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Uniloc 2017 LLC v. Samsung Electronics America, Inc.

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

January 16, 2020

UNILOC 2017 LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS AMERICA, INC., SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS CO. LTD., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          RODNEY GILSCRAP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On November 25, 2019, the Court held a hearing to determine the proper construction of the disputed claim terms in United States Patent No. 7, 190, 408 (“the '408 Patent”). The Court has considered the arguments made by the Parties at the hearing and in their claim construction briefs. (See Dkt. Nos. 33, 37, 41.) 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 .......................................................................................................... 5

         III. CONSTRUCTION OF DISPUTED TERMS ..................................................................... 7

         A. “vector” .......................................................................................................... 7

         B. “re-sampling rate” phrases ........................................................................... 14

         C. “control data” ............................................................................................... 21

         D. “broadcast” terms ......................................................................................... 24

         E. “partition of important subject matter” / “partition showing said important subject matter” ..................................................................................................... 29

         F. “the size of the partition is reduced not more than necessary for being totally displayed on the screen by re-sampling the decoded image at an appropriate resampling rate” ..................................................................................................... 37

         G. “partition of important subject matter is located in a remaining image at a similar position as in the received image” .......................................................... 43

         IV. CONCLUSION ................................................................................................................. 48

         I. BACKGROUND

         The '408 Patent issued on March 13, 2007, and is titled “TV-Receiver, Image Display Apparatus, TV-System and Method for Displaying an Image.” The '408 Patent is directed to displaying video encoded in one size on a monitor that is a different size. The specification defines the problem to be solved as follows:

With the introduction of new digital television standards there will be a mix of aspect ratios (e.g., 4:3 and 16:9) and resolutions for image sizes (e.g. Standard Definition Television SDTV=720x480, High Definition Television HDTV=1280x720 or 1920x1080). Consequently, different transmissions (different types of broadcasted images) have to be made compatible with different types of image display apparatuses, i.e. the aspect ratios as well as the resolutions of the images have to adapted [sic] to the aspect ratio and the resolution of a receiving image display apparatus.

'408 Patent at 1:17-26.

         The specification identifies two prior art systems addressed to this issue. One prior art system utilized control data from the broadcaster that defined a “fixed re-sampling rate for resampling the image at the receiving end in order to achieve the required resolution-adaptation” corresponding to “a reduction or an increase of the size of the entire image.” Id. at 1:27-35. However, when the image size was reduced, “details are lost in said re-sampled image and it may be impossible for a user watching the re-sampled image on the screen to enjoy the program.” Id. at 1:47-55.

         Another prior art method identified by the '408 Patent is a “pan & scan” operation. The specification describes this operation as follows:

[C]ontrol data defining a vector for indicating a location of a partition of important subject matter within said image is broadcasted together with image data in [the] form of a TV-signal to a TV-receiver. This location information is determined by the broadcaster (under operator control) so as to perform a “pan & scan” operation, i.e. so as to maintain the artistic values of the original image within the limitations of an intended display format. In case of “pan & scan” the actual screen size is larger than the partition of subject matter and thus, the entire partition can be shown on the screen without reducing its size. Possibly in at least one direction also a part of less important environment of the original image can be shown on the screen.

Id. at 1:56-2:4. Figure 7 shows that the “partition of important subject matter” in an HDTV-image “can be shown on the EDTV-screen without any reduction in size, ” by discarding some of the “less important environment” around the partition. Id. at 2:1-10, Fig. 7.

         The specification states that it improves on the prior art “such that at least a predefined partition of important subject matter within the original broadcasted image can entirely be shown on a screen even if the size of said screen is smaller than the size of said partition with only a minimal loss of details.” Id. at 2:11-18. The specification indicates that it accomplishes this by: (1) including control data that defines the size, not just the location, of the “partition of important subject matter”; and (2) employing a variable re-sampling rate defined at the receiving end, instead of a fixed re-sampling rate defined at the broadcasting or transmitting end. Id. at 2:21-35. In some embodiments, a “discarding unit” is also included. “The operation of said discarding unit substantially corresponds to a ‘pan & scan' operation in order to adapt different aspect ratios of the broadcasted image and the display device.” Id. at 2:64-3:2.

         Claim 1 of the '408 Patent is an illustrative claim and recites the following elements (disputed terms in italics):

1. A receiver comprising:
a decoder for receiving and decoding a signal representing an image and control data wherein the control data defines a vector indicating a location of a partition of important subject matter within said image:
the control data further defining the size of said partition showing said important subject matter; and
a re-sampling unit for extracting a re-sampled image to be displayed on the screen of a display device from said decoded image by re-sampling said decoded image at a variable re-sampling rate defined at the receiving end such that the size of the partition of important subject matter in the re-sampled image is adapted according to a criterion.

         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.” 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, 135 S.Ct. at 841. 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) [1]

         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. Law son 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); see also Interval Licensing LLC v. AOL, Inc., 766 F.3d 1364, 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (citing Datamize, 417 F.3d at 1351).

         III. CONSTRUCTION OF DISPUTED TERMS

         The Parties' dispute the meaning and scope often terms or phrases in the '408 Patent. Each dispute is addressed below.

         A. "vector"

Disputed Term

Plaintiff's Proposal

Defendants' Proposal

“vector”

Ordinary meaning, alternatively, “data [indicating location]”

“a pair of coordinates”

         1. The Parties' Positions

         The Parties dispute whether the term "vector" requires construction. Defendants contend that the term should be limited to “a pair of coordinates.” Plaintiff argues that there is no reason to limit the term vector, because the skilled person would readily understand that it should be given plain and ordinary meaning. (Dkt. No. 33 at 4.) Plaintiff further contends that the “vector” only needs to “indicat[e] a location of a partition . . . in the image.” (Id.) Plaintiff argues that the specification gives two non-limiting examples of how to indicate the location. (Id. (citing '408 Patent at 5:38-55).)

         Plaintiff also contends that there is no reason to resort to extrinsic evidence, and that Defendants' experts' testimony is flawed. (Id.) Plaintiff further argues that Defendants' proposed construction inappropriately attempts to read limitations into the claims from one of the preferred embodiments. (Id. at 5). According to Plaintiff, a pair of coordinates is merely an embodiment, and the specification explicitly states that “the invention can also be applied in other systems where an image is sent from a source to a destination apparatus that processes the image for display.” (Id. at 5 (citing '408 Patent at 7:3-6).) In the alternative, Plaintiff argues that the term should be construed to mean “data [indicating location].”

         Defendants respond that the term “vector” is not a term used in everyday conversation, but instead is an expression used in mathematics and physics to indicate a magnitude and direction from a given point. (Dkt. No. 37 at 4.) Defendants argue that Plaintiff's assertion renders the term “vector” superfluous and would improperly read it out of the claim. (Id.) According to Defendants, the term “vector” further limits the type of “control data” that indicates a location of a partition. (Id.) Defendants also argue that the specification supports their construction. (Id. at 5 (citing '408 Patent at 2:36-42; Dkt. No. 37-2 at ¶ 41).) Defendants further argue that the specification repeatedly discloses that the location on a display screen is indicated by a pair of “co-ordinates” (Id. (citing '408 Patent at 5:5-7, 5:14-17, 5:37-44, 6:44-46).) Defendants also contend that the extrinsic evidence supports their proposed construction. (Id. at 6 (citing Dkt. No. 37-3; Dkt. No. 37-2 at ¶¶ 36-48).) Regarding Plaintiff's construction, Defendants argue that nothing in the intrinsic record indicates that a “vector” refers to any data other than a pair of coordinates, or that the specification uses the term “vector” differently than the cited extrinsic evidence. (Id. at 7.)

         Plaintiff replies that vector is known as a means for carrying information, and coordinates is only one way of carrying location information. (Dkt. No. 41 at 1.) Plaintiff contends that the concept of vector for placement of images should not be limited to a pair of coordinates, because these are only examples. (Id. at 2.) According to Plaintiff, this is a clear case of a defendant attempting to improperly read limitations into the claims without any basis. (Id. (citing Electro Med. Sys., S.A. v. Cooper Life Sciences, Inc., 34 F.3d 1048, 1054 (Fed. Cir. 1994)).)

         2. Analysis

         The term “vector” appears in asserted Claims 1, 8, and 9 of the '408 Patent. The Court finds that the term is used consistently in the claims and is intended to have the same general meaning in each claim. The Court further finds that “vector” is a technical term that would not be easily understandable to a jury. As such, the Court looks to the intrinsic evidence for background and how a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand the term.

         The intrinsic evidence indicates that a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand the term “vector” to mean “offset positon.” Starting with the claim language, Claim 1 recites a decoder that receives a signal “representing an image and control data.” Claim 1 further recites that the “control data” defines: (1) “a vector indicating a location of a partition of important subject matter within said image;” and (2) “the size of said partition showing said important subject matter.” See, also, '408 Patent at 3:42-48 (“However, in difference to the TV-system known in the art, the control data according to the invention included within a TV-signal broadcasted from a broadcaster 100 to an image display apparatus 200 does not only define a vector indicating a location of a partition of important subject matter within a broadcasted image but also define the size of said partition.”) (emphasis added).

         The specification further indicates that the “vector” defines the location by indicating a center or an offset position of the “partition of important subject matter, ” with the size of the partition being defined with a pair of coordinates. Specifically, the specification states the following:

The size and the location of the partition of important subject matter can be indicated by the co-ordinates of the top-left and bottom-right corners of the framing rectangle. These co-ordinates are transmitted as control data to the TV-receiver. For example, the location or center of the partition is approximately at co-ordinates (720, 450)=(3/8, 4/8) and the size of the partition may vary according to the following examples:
Scene 1 (very large subject): subject size is 1440.times.1080, rectangle is (1, 1)-(1440, 1080).
Scene 2 (medium large subject): subject size is 960.times.720, rectangle is (241, 181)-(1200, 900).
Scene 3 (medium small subject): subject size is 640.times.480, rectangle is (401, 301)-(1040, 780).
Scene 4 (very small subject): subject size is 480.times.360, rectangle is (481, 361)-(960, 720).

'408 Patent at 5:38-53 (emphasis added). Similarly, the specification also states that the partition “is defined by a location vector (2 degrees of freedom) and by additional size-data, representing for example the extreme partition co-ordinates, i.e. the top-left and bottom-right pixel of a rectangular partition.” Id. at 2:36-40. Thus, the intrinsic evidence indicates that the recited “vector” defines an offset position ...


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