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Rembrandt Wireless Technologies, LP v. Apple Inc.

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

January 15, 2020




         Before the Court is the Opening Claim Construction Brief (Dkt. No. 73) filed by Plaintiff Rembrandt Wireless Technologies, LP (“Plaintiff” or “Rembrandt”). Also before the Court are the Responsive Claim Construction Brief (Dkt. No. 79) filed by Defendant Apple Inc. (“Defendant” or “Apple”) as well as Plaintiff's reply (Dkt. No. 81).

         The Court held a hearing on December 2, 2019.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges infringement of United States Patents No. (“the '580 Patent”) and 8, 457, 228 (“the '228 Patent”) (collectively, “the patents-in-suit”). (Dkt. No. 73, Exs. 1-2).

         The patents-in-suit are both titled “System and Method of Communication Using At Least Two Modulation Methods.” The '580 Patent issued on September 20, 2011, and bears a filing date of August 19, 2009. The '228 Patent issued on June 4, 2013, and bears a filing date of August 4, 2011. The '228 Patent is a continuation of the '580 Patent. Both patents-in-suit bear an earliest priority date of December 5, 1997.

         Plaintiff submits that the patents-in-suit “cover a device that communicates using different types of modulation methods” and relate to the well-known “Bluetooth” wireless communication standards. See Dkt. No. 73 at 1. The Abstract of the '580 Patent is representative and states:

A device may be capable of communicating using at least two type types [sic] of modulation methods. The device may include a transceiver capable of acting as a master according to a master/slave relationship in which communication from a slave to a master occurs in response to communication from the master to the slave. The master transceiver may send transmissions discrete transmissions [sic] structured with a first portion and a payload portion. Information in the first portion may be modulated according to a first modulation method and indicate an impending change to a second modulation method, which is used for transmitting the payload portion. The discrete transmissions may be addressed for an intended destination of the payload portion.

         The Court previously construed terms in the patents-in-suit in Rembrandt Wireless Technologies, LP v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., et al., No. 2:13-CV-213, Dkt. No. 114, 2014 WL 3385125 (E.D. Tex. July 10, 2014) (“Samsung”). A jury in Samsung found infringement and no invalidity. The Court denied a motion for judgment as a matter of law as to obviousness. No. 2:13-CV-213, Dkt. No. 352, at 5-7 (E.D. Tex. Feb. 17, 2016) (“Samsung JMOL”). The Court “decline[d] to grant new trial on . . . re-urged issues of claim construction.” Id. at 8. The Federal Circuit affirmed as to claim construction and obviousness and remanded as to issues related to damages. See Rembrandt Wireless Techs., LP v. Samsung Elecs. Co., 853 F.3d 1370 (Fed. Cir. 2017).


         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 Pharm. 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.

         In general, prior claim construction proceedings involving the same patents-in-suit are “entitled to reasoned deference under the broad principals of stare decisis and the goals articulated by the Supreme Court in Markman, even though stare decisis may not be applicable per se.” Maurice Mitchell Innovations, LP v. Intel Corp., No. 2:04-CV-450, 2006 WL 1751779, at *4 (E.D. Tex. June 21, 2006) (Davis, J.); see TQP Development, LLC v. Intuit Inc., No. 2:12-CV-180, 2014 WL 2810016, at *6 (E.D. Tex. June 20, 2014) (Bryson, J.) (“[P]revious claim constructions in cases involving the same patent are entitled to substantial weight, and the Court has determined that it will not depart from those constructions absent a strong reason for doing so.”); see also Teva, 135 S.Ct. at 839-40 (“prior cases will sometimes be binding because of issue preclusion and sometimes will serve as persuasive authority”) (citation omitted); Finisar Corp. v. DirecTV Grp., Inc., 523 F.3d 1323, 1329 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (noting “the importance of uniformity in the treatment of a given patent”) (quoting Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 390 (1996)).


         In their September 9, 2019 P.R. 4-3 Joint Claim Construction Statement, the parties submitted: “The Parties have not agreed on any constructions. However, the Parties agree that the terms that are not proposed for construction . . . do not require construction.” (Dkt. No. 70, at 2.)

         IV. ...

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