Technology Innovations Associates LLC v. Google Inc.
MEMORANDUM OPINION re claim construction. Signed by Judge Leonard P. Stark on 8/7/14. (ntl)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
TECHNOLOGY INNOVATIONS AS SOCIATES
C.A. No. 13-0355-LPS
Richard D. Kirk, Stephen B. Brauerman, Vanessa R. Tiradentes, Sara E. Bussiere, BAYARD
P.A., Wilmington, DE
Paul V. Storm, Sarah M. Paxson, GARDERE WYNNE SEWELL LLP, Dallas, TX
Attorneys for Plaintiff.
Richard L. Horwitz, David E. Moore, Erich W. Struble, POTTER ANDERSON & CORROON
LLP, Wilmington, DE
James F. Valentine, James C. Pistorino, Nancy Cheng, Wing H. Liang, PERKINS COIE, LLP,
Palo Alto, CA
Attorneys for Defendant.
August 7, 2014
Pending before the Court is the issue of claim construction for the disputed term "sticky
path" in the claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,840,619 (the '"619 patent") and 8,280,932 (the '"932
patent") (collectively, "the patents-in-suit").
Plaintiff Technology Innovations Associates (hereinafter "TIA" or "Plaintiff') filed this
patent infringement action against Defendant Google, Inc. (hereinafter "Google" or "Defendant")
on March 4, 2013. (D.I. 1) The patents-in-suit claim a computer data processing system for the
management of data objects. TIA alleges infringement of the patents-in-suit by products running
Google's Android operating system. (Id. at if 8) Specifically, TIA alleges that a "sticky path
object hierarchy viewing system," which displays the path back to a top item in a scrollable area,
The parties advised the Court early in the suit that this case might be amenable to an
extremely early claim construction process relating to a single term in dispute, "sticky path."
Over the course of several letters and teleconferences, the parties exchanged their proposed
constructions of the disputed term and argued over the impact of the Court's adopting either
proposed construction. By order dated June 9, 2014, the Court agreed with Google that its
proposed early, limited claim construction process would likely facilitate the just, speedy, and
inexpensive determination of this action, even if the Court's construction did not prove to be case
dispositive. (D.I. 33)
The parties completed early claim construction briefing on the disputed term on July 11,
2014. (D.I. 34, 36, 38, 39) The Court held a Markman hearing on July 21, 2014. (See
"It is a bedrock principle of patent law that the claims of a patent define the invention to
which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude." Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312
(Fed. Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted). Construing the claims of a patent presents a
question oflaw. See Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 977-78 (Fed. Cir.
1995), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370, 388-90 (1996). "[T]here is no magic formula or catechism for
conducting claim construction." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1324. Instead, the court is free to attach
the appropriate weight to appropriate sources "in light of the statutes and policies that inform
patent law." Id.
"[T]he words of a claim are generally given 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 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). "[T]he ordinary meaning of a
claim term is its meaning to the ordinary artisan after reading the entire patent." Id. at 1321
(internal quotation marks omitted). The patent specification "is always highly relevant to the
claim construction analysis. Usually, it is dispositive; it is the single best guide to the meaning of
a disputed term." Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996).
While "the claims themselves provide substantial guidance as to the meaning of particular
claim terms," the context of the surrounding words of the claim also must be considered.
Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1314. Furthermore, "[o]ther claims of the patent in question, both asserted
and unasserted, can also be valuable sources of enlightenment ... [b ]ecause claim terms are
normally used consistently throughout the patent .... " Id. (internal citation omitted).
It is likewise true that "[ d]ifferences among claims can also be a useful guide . . . . For
example, the presence of a dependent claim that adds a particular limitation gives rise to a
presumption that the limitation in question is not present in the independent claim." Id. at
1314-15 (internal citation omitted). This "presumption is especially strong when the limitation
in dispute is the only meaningful difference between an independent and dependent claim, and
one party is urging that the limitation in the dependent claim should be read into the independent
claim." SunRace Roots Enter. Co., Ltd. v. SRAM Corp., 336 F.3d 1298, 1303 (Fed. Cir. 2003).
It is also possible that ''the specification may reveal a special definition given to a claim
term by the patentee that differs from the meaning it would otherwise possess. In such cases, the
inventor's lexicography governs." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1316. It bears emphasis that "[e]ven
when the specification describes only a single embodiment, the claims of the patent will not be
read restrictively unless the patentee has demonstrated a clear intention to limit the claim scope
using words or expressions of manifest exclusion or restriction." Liebel-Flarsheim Co. v.
Medrad, Inc., 358 F.3d 898, 906 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted), aff'd, 481
F.3d 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2007).
In addition to the specification, a court "should also consider the patent's prosecution
history, if it is in evidence." Markman, 52 F.3d at 980. The prosecution history, which is
"intrinsic evidence," "consists of the complete record of the proceedings before the PTO [Patent
and Trademark Office] and includes the prior art cited during the examination of the patent."
Phillips, 415 F .3d at 1317. "[T]he prosecution history can often inform the meaning of the claim
language by demonstrating how the inventor understood the invention and whether the inventor
limited the invention in the course of prosecution, making the claim scope narrower than it would
otherwise be." Id.
A court also may rely on "extrinsic evidence," which "consists of all evidence external to
the patent and prosecution history, including expert and inventor testimony, dictionaries, and
learned treatises." Markman, 52 F.3d at 980. For instance, technical dictionaries can assist the
court in determining the meaning of a term to those of skill in the relevant art because such
dictionaries "endeavor to collect the accepted meanings of terms used in various fields of science
and technology." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1318. In addition, expert testimony can be useful "to
ensure that the court's understanding of the technical aspects of the patent is consistent with that
of a person of ordinary skill in the art, or to establish that a particular term in the patent or the
prior art has a particular meaning in the pertinent field." Id. Nonetheless, courts must not lose
sight of the fact that "expert reports and testimony [are] generated at the time of and for the
purpose oflitigation and thus can suffer from bias that is not present in intrinsic evidence." Id.
Overall, while extrinsic evidence "may be useful" to the court, it is "less reliable" than intrinsic
evidence, and its consideration "is unlikely to result in a reliable interpretation of patent claim
scope unless considered in the context of the intrinsic evidence." Id. at 1318-19.
Finally, "[t]he 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."
Renishaw PLC v. Marposs Societa 'per Azioni, 158 F.3d 1243, 1250 (Fed. Cir. 1998). It follows
that "a claim interpretation that would exclude the inventor's device is rarely the correct
interpretation." Osram GmbHv. Int'! Trade Comm'n, 505 F.3d 1351, 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2007).
CONSTRUCTION OF DISPUTED TERMS 1
. '"sticq.path~' [Claim:l of ~519}patent;
'Claims 1,·6, 8-16of'932patent]
Plaintiff's Proposed Construction
"an area, separate from a scrollable area, that
dynamically updates to display the path to the
top item in the scrollable area"
Defendant's Proposed Construction
"a multi-line area, separate from a scrollable
area, that dynamically expands and collapses
to always display the hierarchical path to the
top item in the scrollable area"
"an area, separate from a scrollable area, that
dynamically updates to display the path to the
top item in the scrollable area"
The parties agree that the term "sticky path" describes an area, separate from the
scrollable area, that displays the path back to the top item in the scrollable area. 2 The parties
disagree, however, as to whether the sticky path must (i) be multi-lined and (ii) expand and
collapse. Plaintiff argues that neither of these are claim limitations, while Defendant insists that
both limitations must be read into the construction of "sticky path." The Court agrees with
The parties have agreed on the meaning of certain claim terms. The Court will adopt the
parties' proposed constructions for these terms.
The parties agree, as does the Court, that the claims of the patents-in-suit include a
hierarchical limitation; however, the Court further agrees with Plaintiff that this limitation does
not need to be included in the construction of the term "sticky path."
Claim 1 of the '619 patent states: "when scrolling enters ... a new open branch ... an
identifier thereof is rendered in a sticky path display area ... adjacent any visible identifier of a
previously-entered and still open branch .... " (D.I. 37, Ex. B, col. 39:9-12) (emphasis added)
The claims of the '932 patent describe the "render[ing] of visible information ... in a sticky path
Google contends, and TIA does not dispute, that the term "sticky path" has no "ordinary''
meaning to one of skill in the art. (See D.I. 34 at 7) Instead, "sticky path" is a term that was
coined by the patentee. As Google recognizes, there is no single place in the patent specification
where the patentee expressly defines "sticky path." Instead, the Court must consider the entirety
of at least the intrinsic evidence to divine the meaning intended by the patentee. "[I]f a disputed
term has 'no previous meaning to those of ordinary skill in the prior art[,] its meaning, then, must
be found [elsewhere] in the patent."' Irdeto Access, Inc. v. Echostar Satellite Corp., 383 F .3d
1295, 1300 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (alterations in original) (quoting.J.T. Eaton & Co. v. Atl. Paste &
Glue Co., 106 F.3d 1563, 1570 (Fed. Cir.1997)). When guidance is not provided in "explicit
definitional format," the specification may define claim terms '"by implication' such that the
meaning may be 'found in or ascertained by a reading of the patent documents."' Id. (quoting
Bell Atl. Network Servs., Inc. v. Covad Commc 'ns Grp., Inc., 262 F.3d 1258, 1268 (Fed. Cir.
Both sides largely point to the same evidence but argue as to whether it is definitional,
and therefore restrictive (Google's view), or, instead, is merely exemplary and not limiting
(Plaintiffs view). Although a close call, the Court generally agrees with Plaintiff on this dispute,
which drives the Court to adopt Plaintiffs proposed construction of "sticky path."
A portion of the '619 patent's specification describes "sticky path" as a mechanism
which, among other things, "dynamically resiz[ es] the scrollable area to accommodate the
portion of the display." (See, e.g., D.I. 37, Ex. D, col. 38:20-22) (emphasis added)
[sticky] path display.''4 (D.I. 37, Ex. B, col. 32:42-43) The specification further provides
pseudocode, which describes a sticky path area performing this accommodation by expanding
and collapsing. (Id. at col. 32-33) Elsewhere, as Google emphasizes, there is a single reference
in the '619 specification to "multi-line," which describes how "branch[ es] successively 'stick'
in a multi-line window at the top." (D.I. 37, Ex. B, col. 15:1-2) This language, however, appears
in a section of the specification explicitly identified as "illustrat[ing] the invention by way of
example, not by way oflimitation of the principles of the invention." (Id., Ex. B., col. 11:21-28);
see also Rexnord Corp. v. Laitram Corp., 274 F.3d 1336, 1345 (Fed. Cir. 2001) ("The inventor
was careful to consistently use phrases throughout the written description such as: 'In one
embodiment ,' 'Before one embodiment ,' 'of other embodiments ,' 'of a preferred
embodiment ,' or 'In the particular embodiment.' These phrases reflect the inventor's teaching
that his invention could be embodied 'in various ways."').
A problem with Google's proposed construction is that it appears to require, always and
at all times, that the sticky path contain multiple lines. Such a limitation, however, would
exclude embodiments in the specification showing single-line, rather than multi-line, sticky
paths. (See, e.g., D.I. 37, Ex. B, Fig. 12b) In fact, Google concedes that the claims include
situations in which only a single line is present, as long as that single line is "capable of'
expanding to multiple lines, as the path itself gets longer. While Google expressed willingness
during the hearing to modify its proposed construction, the ambiguity described here - namely
Google's proposed limitation that the path area be multi-lined while acknowledging that it does
The '619, '932 and parent patent (U.S Patent No. 7,275,063) share the same
not have to always consist of multiple lines - plagues the construction Google proposed and
The claim language suggests no reason to include Google's other proposed limitation,
requiring "expanding and collapsing." This conclusion is supported by the prosecution history,
which does not reflect - contrary to Google's assertion - that the applicant distinguished the prior
art on the basis of the patented invention's expanding and collapsing feature. Google points to
the applicant's use of the phrase "expanding and collapsing" in a Response to First Office Action
during TIA's prosecution of the '932 patent. (D.I. 34 at 10-11) (April 6, 2012) But it appears
that the applicant was distinguishing its invention on the basis of expanding and collapsing
folders within the scrollable area, rather than the "sticky path."
Google further points to the applicant's use of the phrase "expandable/shrinkable
window," in a Response to Final Office Action during prosecution of the parent of the patents-insuit, U.S Patent No. 7,275,063 (the "'063 Patent"), dated October 25, 2006. (Id., Ex. H) TIA
does not dispute that the claims in the '063 patent require that the sticky path portion
"automatically expand" and "automatically shrink." (D.I. 39 at 8) But importing this limitation
into the claims here, as Google would do, would eliminate "the substantive differences between
the claims" of the '063 and '619 patents. Arlington Indus., 632 F.3d at 1254 (citing Phillips, 415
F.3d at 1314) ("[C]laim 12 of the parent ... patent recites 'a split ... adaptor,' while claim 8 of
the ' 050 patent omits the 'split' modifier. . . . Reading a split limitation ... into the term ...
would render these additional modifiers superfluous, which weighs against doing so."). Claim 1
of the '063 patent (proposed claim 8 as of the date of the response letter) recites a "dynamicallyupdating sticky path ... that automatically expands ... [and] automatically shrink[s]." Claim 1
of the '619 patent does not include the expanding and collapsing language of the '063 patent.
This suggests that the "sticky paths" described in the '619 patent are not required to
automatically expand and collapse.
For the forgoing reasons, the Court will construe the disputed claim term "sticky path" in
the claims of the '619 and '932 patents consistent with this Memorandum Opinion. An
appropriate order follows.
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