CAFC Issues Non-Precedential Claim Construction with a Dissent


The Federal Circuit recently issued a non-precedential opinion in Vehicle IP, LLC v. AT&T Mobility, LLC. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this decision was that it was a non-precedential opinion with a dissent, which to some extent seems a bit contradictory.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

Vehicle IP argued that the district court erred in excluding remaining travel time from the construction of “expected time of arrival.” Vehicle IP argued that if someone were to ask what time one expects to arrive, the answers “in 30 minutes” and “2:00 p.m.” would be equally acceptable.

Appellees respond that the parties’ dispute is not focused on the term “time,” as Vehicle IP would like this court to believe, but instead is focused on the phrase “expected time of arrival.” Appellees reason that “expected time of arrival” cannot include “remaining travel time.”

In a non-precedential opinion, the Federal Circuit, per Judges Reyna and Hughes, ruled that the district court erred in excluding remaining travel time from the construction of “expected time of arrival.” Judge Reyna concluded that the term “expected time of arrival” is not limited to clock-time.

The claim clearly shows that the mobile unit determines the “expected time of arrival” in remaining travel time based on the destination information transmitted by the dispatch. The mobile unit uses factors such as average travel time, weather conditions, and traffic information to determine the “expected time of arrival.” Thus, the expected time of arrival will be calculated in remaining travel time. The expected time of arrival may be then converted to clock-time format, but the patent does not require that it be converted.

The Federal Circuit did recognize that some of the examples in the patent were to embodiments where there was a focus on clock-time, but Judge Reyna correctly pointed out that examples in a specification are illustrative and not limiting.

On the other critical claim term, the district court construed “way point(s)” as “intermediate point(s) on the way to the final destination (and not the final destination itself).” Vehicle IP argues that the district court erred because the written description makes clear that “way point(s)” may include the final destination. Appellees respond that the ’377 patent’s description of figure 2 shows that “way point(s)” may not include the final destination because it distinguishes way points C and D from destination E.

The Federal Circuit similarly concluded that the district court erred in its interpretation of “way point(s).” Judge Reyna explained that the written description used the term in a broad, non-limiting manner utilizing permissive language, which indicated that “way point(s)” may be more than an intermediate point along a route.

Judge Wallach did file a dissenting opinion in this non-precedential case, taking issue with the majority construction of the term “way point(s).” Judge Wallach believed that the only support for “way point(s)” could be found relative to Figure 2 in the specification. The patent explained that “way point(s)” can be used to determine if a truck driver has driven off the route. The specification stated:

“To alleviate this problem, destinations C and D may be used as way points to determine whether the operator of vehicle 40 has driven out of route 52a specified in the destination information generated by dispatch 20.”

Thus, Judge Wallach was of the belief that “way point(s)” had to be intermediate stops and not an end point. To this end, Judge Wallach wrote: “It is unclear why point E, which the patent characterizes as ‘destination E,’ would be considered a way point, in conflict with the ordinary and customary meaning of “way point(s),” when it cannot fulfill the function of that claim term.”

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

You share in the PLI Practice Center community, so we just ask that you keep things civil. Leave out the personal attacks. Do not use profanity, ethnic or racial slurs, or take shots at anyone's sexual orientation or religion. If you can't be nice, we reserve the right to remove your material and ban users who violate our Terms of Service.

You must be logged in to post a comment.