998, issued on August 1, 2000, and is titled “Method and Apparatus for an L.E.D. Flashlight.” '661 Patent at 1. The '661 Patent relates to an LED flashlight having a control circuit that “maintains an average predetermined light output level of the LED units as the charge on the battery cell varies by changing a pulse width or frequency . . . to maintain a given average light output.” '661 Patent at Abstract. Figure 1 illustrates “one embodiment of the present invention . . . having a case 110, a battery 120 or other portable DC power supply, a power supply and control circuit 130, a switch circuit 140, a plurality of LEDs 150, and optionally a feedback circuit 160.” Id. at 7:17-23.

         (Image Omitted)

         Id. at Fig. 1. The specification states that “feedback circuit 160 (and similarly the other feedback circuits described herein) controls pulse width and/or frequency as a function of parameters such as battery voltage, LED light output intensity, power dissipation or device temperature, or LED color spectrum output.” Id. at 7:23-29. The specification further discloses that “[i]n one embodiment, feedback 160 measures the light output of LEDs 150 (e.g., using a photo diode or other suitable light detecting device) and provides a signal that allows PSCC [Power Supply and Control Circuit] 130 to adjust the light output to a desired level (typically providing a constant light output even as battery voltage declines as power is drained).” Id. at 7:53-59.

         Claim 34 of the '661 Patent is the only asserted claim and recites the following elements (disputed term in italics):

34. An illumination source, comprising:
(a) a light-emitting diode (LED) housing comprising one or more LEDs; and
(b) an electrical control circuit that selectively applies pulsed power from a DC voltage source of electric power to the LEDs to control a light output color spectrum of the one or more LEDs and maintain a predetermined light output level of the LED units as a charge on the DC voltage source varies.

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         A. Claim Construction

         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 Federal Circuit reiterated that “the claims of a patent define the invention to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude.” Id. at 1312. The starting point in construing such claims is 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.

         However, 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. at 1313. For this reason, the specification is often “the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term.” Id. at 1315 (quoting Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 979-81 (Fed.Cir.1995) (en banc), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370 (1996)) (internal quotation marks omitted). However, it is the claims, not the specification, which set forth the limits of the patentee's invention. Id. at 1312. Thus, “it 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). Other asserted or unasserted claims can also aid in determining a claim's meaning. See, e.g., Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1314 (explaining that use of “steel baffles” and “baffles” implied that “baffles” did not inherently refer to objects made of steel).

         The prosecution history also plays an important role in claim interpretation as intrinsic evidence of how the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) and the inventor understood the patent. Id. at 1317; 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”); Aylus Networks, Inc. v. Apple Inc., 856 F.3d 1353, 1361 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (applying this principle in the context of inter partes review proceedings). 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.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1318; see also Athletic Alternatives, Inc. v. Prince Mfg., 73 F.3d 1573, 1580 (Fed. Cir. 1996) (noting that ambiguous prosecution history may be “unhelpful as an interpretive resource”).

         Additionally, courts may rely on extrinsic evidence such as “expert and inventor testimony, dictionaries, and learned treatises.” Id. at 1317. As the Supreme Court recently explained:

In some cases . . . the district court will need to look beyond the patent's intrinsic evidence . . . 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 Pharm. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 831, 841 (2015). However, the Federal Circuit has emphasized that such extrinsic evidence is subordinate to intrinsic evidence. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317 (“[W]hile extrinsic evidence can shed useful light on the relevant art, we have explained that it is less significant than the intrinsic record in determining the legally operative meaning of claim language.” (internal quotation marks omitted)).

         III. ...


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