Trusted Knight Corporation v. International Business Machines Corporation et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION re claim construction. Signed by Judge Leonard P. Stark on 11/19/15. (ntl)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
TRUSTED KNIGHT CORPORATION,
INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES
TRUSTEER, INC. ,
C.A. No. 14-1063-LPS-CJB
R. Eric Hutz, REED SMITH LLP, Wilmington, DE.
Paul R. Gupta, REED SMITH LLP, New York, NY.
Gerard M. Donovan, REED SMITH LLP, Washington, DC.
Sharon A. Lai, REED SMITH LLP, Palo Alto, CA.
David S. Christy, REED SMITH LLP, San Francisco, CA.
Attorneys for Plaintiff
Jack B. Blumenfeld, Rodger D. Smith II, Ethan H. Townsend, MORRIS , NICHOLS, ARSHT &
TUNNELL LLP, Wilmington, DE
David A. Nelson, Alexander Rudis, John T. McKee, QUINN EMANUEL URQUHART &
SULLIVAN LLP, Chicago, IL
Attorneys for Defendants
November 19, 2015
Pending before the Court is the issue of claim construction for four disputed terms in U.S.
Patent No. 8,316,445 ("the '445 patent"), appearing in independent claims 1, 22, and 23. 1
Plaintiff Trusted Knight Corporation ("Trusted Knight" or "Plaintiff') filed this patent
infringement suit against Defendants International Business Machines Corporation and Trusteer,
Inc. ("Defendants") on August 18, 2014, alleging infringement of the '445 patent. (D.I. 1)
The '445 patent, entitled "System and Method for Protecting Against Mal ware Utilizing
Key Loggers," issued on November 20, 2012. ('445 patent Abstract) The '445 patent generally
relates to preventing unauthorized individuals from capturing, logging, and transmitting
keystrokes from an infected computer. ('445 patent at 1:24-30) A goal of the invention is to
"prevent key logger malware that utilizes form grabbing techniques to steal financial and
identity information from users' browsers." (Id. )
The parties completed claim construction briefing on August 28, 2015 . (D.I. 58, 59, 71 ,
72) The Court held a claim construction hearing on September 21 , 2015. (D.I. 80) ("Tr.")
LEGAL STAND ARDS
Claim construction is a question oflaw. See Teva Pharm. USA , Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135
S. Ct. 831 , 837 (2015) (citing Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc. , 517 U.S. 370, 388-91
(1996)). "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). "[T]here is no magic formula or catechism
The '445 patent can be found in the record at D.I. 1 Ex. A.
for conducting claim construction." Id. at 1324. Instead, the court is free to attach appropriate
weight to 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 ....
[This 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. Concep tronic, 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 131415 (internal citation omitted).
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." Id. 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
intent 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
In addition to the specification, a court "should also consider the patent' s prosecution
history, if it is in evidence." Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc. , 52 F .3d 967, 980 (Fed. Cir.
1995), ajf'd, 517 U .S. 370 (1996). 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.3 d
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
In some cases, "the district court will need to look beyond the patent's intrinsic evidence
and 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. Extrinsic evidence "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, 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 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 of litigation 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. Where the intrinsic record unambiguously describes the
scope of the patented invention, reliance on any extrinsic evidence is improper. See Pitney
Bowes, Inc. v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 182 F.3d 1298, 1308 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (citing Vitronics, 90
F.3d at 1583).
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 GmbH v. Int 'l Trade Comm 'n, 505 F.3d 1351 , 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2007)
(quoting Modin e Mf g. Co. v. United States Int'l Trade Comm 'n, 75 F.3d 1545, 1550 (Fed. Cir.
DISPUTED TERMS 2
"clearing confidential data" (claims 1 and 23)
No construction necessary.
If construed, the term means "removing the meaning from
"Deleting the contents of confidential form inputs"
"removing the meaning from confidential data"
Defendants argue that term "clearing confidential data" should be construed as "deleting
the contents of confidential form inputs" and, therefore, that the term does not encompass
encryption. Plaintiff takes the view that no construction is necessary but, if the term is construed,
it more broadly covers "removing the meaning from confidential data. " 3 In essence, the parties
have two disputes. First, does "clearing" encompass encryption? Second, is "confidential data"
limited to form inputs?
Defendants first contend that the intrinsic evidence establishes that "clearing confidential
data" does not encompass encryption. Emphasizing the presumption that '"two different terms
have different meanings" (D.I. 59 at 9 (citing Comaper Corp. v. Antee, Inc., 596 F.3d 1343, 1348
(Fed. Cir. 2010))), Defendants point out that the patent uses both "clear" and "encrypt," showing
that the two terms do not mean the same thing (see id. at 9 n.2; see also Tr. at 29). The flaw in
The parties agreed to the construction of four terms, which the Court will adopt. (See
For each of the disputes, Plaintiffs principal position is that no construction is necessary.
For each of the disputes, for reasons that should be clear from the discussion to follow, the Court
disagrees. See 02 Micro Int '/ Ltd. v. Beyond Innovation Tech. Co. Ltd., 521F.3d1351, 1362
(Fed. Cir. 2008) ("When the parties present a fundamental dispute regarding the scope of a claim
term, it is the court's duty to resolve it.").
Defendants' logic is that two terms may have different, but not mutually exclusive, meanings.
For example, "exercise" and "jog" have different meanings, yet the two activities overlap jogging is a type of exercise. Similarly, the observation that "clear" and "encrypt" have different
meanings does not speak to whether encryption could be a type of clearing.
Defendants have identified no disclaimer of encryption from the plain and ordinary
meaning of "clearing." Hence, while the Court does not at this time conclude that clearing
necessarily encompasses encryption (a point on which Plaintiff represents the record will
become more clear as the case proceeds (see Tr. at 15)), the Court does conclude that encryption
is not necessarily outside the scope of what the patent means by "clearing."
Second, the Court agrees with Plaintiff that the invention of the ' 445 patent can be used
to protect any confidential data. There is no intrinsic evidence to support Defendants' contention
that the patent only protections "confidential form data." To the contrary, claim 22 claims an
invention protecting "data inputs keyed in by a user at the zero-ring level" and "decrypt[ s] data
which passed via the 3-ring level." ('445 patent at 13:1-11) These references to "data" outside
the context of form fields indicate that the claims' use of the term "data" covers more than just
Accordingly, the Court will adopt Plaintiffs proposed construction.
"prevents any other hooks from inserting at the 0-Ring level" (claim 22)
No construction necessary.
If construed, the term means "prevents other software from
occupying the most privileged access level"
"continuously monitoring and negotiating the placement of the
initial hook so that no other hooks insert at a more privileged access
"prevents other software from occupying the most privileged access
The parties' disagreement is whether the claimed invention must "continuously monitor"
its placement in the stack. Defendants' proposal that the claims mandate the invention
"continuously monitor and negotiat[ e]" its placement in a computer system is improperly
limiting. For their proposed construction, Defendants point to the portion of the specification
which states, " [t]he software in accordance with the present invention is placement aware and
renegotiates its location in the API stack to ensure there are no other hooks that circumvent the
protection at any time" (' 445 patent at 7:47-50), and further states that " [b ]y continuously
refreshing and monitoring this state we can thereby protect and identify any hook attempts from
ring 3 and on protecting the 0 ring level" (id. at 8:47-51 ).4 There is no clear indication from
The sentence from which Defendants draw this phrase reads in its entirety: "The
invention protects itself at the 0-ring level by creating a wrapper evoking
SetWindowsHookEx(WH_KEY-BOARD_LL, KeyboardProc, hlnst, 0) thereby initiating and
maintaining the low global level system hook in the API stack." ('445 patent at 8:43-47) The
reference to "SetWindowsHookEx" is a function call unique to Windows operating systems, yet
Defendants acknowledge (as does the specification) that " [t]he invention can be applied to other
OS ' s [i.e. , non-Windows operating systems]." (' 445 patent at 10:27-29; see also Tr. at 48) It
follows, then, that this sentence in the specification was not intended to disclaim, or to define in
any exclusionary manner, features that must necessarily be in all claimed embodiments of the
these statements (or any other portion of the specification) that the patentee intended to limit the
scope of the patent to embodiments that "continuously monitor and negotiate." See LiebelFlarsheim , 358 F.3d at 906.
Accordingly, the Court will adopt Plaintiffs proposed construction, which is supported
by the intrinsic evidence.
"In response to the software key logging through the API
stack to an internet communication port" (claims 1 and 23)
No construction necessary.
If construed, the term means "as protection against key logging
malware that operates by modifying the interfaces for process and
library functions to an internet communication port"
The parties dispute whether the term " in response to software key logging through the
API stack to an internet communication port" is indefinite. Indefiniteness is a question of law.
See Atmel Corp. v. Info. Storage Devices, Inc. , 198 F.3d 1374, 1378 (Fed. Cir. 1999). The facts
underlying an indefiniteness determination must be proved by clear and convincing evidence.
See Young v. Lumenis, Inc. , 492 F.3d 1336, 1347 (Fed. Cir. 2007); 35 U.S.C. § 282; see also
Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc. , 134 S. Ct. 2120, 2130 n.10 (2014).
Defendants argue that the claim term is indefinite because it is unclear what action is
performed "in response to the software key logging." (See D.I. 59 at 16-17) The Court agrees.
During oral argument, Plaintiff unequivocally stated that the invention does not respond
to - and does not even detect - malware. (Tr. 55) ("It is in response to the fact that malware is
out there, is ever present. But there doesn' t have to be a specific malware attack.") This
acknowledgment is supported by the patent specification, which states that "[t]he solution of the
present invention does not depend on detection of malware at all." (' 445 patent at 3:59-61) But
if the invention is not responding to malware, then what is happening "[i]n response to the
software key logging?"
Plaintiff answers that the claimed invention is responding to the threat of malware. This
position is undermined by the claim language, as the term "in response to the software key
logging through the API stack" suggests an event ("response") triggered by another event
("logging"). Moreover, the use of the definite article "the" in the term "in response to the
software key logging" suggests an event ("response") triggered by a specific instance ("the ...
logging"). See generally Freytag v. Comm 'r , 501 U.S. 868, 902 (1991 ) (describing definite
article "the" as narrowing class to specific "envisioned" members of class); Warner-Lambert Co.
v. Apotex Corp., 316 F.3d 1348, 1356 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (noting that "the" refers to specific thing
rather than one that is general or undefined) ; Am. Bus Ass'n v. Slater, 231F.3d1, 4-5 (D.C. Cir.
2000) ("[I]t is a rule of law well established that the definite article 'the' particularizes the
subject which it precedes. It is a word oflimitation as opposed to the indefinite or generalizing
force of ' a' or ' an."') (internal quotation marks omitted).
Additionally, adoption of Plaintiffs proposal would appear to leave the disputed term as
mere surplusage, essentially a non-limiting preamble (for some reason embedded in the body of
the claim) vaguely describing the purpose of the invention. Such a construction is generally to be
avoided. See generally Texas Instruments Inc. v. United States Int'l Trade Comm'n, 988 F.2d
1165, 11 71 (Fed. Cir. 1993).
Given the Court's conclusions above, Plaintiffs extrinsic evidence - the expert
declaration of Dr. Scott M. Nettles, a computer scientist (see D.I. 73)- does not change the
outcome. Dr. Nettles opines that the patent claims, when read in light of the specification,
teaches one of ordinary skill in the art "that the invention ' s protections are provided in response
to form-grabbing and hook-based key loggers. The submission and clearing is in response to, or
as protection against, form-grabbing malware." (D.I. 73
37) Even accepting that "a person of
ordinary skill in the art would easily understand [this to be] the scope of the claim" (id.) , that fact
does nothing to alter the alter the ambiguities and surplusage concerns noted in the Court' s
analysis above. Ultimately, the conclusory extrinsic opinion of the expert does not overcome the
lack of sufficient definitiveness in the claim language itself. 5
Plaintiff contended at the hearing that Dr. Nettles ' opinions on this point was "essentially
unrebutted. " (Tr. at 57) The Court disagrees. Defendant' s expert, Dr. Scott Nielson, also a
computer scientist, opined that Plaintiff's claim construction position (which is the same position
advocated in the Nettles Declaration) "eliminates the claimed concept of a 'response ' from the
claims at all, instead replacing it with ' as protection against. "' (D .I. 60 ~ 77) Dr. Nielson
The anti key logging software described in the ' 445 patent does not
"submit ... in response to  software key logging." Rather,
submission of data through an internet communications port occurs
irrespective of whether a key logger is present or not. The alleged
invention described in the ' 445 patent does not prevent submission.
Instead, the entire point of the invention is to allow submission
even if a key logger is present. Therefore, in my opinion,
submission does not occur in response to software key logging. At
the same time, it also cannot be "clearing" that is "in response to
the software key logging" because the claim dictates that it must be
"to an internet communication port." A person of ordinary skill in
the art would understand that clearing cannot be "to an internet
communication port." Thus, in my opinion, the scope and
boundaries of the claims are not reasonably clear.
Accordingly, the Court is persuaded that a person of ordinary skill in the art 6 would not
know the meaning of this claim term with reasonable certainty, so it is indefinite.
"a process of passing the encrypted data to a 3-ring level
where a hook inserted by a hook-based key logger" (claim 22)
No construction necessary.
If construed, the term means "a process of passing the encrypted
data to an unprivileged access level where hook-based key loggers
Plaintiff concedes that this term contains an error; it is missing a verb. (See Tr. at 63) In
Plaintiffs view, while the claim literally reads "a process of passing the encrypted data to a 3ring level where a hook inserted by a hook-based key logger," it was intended by the patentee to
read "a process of passing the encrypted data to a 3-ring level where a hook is inserted by a hookbased key logger" (emphasis added). Plaintiff further contends that even ifthe error is not
corrected, a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand its meaning.
"It is well-settled law that, in a patent infringement suit, a district court may correct an
obvious error in a patent claim." CBT Flint Partners, LLC v. Return Path, Inc. , 654 F.3d 1353,
1358 (Fed. Cir. 2011). However, a district court may correct a patent only if "(1) the correction
is not subject to reasonable debate based on consideration of the claim language and the
specification and (2) the prosecution history does not suggest a different interpretation of the
While the parties disagree about the education level and qualifications of a person having
ordinary skill in the art, they agree that resolution of that issue does not impact any of their claim
construction disputes. (See Tr. at 32, 60)
claims." Novo Industries, L.P. v. Micro Molds Corp. , 350 F.3d 1348, 1354 (Fed. Cir. 2003).
Plaintiffs proposed correction fails at the first step of this test, as it is subject to
reasonable debate. Making Plaintiffs requested correction - so that the claim term would cover
"a process of passing the encrypted data to a 3-ring level where a hook is inserted by a hookbased key logger" - would appear to make this limitation operative only in response to a hook
(i.e., a form of malware) being inserted. Yet the specification- and, as noted in connection with
the preceding term dispute, Plaintiff as well - states that the claimed invention operates even in
the absence of malware (i.e., without a hook being inserted by a hook-based key logger). (See
'445 patent at 3 :59-61 ; Tr. at 55) This seeming contradiction - and, at minimum, ambiguity demonstrate that Plaintiffs proposed correction to the claim language is subject to reasonable
Furthermore, other possible corrections would appear to be feasible. For example, the
Court could "correct" the term "where a hook inserted by" with "where a hook could be inserted
by." This "correction" would have different implications for claim scope than does Plaintiffs
proposed correction of adding "is." Among other things, "could be" would seem to be consistent
with the specification' s and Plaintiffs position that the claimed invention can operate even in the
absence of malware (as long as it also can operate in response to a specific malware attack).
Because the proposed correction is subject to reasonable debate, and that debate would
impact the scope and meaning of the disputed term, the Court cannot correct the disputed claim
term. See Return Path, Inc. , 654 F.3d at 1358-59 (stating existence of several possible
corrections should not prevent district court from correcting error when "a person of skill in the
art would find the claim to have the same scope and meaning under each of the ... possible
The same reasoning persuades the Court not to adopt Plaintiff's proposed alternative
construction. Plaintiffs proposal is not supported by the text of the claim itself.
Accordingly, the Court is persuaded that a person of ordinary skill in the art would not
know the meaning of this claim term with reasonable certainty, so it is indefinite.
An appropriate Order follows .
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