CAFC Issues Non-Precedential Claim Construction with a Dissent

The Federal Circuit recently issued a non-precedential opinion in Vehicle IP, LLC v. AT&T Mobility, LLC. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this decision was that it was a non-precedential opinion with a dissent, which to some extent seems a bit contradictory.

The tale begins back on December 31, 2009, when Vehicle IP filed a patent infringement action against the Appellees in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. The patent infringement lawsuit asserted that Appellees infringed U.S. Patent No. 5,987,377 (“the ’377 patent”). On December 12, 2011, the district court issued an order construing the disputed claim terms of the ’377 patent, including “expected time of arrival” and “way point(s).” The district court construed “expected time of arrival” as “time of day at which the vehicle is expected to arrive somewhere (and not remaining travel time).” The district court construed “way point(s)” as “intermediate point(s) on the way to the final destination (and not the final destination itself).”

After the district court construed the claims, Appellees filed two motions for summary judgment. The district court granted both motions. On April 19, 2013, the district court entered judgment in favor of Appellees. Vehicle IP appealed the entry of judgment, challenging the district court’s claim constructions and summary judgment rulings.

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Collateral Estoppel Prevents Reexam Claim from being Enforced

On November 19, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a decision in e.Digital Corporation v. Futurewei Technologies, Inc. e.Digital appealed from a judgment of non-infringement made by the U.S. Federal District Court for the Southern District of California. The district court based its determination of non-infringement on the fact that e.Digital was collaterally estopped from seeking a construction of a claim limitation in e.Digital’s U.S. Patent Nos. 5,491,774 and 5,839,108 different from another court’s previous construction of the same limitation in the ’774 patent.

The Federal Circuit, with Judge Moore writing and joined by Judges O’Malley and Reyna, held that the district court correctly applied collateral estoppel to the ’774 patent, but improperly applied the doctrine to the unrelated ’108 patent.

To understand the ruling in this case one must first look at the prior case that construed the critical claim. Previously, in a litigation in the United States Federal District Court for the District of Colorado, e.Digital asserted claims 1 and 19 of the ’774 patent. The ’774 patent discloses a device with a microphone and a removable, interchangeable flash memory recording medium that allows for audio recording and playback. Asserted claims 1 and 19 recited “a flash memory module which operates as sole memory of the received processed sound electrical signals.” The district court construed the sole memory limitation to require “that the device use only flash memory, not RAM or any other memory system” to store the “received processed sound electrical signals.” The district court based its construction on the written description of the ’774 patent and its determination that the use of RAM had been disclaimed during prosecution. With this claim construction decided, the parties stipulated to a dismissal of the case with prejudice.

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Failure to Argue Waives Infringement on Proper Claim Construction

Recently, the Federal Circuit issued a decision in CardSoft v. Verifone, in which the Court overturned the district court’s claim construction. Overturning a district court’s claim construction is hardly unusual, and perhaps more typical than it really should be. What was unique about this particular case was that the Federal Circuit also went on to rule that CardSoft had waived any argument that the defendants had infringed under the correct claim construction, as a matter of law.

CardSoft filed this patent infringement suit in March 2008 against VeriFone, Inc., VeriFone Systems Inc., and Hypercom Corp. (collectively, “Defendants”), asserting infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,934,945 (“the ’945 patent”) and 7,302,683 (“the ’683 patent”). The district court held a Markman hearing in July 2011 and conducted a jury trial in June 2012. The jury determined that certain of the Defendants’ devices infringed claim 11 of the ’945 patent and claim 1 of the ’683 patent and that these claims were not invalid. The Defendants moved for a new trial and for judgment as a matter of law, but the district court denied both motions.

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Federal Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment in Golf Club Infringement Case

On September 16, 2010, Nassau Precision Casting Co., Inc., owner of U.S. Patent No. 5,486,000, entitled “Weighted Golf Iron Club Head,” brought a patent infringement lawsuit accusing Acushnet of infringing claims 1 and 2 of the ’000 patent by making, offering to sell, and selling its Cobra S9, Cobra S9 Second Generation, King Cobra UFi, and Cobra S2 clubs. The ’000 patent describes what it says is an improvement in the distribution of weight within the head of a golf club. The purpose of the invention is to achieve “sweet spot-enhancement, i.e. significant improvement in the ball-striking efficacy of the club head, while maintaining the same starting overall weight of the club head.”

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted summary judgment of non-infringement to Acushnet. On June 6, 2014, the Federal Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part and remanded after determining that, based on the district court’s claim interpretation, the only element found lacking from the accused device relative to claim 2 was in fact present in the accused device. See Nassau Precision Casting v. Acushnet Company, Inc.

Claim 1 of the ‘000 patent reads:

1. In a golf iron club head of a type having a ball-striking body of weight-imparting construction material inclined at a selected angle for driving a struck golf ball a corresponding selected height during its trajectory, said body having spaced-apart top and bottom surfaces bounding a ball-striking surface therebetween, the method of improving weight distribution comprising removing construction material from said top surface, relocating said removed construction material from said top surface to clearance positions below said top surface located adjacent opposite ends of said bottom, surface whereby said removed construction material from a location not used during ball-striking service of said golf iron, is of no adverse consequence thereto and said removed construction material in said relocated positions contributes to increasing said height attained by a struck golf ball.

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CAFC Sends Dismissed Interference Back to Board

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently decided a case arising out of an interference proceeding before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) relating to drug treatments for spinal nerve injuries. See Tobinick v. Olmarker (Fed. Cir., May 19, 2014).

Kjell Olmarker and Bjorn Rydevik (collectively “Olmarker”) are the named inventors on U.S. Patent Nos. 7,708,995 and 7,811,990. In order to provoke an interference, Edward Tobinick copied claims from the ‘995 patent and the ‘990 patent into his patent application.

In the USPTO proceeding, the Board construed “administered locally” as administering the claimed therapeutic compound “directly to the site where it is intended to act, that is, to the location where the nucleus pulposus is causing the symptoms of the nerve disorder.” Based on this construction, the Board found that Edward Tobinick’s patent application did not contain written description support for the interference count. Therefore, without written description support for the count, the Board concluded that Tobinick lacked standing for the interference proceeding, and dismissed the interference.

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