Eolas Technologies Incorporated v. Adobe Systems Incorporated et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER construing the term "browser application". Signed by Judge Leonard Davis on 02/03/12. cc:attys 2-03-12(mll, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
THE REGENTS OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA,
ADOBE SYSTEMS, INC., AMAZON.COM
INC., CDW CORPORATION, CITIGROUP
INC., THE GO DADDY GROUP, INC.,
GOOGLE INC., J.C. PENNEY
CORPORATION, INC., STAPLES, INC.,
YAHOO! INC., AND YOUTUBE, LLC.,
CASE NO. 6:09-CV-446
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This Memorandum Opinion construes the term “browser application” in U.S. Patent Nos.
5,838,906 (“the ‘906 patent”) and 7,599,985 (“the ‘985 patent”). The Court has already
construed the disputed terms of the patents-in-suit. See Docket Nos. 914 & 989. The parties now,
less than two weeks before trial, dispute the construction of the term “browser application.”
Defendants propose “a program used to [view or] browse electronic documents.”1
Plaintiffs propose “a client program that presents an interface and processes requests on behalf of
a user to display, and traverse hyperlinks within, hypertext and/or hypermedia documents that
are located on the World Wide Web.”
Defendants proposed this construction in their initial brief; their reply brief has withdrawn the bracketed terms
from their proposed construction.
Defendants argue that the term “browser application” should not be limited to a web
browser application. Defendants note that the specification uses many terms interchangeably to
refer to the browser application, such as browser, browser program, browser software, browser
client, and hypermedia browser. Defendants contend that the absence of “web browser” from this
list of seemingly interchangeable terms precludes limiting the term browser application to a web
browser. Defendants also argue that the claims support a broader construction of browser
application than that proposed by Plaintiffs, noting that the claims are not limited “to the Web or
the Internet, or even a wide-area network.” Docket No. 1301, at 2. Their argument highlights that
the specification’s discussion of Figure 2 recognizes that “in practice Internet 100 may be
replaced by any suitable computer network.” ‘906 Patent col. 3:61–63.
Defendants also rely on the prosecution history and extrinsic evidence to support a
broader construction of “browser application.” Defendants note that Plaintiffs did not dispute the
PTO’s finding that BookManager READ, which is not a web browser, is considered a browser
application by a person of skill in the art. Thus, Defendants argue, Plaintiffs have implicitly
conceded that a browser application is necessarily broader than a web browser. Defendants also
cite three articles published prior to the filing date for the patents-in-suit that recognize browsers
that are not web browsers. Finally, Defendants note that one of the named inventors recognized
that the patented invention “[is] not restricted to the web and HTML documents.” Docket No.
1301, at 4 (quoting 7/21/2011 Ang Tr., at 293:5–20).
Plaintiffs respond that the term “browser application” should be limited to a web
browser2, first, because the Federal Circuit has recognized such a limitation when discussing the
‘906 patent. See Eolas Techs., Inc. v. Microsoft Corp., 399 F.3d 1325, 1328 (Fed. Cir. 2008)
Plaintiffs’ proposed construction is not “web browser”; however, their proposed construction describes the
operation of a typical web browser.
(“[T]he claimed invention allows a user to use a web browser in a fully interactive web
environment.”). Next, Plaintiffs argue that the specification supports a construction limiting
browser application to the context of the World Wide Web. Plaintiffs note that the Background
of the Invention “extensively discusses the Internet and the World Wide Web.” Docket No.
1307, at 2 (citing ‘906 Patent col. 1). Plaintiffs further point out that the only two examples of a
“browser application” in the specification are Mosaic and Cello, which are both web browsers.
Plaintiffs also argue that the detailed discussion of the preferred embodiment, which is
implemented by modifying Mosaic source code, supports limiting “browser application” to a
Plaintiffs also contend that Defendants’ proposed construction is so broad that it nullifies
the “browser application” limitation. Plaintiffs argue that such a broad construction would
encompass applications such as “Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, [and] Notepad,” which are
clearly not within the context of the invention. Docket No. 1307, at 4. Finally, Plaintiffs argue
that Defendants’ extrinsic evidence from 1982, 1986, and 1990 should not be considered because
it predates the 1994 filing date of the ‘906 patent by years.
Plaintiff’s construction, which restricts the browser application to operating on
documents located on the World Wide Web, is too narrow. However, Defendants’ construction,
which encompasses a broad spectrum of computer programs unrelated to the underlying
invention, is too broad. What is clear upon reading the specification and claims of the patents-insuit, is that a browser application is for displaying and responding to interaction with hypermedia
documents. The Background of the Invention opens: “This invention relates generally to
manipulating data in a computer network, and specifically to retrieving, presenting and
manipulating embedded program objects in distributed hypermedia systems.” ‘906 Patent col.
1:19–22 (emphasis added). The first paragraph of the Summary of the Invention firmly ties the
invention to communicating in a “distributed hypermedia environment” and displaying and
interacting with “hypermedia documents.” See id. col 6:50–62.
As Defendants point out in their brief, many terms are used to refer to the browser
application throughout the specification, such as browser, browser program, browser software,
and hypermedia browser. “Program” and “software” are generally synonymous with
“application” to one of skill in the art. The predominant limiting term used throughout the
specification to refer to browser is “hypermedia.” See id. col. 7:2, 7:14–15, 11:55, 12:6.
Defendants note that the specification recites a “MetaMAP-capable client-based image browser
application” when discussing applications of the invention. See ‘906 Patent col. 11:66–67. The
MetaMAP browser is a narrow application of the invention, but it still relates to hypermedia
processing. See Docket No. 1302 Attach 2 (Doyle Tr.) (“MetaMap browser was focused
primarily on image-based data and links between hotpots and images. The -- it was a very special
case kind of document.”).
The claims themselves also support that the browser application is for displaying and
managing interactions with hypermedia documents. Claim 1 recites a method step of
“executing . . . a browser application, that parses a first distributed hypermedia document . . . .”
‘906 Patent col. 17:1–3 (emphases added). The next method step is “utilizing said browser to
display . . . at least a portion of a first hypermedia document . . . .” Id. col. 17:6–8 (emphases
added). Because the browser application is for displaying and managing interactions with
hypermedia documents, Defendants’ proposed construction, which encompasses any application
that can browse electronic documents, is too broad.
Plaintiffs’ construction, which is generally for a browser application that processes
hypermedia documents, suffers from two flaws. First, Plaintiffs’ proposed construction is a
hyper-technical way of saying that the browser application displays and processes interactions
with hypermedia documents. This construction may prove more confusing to a jury than helpful.
Second, Plaintiff’s construction is too narrow because it requires that the processed hypermedia
documents be “located on the World Wide Web.” In the preferred embodiment, the network is
the Internet. See id. col. 8:61–63. However, the specification clarifies that “[o]ther networks and
network protocols may be used.” Id. col. 8:63–64. Thus, the browser application is not limited to
processing hypermedia documents located on the World Wide Web.
Plaintiff’s argument that the Federal Circuit’s interpretation of “browser application”
should control is also unconvincing. First, the construction of “browser application” was not
before the Eolas court. Second, the commentary regarding browser application is dicta located in
the background section of the opinion. See Eolas, 399 F.3d at 1328–29 (describing claimed
invention of the ‘906 patent). Finally, the statements made by the Eolas court support a
construction of “browser application” as being an application that processes hypermedia
documents. See id. at 1328 (“Essentially, the claimed invention allows a user to use a web
browser in a fully interactive environment. . . . Specifically, the invention calls for a browser
located in a ‘distributed hypermedia environment.’”); id. at 1328–29 (“In operation, the claimed
browser locates a web page, or distributed hypermedia document, with a uniform resource
locator (URL).”) (emphasis added). The Eolas court recognized that the browser operated in a
hypermedia environment and processed hypermedia documents.
The World Wide Web is a distributed hypermedia environment, and web browsers are
browsers that display and respond to user interaction with hypermedia documents. However, the
specification and claims have not limited the browser application to operating only within the
Internet or World Wide Web. The specification and claims limit the invention to operating in a
slightly broader domain—a distributed hypermedia environment—and limit the browser to
processing hypermedia documents. Accordingly, the Court construes the term “browser
application” as “a client program that displays and responds to user interaction with hypermedia
For the reasons set forth above, the Court construes the term “browser application” as “a
client program that displays and responds to user interaction with hypermedia documents.”
So ORDERED and SIGNED this 3rd day of February, 2012.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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