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Super Interconnect Technologies LLC v. Huawei Device Co. Ltd.

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

January 5, 2020

SUPER INTERCONNECT TECHNOLOGIES LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
HUAWEI DEVICE CO. LTD., et al. Defendants. SUPER INTERCONNECT TECHNOLOGIES LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
GOOGLE LLC, Defendants.

          CLAIM CONSTRUCTION MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ROY S. PAYNE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Opening Markman Brief (Dkt. No. 59) filed by Plaintiff Super Interconnect Technologies LLC (“Plaintiff” or “SIT”). Also before the Court is the response filed by Defendants Huawei Device Co. Ltd., Huawei Device (Hong Kong) Co., Ltd., Huawei Device USA, Inc. (collectively, “Huawei”), and Google LLC (“Google”) (all, collectively, “Defendants”)[1] (Dkt. No. 64), as well as Plaintiff's reply (Dkt. No. 67) and Plaintiff's supplemental reply (Dkt. No. 79).[2]

         The Court held a claim construction hearing on December 18, 2019.

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

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

         II. LEGAL PRINCIPLES ........................................................................................................... 5

         III. AGREED TERMS ............................................................................................................... 10

         IV. DISPUTED TERMS IN MULTIPLE PATENTS ............................................................ 11

         A. “control signal” ................................................................................................................... 11

         B. “channel” ............................................................................................................................. 16

         V. DISPUTED TERMS IN THE '092 PATENT ..................................................................... 20

         C. “An apparatus for transmitting a clock signal and data signals over a signal line” ............ 20

         D. “the clock generator modulating a falling edge of an output signal to indicate different data values” ......................................................................................................................... 25

         VI. DISPUTED TERMS IN THE '593 PATENT ................................................................... 26

         E. “clock channel” ................................................................................................................... 26

         F. “shifts an energy spectrum of the combined clock and encoded data signal away from an effective loop bandwidth of a clock recovery block” ......................................................... 27

         G. “A method of transmitting data in a system including at least one data channel and a separate clock channel” ...................................................................................................... 27

         VII. DISPUTED TERMS IN THE '044 PATENT .................................................................. 28

         H. “direct current balancing control signals” ........................................................................... 28

         VIII. CONCLUSION ................................................................................................................. 35

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges infringement of United States Patents No. 6, 463, 092 (“the '092 Patent”), 7, 158, 593 (“the '593 Patent”), and 7, 627, 044 (“the '044 Patent”). (Dkt. No. 59, Exs. A-C).

         The '092 Patent, titled “System and Method for Sending and Receiving Data Signals over a Clock Signal Line, ” issued on October 8, 2002, and bears an earliest priority date of September 10, 1998. Plaintiff submits that the '092 Patent “relates generally to the field of data communications and involves the transmission of clock and data signals, including the transmission of clock signals and data signals on the same transmission line.” (Dkt. No. 59, at 3.)

         The Abstract of the '092 Patent states:

The system preferably includes a unique transmitter that sends both clock and data signals over the same transmission line. The receiver uses the same transmission line to send data signals back to the transmitter. The transmitter comprises a clock generator, a decoder and a line interface. The clock generator produces a clock signal that includes a variable position falling edge. The falling edge position is decoded by the receiver to extract data from the clock signal. The receiver comprises a clock re-generator, a data decoder and a return channel encoder. The clock re-generator monitors the transmission line, receives signals, filters them and generates a clock signal at the receiver from the signal on the transmission line. The return channel encoder generates signals and asserts them on the transmission line. The signal is asserted or superimposed over the clock & data signal provided by the transmitter.

         The '593 Patent, titled “Combining a Clock Signal and a Data Signal, ” issued on January 2, 2007, and bears an earliest priority date of March 16, 2001. Plaintiff submits that the '593 Patent “relates generally to transmitting clock and data signals.” (Dkt. No. 59, at 5.) The Abstract of the '593 Patent states:

A method of transmitting data in a system including at least one data channel and a separate clock channel is disclosed. The method involves combining a clock signal to be transmitted on the clock channel with a data signal to generate a combined clock and data signal. In one embodiment, the data signal has been generated from data words using an encoding scheme that shifts an energy spectrum of the data signal away from an energy spectrum of the clock signal. In another embodiment, the clock signal has a plurality of pulses each having a front edge and a back edge, and the data signal is modulated onto the clock signal by moving at least one edge (i.e. front or back or both) of the plurality of pulses, thereby to create a combined clock and data signal.

         The '044 Patent, titled “Clock-Edge Modulated Serial Link with DC-Balance Control, ” issued on December 1, 2009, and bears a filing date of October 31, 2005. Plaintiff submits that the '044 Patent “relates generally to the transmission of serial signals, such as in a transition minimized differential signaling system.” (Dkt. No. 59, at 6.) The Abstract of the '044 Patent states:

A battery powered computing device has a channel configured as a single direct current balanced differential channel. A signal transmitter is connected to the channel. The signal transmitter is configured to apply clock edge modulated signals to the channel, where the clock edge modulated signals include direct current balancing control signals. A signal receiver is connected to the channel. The signal receiver is configured to recover the direct current balancing control signals.

         The '044 Patent incorporates-by-reference the '092 Patent. '044 Patent at 3:15-18.

         Shortly before the start of the December 18, 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

         It is understood that “[a] claim in a patent provides the metes and bounds of the right which the patent confers on the patentee to exclude others from making, using or selling the protected invention.” Burke, Inc. v. Bruno Indep. Living Aids, Inc., 183 F.3d 1334, 1340 (Fed. Cir. 1999). Claim construction is clearly an issue of law for the court to decide. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 970-71 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (en banc), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370 (1996).

         “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.” Teva Pharms. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 831, 841 (2015) (citation omitted). “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.” Id. (citing 517 U.S. 370).

         To ascertain the meaning of claims, courts look to three primary sources: the claims, the specification, and the prosecution history. Markman, 52 F.3d at 979. The specification must contain a written description of the invention that enables one of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention. Id. A patent's claims must be read in view of the specification, of which they are a part. Id. For claim construction purposes, the description may act as a sort of dictionary, which explains the invention and may define terms used in the claims. Id. “One purpose for examining the specification is to determine if the patentee has limited the scope of the claims.” Watts v. XL Sys., Inc., 232 F.3d 877, 882 (Fed. Cir. 2000).

         Nonetheless, it is the function of the claims, not the specification, to set forth the limits of the patentee's invention. Otherwise, there would be no need for claims. SRI Int'l v. Matsushita Elec. Corp., 775 F.2d 1107, 1121 (Fed. Cir. 1985) (en banc). The patentee is free to be his own lexicographer, but any special definition given to a word must be clearly set forth in the specification. Intellicall, Inc. v. Phonometrics, Inc., 952 F.2d 1384, 1388 (Fed. Cir. 1992). Although the specification may indicate that certain embodiments are preferred, particular embodiments appearing in the specification will not be read into the claims when the claim language is broader than the embodiments. Electro Med. Sys., S.A. v. Cooper Life Sciences, Inc., 34 F.3d 1048, 1054 (Fed. Cir. 1994).

         This Court's claim construction analysis is substantially guided by the Federal Circuit's decision in Phillips v. AWH Corporation, 415 F.3d 1303 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc). In Phillips, the court set forth several guideposts that courts should follow when construing claims. In particular, the court reiterated that “the claims of a patent define the invention to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude.” Id. at 1312 (quoting Innova/Pure Water, Inc. v. Safari Water Filtration Sys., Inc., 381 F.3d 1111, 1115 (Fed. Cir. 2004)). To that end, the words used in a claim are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning. Id. The 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, i.e., as of the effective filing date of the patent application.” Id. at 1313. This principle of patent law flows naturally from the recognition that inventors are usually persons who are skilled in the field of the invention and that patents are addressed to, and intended to be read by, others skilled in the particular art. Id.

         Despite the importance of claim terms, 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. Although the claims themselves may provide guidance as to the meaning of particular terms, those terms are part of “a fully integrated written instrument.” Id. at 1315 (quoting Markman, 52 F.3d at 978). Thus, the Phillips court emphasized the specification as being the primary basis for construing the claims. Id. at 1314-17. As the Supreme Court stated long ago, “in case of doubt or ambiguity it is proper in all cases to refer back to the descriptive portions of the specification to aid in solving the doubt or in ascertaining the true intent and meaning of the language employed in the claims.” Bates v. Coe, 98 U.S. 31, 38 (1878). In addressing the role of the specification, the Phillips court quoted with approval its earlier observations from Renishaw PLC v. Marposs Societa' per Azioni, 158 F.3d 1243, 1250 (Fed. Cir. 1998):

Ultimately, the interpretation to be given a term can only be determined and confirmed with a full understanding of what the inventors actually invented and intended to envelop with the claim. The construction that stays true to the claim language and most naturally aligns with the patent's description of the invention will be, in the end, the correct construction.

Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1316. Consequently, Phillips emphasized the important role the specification plays in the claim construction process.

         The prosecution history also continues to play an important role in claim interpretation. Like the specification, the prosecution history helps to demonstrate how the inventor and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) understood the patent. Id. at 1317. Because the file history, however, “represents an ongoing negotiation between the PTO and the applicant, ” it may lack the clarity of the specification and thus be less useful in claim construction proceedings. Id. Nevertheless, the prosecution history is intrinsic evidence that is relevant to the determination of how the inventor understood the invention and whether the inventor limited the invention during prosecution by narrowing the scope of the claims. Id.; see 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”).

         Phillips rejected any claim construction approach that sacrificed the intrinsic record in favor of extrinsic evidence, such as dictionary definitions or expert testimony. The en banc court condemned the suggestion made by Texas Digital Systems, Inc. v. Telegenix, Inc., 308 F.3d 1193 (Fed. Cir. 2002), that a court should discern the ordinary meaning of the claim terms (through dictionaries or otherwise) before resorting to the specification for certain limited purposes. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1319-24. According to Phillips, reliance on dictionary definitions at the expense of the specification had the effect of “focus[ing] the inquiry on the abstract meaning of words rather than on the meaning of claim terms within the context of the patent.” Id. at 1321. Phillips emphasized that the patent system is based on the proposition that the claims cover only the invented subject matter. Id.

         Phillips does not preclude all uses of dictionaries in claim construction proceedings. Instead, the court assigned dictionaries a role subordinate to the intrinsic record. In doing so, the court emphasized that claim construction issues are not resolved by any magic formula. The court did not impose any particular sequence of steps for a court to follow when it considers disputed claim language. Id. at 1323-25. Rather, Phillips held that a court must attach the appropriate weight to the intrinsic sources offered in support of a proposed claim construction, bearing in mind the general rule that the claims measure the scope of the patent grant.

         The Supreme Court of the United States has “read [35 U.S.C.] § 112, ¶ 2 to require that a patent's claims, viewed in light of the specification and prosecution history, inform those skilled in the art about the scope of the invention with reasonable certainty.” Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., 572 U.S. 898, 910, 134 S.Ct. 2120, 2129 (2014). “A determination of claim indefiniteness is a legal conclusion that is drawn from the court's performance of its duty as the construer of patent claims.” Datamize, LLC v. Plumtree Software, Inc., 417 F.3d 1342, 1347 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted), abrogated on other grounds by Nautilus, 134 S.Ct. 2120. “Indefiniteness must be proven by clear and convincing evidence.” Sonix Tech. Co. v. Publ'ns Int'l, Ltd., 844 F.3d 1370, 1377 (Fed. Cir. 2017).

         III. AGREED TERMS

         The parties submitted the following agreements in their August 14, 2019 P.R. 4-3 Joint Claim Construction and Prehearing Statement (Dkt. No. 47) and in their October 30, 2019 P.R. 4-5(d) Joint Claim Construction Chart (Dkt. No. 69, at 2):

Term

Agreed Construction

“clock signal”

• '092 Patent, Claim 1;

• '593 Patent, Claims 34, 35;

• '044 Patent, Claims 1, 8, 13

“signal with uses that include timing or synchronization”

“the clock signal is pulse width modulated”

• '044 Patent, Claims 1, 13

plain and ordinary meaning

“pulse width modulated clock signal”

• '044 Patent, Claims 8, 13

plain and ordinary meaning

“data words”

• '593 Patent, Claim 34

plain and ordinary meaning

“effective loop bandwidth of a clock recovery block”

• '593 Patent, Claim 34

“frequency pass range of a clock recovery block”

“duty cycle”

• '044 Patent, Claims 2, 3

“the ratio of a pulse width to a period”

“duty cycle position”

• '044 Patent, Claims 2, 3

“specified ratio of a pulse width to a period”

         IV. DISPUTED TERMS IN MULTIPLE PATENTS

         A. “control signal”

Plaintiff's Proposed Construction

Defendants' Proposed Construction

Plain and ordinary meaning Alternatively:

“a signal that controls”

“a signal that controls processing of data”[3]

         (Dkt. No. 47, Ex. A, at 1; Dkt. No. 59, at 8; Dkt. No. 64, at 15; Dkt. No. 69, at 4.) The parties submit that this term appears in Claim 1 of the '092 Patent and Claims 1, 8, and 13 of the '044 Patent. (Dkt. No. 47, Ex. A, at 1; Dkt. No. 69, at 4.)

         Shortly before the start of the December 18, 2019 hearing, the Court provided the parties with the following preliminary construction: “a signal, distinct from the data signal, that controls some aspect of transmission.”

         (1) The Parties' Positions

         Plaintiff argues that “[i]nstead of tracking the plain and ordinary meaning, Defendants' construction attempts to import many limitations into the term ‘control signal.'” (Dkt. No. 59, at 9.) Plaintiff also submits that “when the inventors intended to include a transmitter and receiver in their claims, they explicitly recited both a transmitter and receiver in the claims, ” and Plaintiff urges that Defendants' proposal would improperly “constru[e] a non-functional term in an apparatus claim as requiring a particular later use.” (Id., at 9 & 10.)

         Defendants respond that “Defendants' construction clearly distinguishes a ‘control signal' from other types of signals in the claims, such as a ‘data signal,' which does not control how data is processed but instead transmits data.” (Dkt. No. 64, at 16.) Defendants point to the phrase “clock, data and control signals” in the claims, as well as in the specification, as evidence that these are three different types of signals. (Id.) Further, Defendants argue that “[a] ‘control signal' is also sent separately from data signals, either at separate time blocks or on separate signal lines.” (Id., at 17.) Finally, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's proposal “is broad enough to encompass a ‘data signal'” and “is incomplete for failing to specify what the ‘control signal' is actually controlling.” (Id., at 18.)

         Plaintiff replies that “the term ‘control signal' is a broad term, and reading-in a limitation that the signal must control ‘processing of data' excludes its full scope.” (Dkt. No. 67, at 2.) Plaintiff submits that “Defendants do not cite to any statement ...


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