Cox Communications Inc. et al v. Sprint Communications Company LP et al
MEMORANDUM ORDER re: D.I. 207 and construction of "processing system". Granting 207 MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment Signed by Judge Sue L. Robinson on 5/15/2015. (fms)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
COX COMMUNICATIONS INC., et al.,
COMPANY L.P., et al.,
Civ. No. 12-487-SLR
At Wilmington this
\~day of May, 2015, having reviewed plaintiffs' motion for
partial summary judgment and construction of "processing system" (D.I. 2on, and the
papers filed in connection therewith;
IT IS ORDERED that plaintiffs' motion for partial summary jud~~ment (D.1. 207) is
granted, for the reasons that follow:
1. Background. On May 16, 2012, plaintiffs 1 (collectively "Cox") filed a
Cox Communications, Inc.; CoxCom, LLC; Cox Arkansas Telcom, L..L.C.; Cox
Communications Arizona, LLC; Cox Arizona Telcom, L.L.C.; Cox Communications
California, LLC; Cox California Telcom, L.L.C.; Cox Colorado Telcom L.L.C.; Cox
Connecticut Telcom, L.L.C.; Cox District of Columbia Telcom, L.L.C.; Cox Florida
Telcom, L.P.; Cox Communications Georgia, LLC; Cox Georgia Telcom L.L..C.; Cox
Iowa Telcom, L.L.C.; Cox Idaho Telcom L.L.C.; Cox Communications Kansas, L.L.C.;
Cox Kansas Telcom, L.L.C.; Cox Communications Gulf Coast, L.L.c.; Cox
Communications Louisiana, L.L.C.; Cox Louisiana Telcom, L.L.C.; Cox Maryland
Telcom L.L.C.; Cox Missouri Telcom, LLC; Cox Nebraska Telcom, L.L.C.; Cox
Communications Omaha, L.L.C.; Cox Nevada Telcom, L.L.C.; Cox Communications
La~; Vegas, Inc.; Cox North Carolina Telcom L.L.C.; Cox Ohio Telcom, L.L.C.; Cox
Oklahoma Telcom, L.L.C.; Cox Rhode Island Telcom, L.L.C.; Cox Virginia Telcom,
L.L.C.; and Cox Communications Hampton Roads, L.L.C.
declaratory action for invalidity and non-infringement of twelve Sprint patents, 2 and for
infringement of two Cox patents3 by defendants Sprint Communications Company L.P.
("Sprint Communications"), Sprint Spectrum, L.P. (Sprint Spectrum"), Sprint Solutions,
Inc. ("Sprint Solutions") (collectively, Sprint). (D.I. 1) On September ·11, 20·13, Sprint
filed, by stipulation, a second amended answer and counterclaims. 4 (D.I. 1 ·14; D.I. 115)
On October 7, 2013, Cox answered Sprint's second amended counterclaims and
asserted counterclaims. 5 (D.I. 119) On October 24, 2013, Sprint answered Cox's
counterclaims. (D.I. 123) The court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and
2. Plaintiff Cox Communications, Inc. (CCI) is a Delaware corporation with its
principal place of business in Atlanta, Georgia. CCI provides general corporate,
accounting, and management services to the other Cox plaintiffs. CCI is the direct or
indirect parent of the other Cox plaintiffs. (D.I. 1 at 1f 4) CoxCom, LLC ("CoxCom") is a
Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Atlanta, Georgia. CoxCom
is a wholly owned subsidiary of CCI and does not directly provide
U.S. Patent Nos. 6,452,932 ("the '932 patent"); 6,463,052 ("the '052. patent");
6,633,561 ("the '3,561 patent"); 7,286,561 ("the '6,561 patent"); 6,47~1,429 ("the '429
patent"); 6,298,064 ("the '064 patent"); 6,343,084; 6,262,992; 6,330,~'.24; 6,563,918;
6,639,912; and 6,697,340.
3 U.S. Patent Nos. 7,992,172 and 7,836,474.
Having previously filed an answer and counterclaims for infringement of seven other
Sprint patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 5,742,605; 6,108,339; 6,452,931; 6,870,8~~2;
8,121,028; 5,793,853; and 7,995,730, on July 9, 2012 (D.I. 41) and, by stipulation, a first
amended answer and counterclaims for infringement of each of the nineteen Sprint
patents on July 12, 2013 (D.I. 96, 97). Sprint's counterclaims are asserted by Sprint
Communications and Sprint Spectrum only.
5 Having previously filed an answer to Sprint's counterclaims and asserted
counterclaims on August 13, 2012 (D.I. 53) and filed an answer to Sprint's first
amended counterclaims and asserted counterclaims on August 2, 2013 (D.I. 102).
technology to end users. CoxCom is the parent of each of the Cox plaintiffs except for
Cox Communications Georgia, LLC, Cox Georgia Telcom, LLC, Cox Communications
Las Vegas, Inc., LLC, and Cox Nevada Telcom LLC, all of which are direct or indirect
subsidiaries of CCI. CoxCom supplies certain of the Cox plaintiffs with technology used
by those entities in providing telephony products and services, including the Cox Digital
Telephone and SIP Trunking service and other related telephony services. (D.1. 1 at 1J
5) Each of the other Cox plaintiffs are Delaware corporations with principal places of
business in the corresponding State in which it is located. (D.I. 1 at 1J1J 6-35) The Cox
plaintiffs are leading cable entertainment and broadband services providers, and
amongst other things, are well known for pioneering the bundling of television, Internet
and telephone services together, offering consumers the ability to con:solidate these
services with one provider. (D.I. 1 at 1J 58)
3. Defendants Sprint Communications Company LP. and Sprint Spectrum LP.
are limited partnerships organized and existing under the laws of the State of Delaware,
with principal places of business in Overland Park, Kansas. (D.I. 115 at 23,
Defendant Sprint Solutions is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the
State of Delaware, with a principal place of business in Overland Park, Kansas. (D.I.
115at1J1J 40, 56) Sprint is a provider of wireless and wireline communications
services. (D.I. 1 at 1J 59)
4. Standard. "The court shall grant summary judgment if the rnovant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The moving party bears the burden
of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 415 U.S. 475, 586 n. 10 (1986). A party asserting that
a fact cannot be-or, alternatively, is-genuinely disputed must be supporte!d either by
citing to "particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents,
electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those
made for the purposes of the motions only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other
materials," or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or
presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible
evidence to support the fact." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1 )(A) & (8). If the moving party has
carried its burden, the nonmovant must then "come forward with spedfic facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita, 415 U.S. at 587 (internal quotation
marks omitted). The Court will "draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving
party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.'' Reeves v.
Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).
5. To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must "do
more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts."
Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586-87; see also Podohnik v. U.S. Postal Ser\lice, 409 F.3d
584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005) (stating party opposing summary judgment "must
than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions to show the existence of
a genuine issue") (internal quotation marks omitted). Although the "mme existence of
some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an
supported motion for summary judgment," a factual dispute is genuine where "the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the ncmmoving party."
Ande,rson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). "If the evidence is merely
colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at
249-50 (internal citations omitted); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986) (stating entry of summary judgment is mandated "against a party who fails to
make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial").
6. Analysis. The disputed limitation, "processing system," is present in the '932,
'052, '3,561, and '6,561 patents (the "Control Patents"), which share a specification, and
the '064 and '429 patents (the "ATM Interworking Patents"), which share a specification.
Exemplary claim 1 of the '3,561 patent recites:
A method of operating a processing system to control a packet
communication system for a user communication, the method Gomprising:
receiving a signaling message for the user communication from a
narrowband communication system into the processing system;
processing the signaling message to select a network code that
identifies a network element to provide egress from the packet
communication system for the user communication;
generating a control message indicating the network code;
transferring the control message from the processing s:vstem to
the packet communication system
receiving the user communication in the packet communication
system and using the network code to route the user communication
through the packet communication system to the network elem•:mt; and
transferring the user communication from the network el13ment to
provide egress from the packet communication system.
('3,561 patent, 22:12-32) (emphasis added) The parties dispute whether the limitation
"processing system" is indefinite.
7. The definiteness requirement is rooted in§ 112, 1J 2, which provides that "the
specification shall conclude with one or more claims particularly pointing out and
distinctly claiming the subject matter which the applicant regards as his invention." "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." Personalized Media Comm.,
LLC v. Int'/ Trade Com'n, 161 F.3d 696, 705 (Fed. Cir. 1998). Reiterating the public
notice function of patents, the Supreme Court recently explained that "a patent must be
precise enough to afford clear notice of what is claimed, thereby 'appris[ing] the public
of what is still open to them."' Nautilus, Inc.
v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., -
134 S.Ct. 2120, 2129 (2014) (citations omitted). In balancing the need for clarity with
the inherent limitations of the English language, 35 U.S.C. § 112, 1J 2
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." Id.
8. Sprint proposes using the "plain and ordinary meaning" of the limitation
"processing system" or construing the limitation as "a system that processes signaling to
assist in call control." (D. I. 224 at 10-12, 20) Sprint's expert explained:
31. The ["communication control processor'' ("CCP")] performs call
processing functions using, among other things, signaling that reaches the
CCP to selects (or participate in the selection of) network characteristics
for the call. The CCP may be composed of one or many physical
components as is discussed in the specification.
The CCP is a processing system and as such, those skilled in the art
are aware that such systems can be housed in a single device or
distributed among several devices. Additionally, multiple devices
with overlapping capabilities might be desired for purposes of
redundancy. The present invention encompasses these variations.
('052 patent, 13:37-42)
69. The term "processing system" has an understood meaning in the
telecommunications industry by a person of ordinary skill in the art. For
example, the '052 Patent specification discusses its meaning. (See 1J
3). Also, the '429 Patent references a patent using the term. (U.S.
Patent No. 4,720,850 ["the '850 patent"]) as does the '064 patent
(6,016,343 ["the '343 patent"]). As this evidence indicates, the tierm
"processing system" was known in the art at the time of invention and
refers to a system that processes signaling to assist in call control.
(D.I. 216, ex. A at 1MJ 69, 31) Sprint's expert also opined that the Sprint patents
reference other patents which use the phrase "processing system," demonstrating that a
person of ordinary skill in the art would have known with reasonable certainty what is
meant by the limitation. (D.I. 216, ex. Bat 1f 14)
9. Cox, on the other hand, argues that the limitation is indefinite, because the
structural limitation, "processing system," is only described functionally. (D.I. 221 at 1113) Alternatively, Cox asserts that the limitation should be construed as a CCP for the
Control patents and a "call connection manager'' ("CCM") for the ATM Interworking
patents, which construction is still indefinite as the disclosures for each of these devices
are purely functional. (Id. at 15-21) In support of the same indefiniteness argument, an
expert for Comcast6 disagreed with Sprint's expert and opined that there is no "known,
well-understood meaning" of processing system. Instead, Comcast's expert selected
five patents (of the twenty five identified by Sprint's expert as using "processing system"
in their claims) and explained that "the phrase is used differently in each of the [five]
patents [he] sampled, with different structures: at the very least the processors involved
have specialized software to perform their widely differing functions." (D.I. 218, ex. I at
10. At the outset, "[w]hile not an absolute rule, all claim terms are presumed to
have meaning in a claim." lnnova!Pure Water, Inc. v. Safari Water Filtration Sys., Inc.,
381 F.3d 1111, 1119 (Fed. Cir. 2004). "Functional language in claims [today] is not
In Sprint Commc'ns Co. L.P. v. Comcast Cable Commc'ns, LLC, Civ. No. 11-2684 at
D.I. 361 (D. Kan. 2011 ).
objectionable per se so long as it avoids ... problems of undue breadth and
vagueness." 3 Donald S. Chisum, Chisum on Patents§ 8.04 (2015). The Federal
Circuit recently reiterated that "when a claim limitation is defined in 'purely functional
terms,' a determination of whether the limitation is sufficiently definite is 'highly
dependent on context (e.g., the disclosure in the specification and the knowledge of a
person of ordinary skill in the relevant art area)."' Biosig Instruments, Inc. v. Nautilus,
Inc., --- F.3d ----, 2015 WL 1883265, *3 (Fed. Cir. 2015) (citing Halliburton Energy
Servs., Inc. v. M-1 LLC, 514 F.3d 1244, 1255 (Fed. Cir. 2008)). However, "in some
instances, use of functional language can fail 'to provide a clear-cut indication of the
scope of subject matter embraced by the claim' and thus can be indefinite." Halliburton
Energy, 514 F.3d at 1255 (citing In re Swinehart, 439 F.2d 210, 212-13 (C.C.P.A.
11. In Microprocessor Enhancement Corp. v. Texas Instruments Inc., 520 F .3d
1367 (Fed. Cir. 2008), the Federal Circuit analyzed a method claim that recited
structural elements: A "method of executing instructions in a pipelined proCE!Ssor
comprising: [structural limitations of the pipelined processor]; the method further
comprising: [method steps implemented in the pipelined processor]." id. at 1374. The
Court explained that "[m]ethod claim preambles often recite the physical structures of a
system in which the claimed method is practiced" and "[d]irect infringement of [the]
claim . . . is clearly limited to practicing the claimed method in a pipelined processor
possessing the requisite structure." Id. at 1374-75.
12. As in Microprocessor Enhancement, the asserted method claim contains a
structural limitation, "processing system." This limitation is found not only in the
preamble, but in the body of the claim. The specification of the Control pate1nts
describes each figure as "a block diagram of a version of the invention" ('3,fi61 patent,
4:42-51 ), with a CCP depicted in each figure. 7 The specification describes the
processing system as
a telecommunications processing system which comprises an interface
that is external to the switches and is operational to receive and transmit
signaling. The processing system also includes a translator that is
coupled to the interface and is operational to identify particular information
in the received signaling and to generate new signaling based on new
('3,561 patent, 3:53-59) In describing the CCP, the specification explains that it "is a
processing system, and as such, those skilled in the art are aware that such systems
can be housed in a single device or distributed among several devices." (Id. at 13:4143) For the ATM Interworking patents, the specification explains that:
Signaling processing system 160 is any processing platform that can
receive and process signaling to select virtual connections, and then
generate and transmit signaling to identify the selections. Various forms
of signaling are contemplated by the invention, including SS?, C7, and
user to network interface (UNI) signaling. A preferred embodiment of the
signaling processor is discussed in detail toward the end of the disclosure.
('064 patent, 4:26-33) The specification then identifies the CCM as "a signaling
processor that operates as discussed above." (Id. at 6:54-55) These irecitations
describe the physical structures identified as the "processing system," in which
the claimed method is practiced. The court concludes that these physiical
structures (functionally described by the claims and in the specifications) do not
Figure 4 depicts "main capabilities of one version of a CCP" ('3,561 patent, 14:17) and
figums 5-8 are flow diagrams of the CCP for certain versions of the preisent invention
(id. at 14:59-60, 15:64-65, 18:4-5, 18:52-53).
pass muster under Nautilus as a person of ordinary skill in the art is not provided
with the bounds of the claimed invention.
13. Turning to extrinsic evidence, the '850 patent cited by Sprint's expert
contains a singular reference to "processing system," that is "call
design." ('850 patent, 3:14-15) The '850 patent describes a "program-controlled call
processing arrangement;" one embodiment "comprises (a) a point-to-point call
processing arrangement for handling conventional point-to-point calls, and (b) a
broadcast service vendor call processing arrangement for handling calls to broadcast
program source channels." (Id. at abstract; 4:9-14) The '343 patent cited by Sprint's
expert is directed to a "call processing system," which is structurally
network control processor for controlling the processing and routing of the calls and for
providing enhanced features, and a matrix switch for routing calls from an originating
location to a terminating location." ('343 patent, abstract) As explained by Comcast's
expert above, the limitation "processing system" is used differently in a sampling of
other patents. Moreover, the parties have not provided, nor has the court found, a
dictionary definition for the phrase "processing system." See e.g., Dictionary of
Computer Science (Valerie Illingworth et al. eds., 4th ed. 2001 ); Dictionary of Computer
and Internet Words [an A to Z Guide to Hardware, Software, and Cybe•rspaci9] (2001 );
Microsoft Computer Dictionary (1999). The court concludes that there is no
"established meaning in the art" for the disputed limitation. 8
In contrast the Federal Circuit in DOR Holdings, LLC v. Hotels.com, 1'73 F.:~d 1245
(Fed. Cir. 2014) found "that [the limitation] 'look and feel' had an established, sufficiently
objec:tive meaning in the art, and that the '399 patent used the term consistent with that
meaning," which "viewed in light of the specification and prosecution history, informed
14. Sprint's proposed construction of "a system that processes. signaling to
assist in call control" describes the "processing system" by its function. Likewise,
Sprint's argument that any system performing the steps of the method
no "objective boundaries" for those skilled in the art to determine the scope of the
invention. The court concludes that the claim language and the speci·fication do not
provide structural limitations for the "processing system" and do not inform those skilled
in the art about the scope of the invention with reasonable certainty. 9 The limitation is
15. Conclusion. For the aforementioned reasons, plaintiffs' motion for partial
summary judgment (D.I. 207) is granted.
those skilled in the art about the scope of the '399 patent's claims with reasonable
certainty." Id. at 1260-61.
9 The parties agree that the means-plus-function format of 35 U.S.C. § 112(f) and
corresponding arguments do not apply to the case at bar. (D.I. 222 at 4)
10 The court respectfully recognizes that this conclusion is contrary to that of Sprint
Commc'ns Co. L.P. v. Comcast Cable Commc'ns, LLC, Civ. No. 11-2684 at D.I. 435,
435 (D. Kan. 2011 ), declining to construe "processing system."
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