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Sol IP, LLC v. AT&T Mobility LLC

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

January 5, 2020

SOL IP, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
AT&T MOBILITY LLC, Defendant, ERICSSON INC. and NOKIA OF AMERICA CORPORATION, Intervenors. SPRINT COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY L.P., SPRINT SOLUTIONS, INC., and SPRINT SPECTRUM L.P., Defendants,
v.
ERICSSON INC. and NOKIA OF AMERICA CORPORATION, Intervenors. VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS INC. and CELLCO PARTNERSHIP d/b/a VERIZON WIRELESS, Defendants, ERICSSON INC. and NOKIA OF AMERICA CORPORATION, Intervenors.

          CLAIM CONSTRUCTION MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING “WI-FI” PATENTS

          ROY S. PAYNE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         On December 5, 2019, the Court held a hearing to determine the proper construction of the disputed claim terms within the group of patents referred to by the parties as the “Wi-Fi” Patents, namely United States Patent Nos. 8, 654, 881 (“the '881 Patent”) and 10, 057, 095 (“the '095 Patent”). Having reviewed the arguments made by the parties at the hearing and in their claim construction briefing (Dkt. Nos. 207, 208, 224 & 235), [1] having considered the intrinsic evidence, and having made subsidiary factual findings about the extrinsic evidence, the Court hereby issues this Claim Construction Memorandum and Order. See Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1314 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc); see also Teva Pharm. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 831, 841 (2015).

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. BACKGROUND ................................................................................................................ 4

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

         III. THE PARTIES' STIPULATED TERMS ........................................................................... 7

         IV. CONSTRUCTION OF DISPUTED TERMS IN THE '881 PATENT .............................. 7

         A. “bit information” ............................................................................................ 8

         B. “the least one stream” .................................................................................. 14

         V. CONSTRUCTION OF DISPUTED TERM IN THE '095 PATENT .............................. 21

         C. “the second set of bits” and “the third set of bits” ....................................... 22

         VI. CONCLUSION ................................................................................................................. 27

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Sol IP, LLC (“Plaintiff” or “Sol”) has alleged patent infringement by Defendants AT&T Mobility LLC, Sprint Communications Co. LP, Sprint Solutions, Inc., Sprint Spectrum LP, and Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless (“Defendants”). At least for purposes of these claim construction proceedings, the parties use “Defendants” to also include Intervenor Ericsson Inc. (Dkt. No. 176 at 2; Dkt. No. 207 at 1 n.1) and Intervenor Nokia of America Corporation (see Dkt. No. 240; see also Dkt. No. 243, Nov. 18, 2019 Order).

         Pursuant to the Court's September 9, 2019 Order (Dkt. No. 173), Plaintiff grouped the asserted patents into three groups, designated “LTE A” (or “LTE I”), “LTE B” (or “LTE II”) and “WiFi.” Dkt. No. 202. The present Claim Construction Memorandum and Order addresses the “WiFi” patents. These are United States Patent Nos. 8, 654, 881 (“the '881 Patent”) and 10, 057, 095 (“the 095 Patent”). Dkt. Nos. 207-2, 207-6. Plaintiff submits that “[t]hese patents concern wireless local area networking communications.” Dkt. No. 207 at 2.

         Shortly before the start of the December 5, 2019 hearing, the Court provided the parties with preliminary constructions with the aim of focusing the parties' arguments and facilitating discussion. Those preliminary constructions are noted below within the discussion for each term.

         II. LEGAL PRINCIPLES

         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.” Id. 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)).

         B. Definiteness Under 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 2 (pre-AIA) / § 112(b) (AIA)[2]

         Patent claims must particularly point out and distinctly claim the subject matter regarded as the invention. 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 2. A claim, when viewed in light of the intrinsic evidence, must “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). If it does not, the claim fails § 112, ¶ 2 and is therefore invalid as indefinite. Id. at 2124. Whether a claim is indefinite is determined from the perspective of one of ordinary skill in the art as of the time the application for the patent was filed. Id. at 2130. As it is a challenge to the validity of a patent, the failure of any claim in suit to comply with § 112 must be shown by clear and convincing evidence. Id. at 2130 n.10. “[I]ndefiniteness is a question of law and in effect part of claim construction.” ePlus, Inc. v. Lawson Software, Inc., 700 F.3d 509, 517 (Fed. Cir. 2012).

         When a term of degree is used in a claim, “the court must determine whether the patent provides some standard for measuring that degree.” Biosig Instruments, Inc. v. Nautilus, Inc., 783 F.3d 1374, 1378 (Fed. Cir. 2015) (quotation marks omitted). Likewise, when a subjective term is used in a claim, “the court must determine whether the patent's specification supplies some standard for measuring the scope of the [term].” Datamize, LLC v. Plumtree Software, Inc., 417 F.3d 1342, 1351 (Fed. Cir. 2005); accord Interval Licensing LLC v. AOL, Inc., 766 F.3d 1364, 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (citing Datamize, 417 F.3d at 1351).

         III. THE PARTIES' STIPULATED TERMS[3]

         The parties submitted in their September 11, 2019 P.R. 4-3 Joint Claim Construction and Prehearing Statement that “[t]here are no currently agreed constructions.” Dkt. No. 176 at 2.

         IV. CONSTRUCTION OF DISPUTED TERMS IN THE '881 PATENT

         The '881 Patent, titled “Method and Apparatus for Transmitting and Receiving Data in a MIMO System, ” issued on February 18, 2014 and bears an earliest priority date of March 12, 2010. The Abstract of the '881 Patent states:

The present invention relates to a method and apparatus for transmitting and receiving data. A data transmission method from a sender terminal to a receiver terminal in a MIMO system using a variable frequency band according to one embodiment of the present invention comprises: repeatedly generating a signal field depending on a frequency band that is applied to the transmission of a data frame; generating a data field including the data; generating a data frame including the signal field and the data field; and transmitting the data frame to the receiver terminal. The present invention is advantageous in that a signal field which is transmitted together with the data being transmitted from the sender terminal to the receiver terminal in the MIMO system can be sent more efficiently.

         '881 Patent at Abstract.

         A. “bit information”

Disputed Term

Plaintiff's Proposal

Defendants' Proposal

“bit information”

Plain and ordinary meaning. Alternatively, “sequence of bits.”

Indefinite


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