A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware

Entries for tag: Claim Construction

Attorneys at Table
AI-Generated, displayed with permission

This is an interesting order from earlier this month that we never had a chance to post about.

In Ecobee, Inc. v. EcoFactor, Inc., C.A. No. 21-323-MN (D. Del.), the parties had a Markman hearing scheduled for December 8. As she often does, in the leadup to the hearing, Judge Noreika issued an order directing lead counsel for the parties to meet-and-confer to reduce the number of disputes:

ORAL ORDER . . . IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that, on or before 12/1/2022, local and lead counsel (i.e., those attorneys that will be leading trial) for the parties shall meet and confer and file an amended joint claim construction chart that sets forth the …

The Court has said in the past that "winning summary judgment in a patent case is like hitting a hole in one." Well, yesterday DePuy Synthes scored a hole in one, invalidating all asserted claims of one patent on SJ in RSB Spine, LLC v. DePuy Synthes Sales, Inc., C.A. No. 19-1515-RGA (D. Del. Nov. 22, 2022).

How Did They Do It?

Basically, they won it at claim construction, but couldn't end the case until summary judgment.

The patent at issue, U.S. Patent No. 6,984,234, covers a "base plate" that a surgeon can screw into two bones in a person's spinal cord to stabilize them.

The base plate screws into the bones (blue, below), and a …

A miniature attorney, ready for a mini-Markman.
A miniature attorney, ready for a mini-Markman. AI-Generated, displayed with permission

We got another good data point on Judge William's practices this wekk. In Board of Regents, The University of Texas System v. Boston Scientific Co., C.A. No. 18-392-GBW (D. Del.), Judge Williams denied a non-infringement summary judgment motion—but also scheduled a "mini-Markman" to resolve the underlying claim construction issue.

The defendant moved for summary judgment of non-infringment, arguing that the Court's prior construction of a particular term was incorrect, but that regardless, it would not infringe under either the purportedly incorrect construction or what it alleges is the correct construction.

The Court found factual disputes as to both, and easily disposed of the non-infringement motion.

The …

View from a fisheye lens
View from a fisheye lens Kevin Grieve, Unsplash

Defendants often want to import limitations from the specification to the claims. It only takes one missing claim element per claim to defeat an allegation of patent infringement (setting aside DOE). And the language of patent specifications is often narrower than the claims themselves, providing ample opportunities to find limitations.

Federal Circuit precedent, of course, says that the Court should avoid importing limitations from the specification into the claims—but using the specification to interpret the meaning of a claim is OK. Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1323 (Fed. Cir. 2005). As countless courts have recognized, that is a fine line.

As a result, defendants' early-case strategy often …

Chicago, Illinois
Chicago, Illinois Pedro Lastra, Unsplash

In an opinion today, visiting Judge Kennelly (N.D. Ill.) rejected the idea that an accused infringer could bring an IPR, receive a claim construction in that IPR, and then argue that that construction is "intrinsic evidence" that, by itself, merits adopting the construction in the district court case.

In XMTT, Inc. v. Intel Corp., C.A. No. 18-1810-MFK, D.I. 293 (D. Del. July 22, 2022), the PTAB had proposed and applied its own constructions for the claims, and accused infringer Intel ultimately lost the IPR. Intel then appealed, and the Federal Circuit affirmed without reaching the merits of the claim constructions.

While the IPR was pending, Intel argued that the …

Analog Clock
None, Ocean Ng, Unsplash

One of our busiest posts on the blog is What Is "Plain and Ordinary Meaning," Anyway? And Why Do Plaintiffs Want It? This has been a recurring issue for years. Sometimes the Court is OK with a plain meaning construction, but sometimes the it is decidedly not.

Judge Andrews issued an order today for a forthcoming Markman hearing, set for 9:00 am tomorrow, directing plaintiff to propose a construction for one of its "plain meaning" terms by 8:00 pm this evening:

ORAL ORDER: The time for argument at the Markman hearing is reduced to thirty minutes per side. . . . As to disputed term D, the Court thinks construction is …

Cell Phone
Tyler Lastovich, Unsplash

In patent infringement cases, plaintiffs' claim construction strategy sometimes seems to boil down to "Plain meaning! Construe it later! Everything is in!", while defendants often go for "No plain meaning! Construe it now! Our thing is out!".

Note that, for defendants, it's not necessarily that everything is out of the claim. It's often that there is one specific thing from the specification that is required, and that just happens to be the one thing the defendant's product doesn't have or do.

This strategy doesn't have a great success rate for defendants, but often I feel like the attitude is that "well it's worth a shot." I'm not sure that's always true, because a really bad argument …

An embodiment of the claimed
An embodiment of the claimed "weight-shift controlled personal hydrofoil watercraft" U.S. Patent No. 9,359,044

We don't usually write about claim construction opinions, because they tend to be fact-specific and tough to generalize to other cases.

But there were a few interesting points in a claim construction opinion issued by Judge Andrews on Friday, and I thought it was worth outlining them here:

  • While the judges are typically somewhat adverse to extrinsic evidence, Judge Andrews asked the parties to submit letters outlining "textbook[]" style definitions of the a term, "stability," and said that he found the letters helpful. He adopted the construction that "capture[d] the concept of static stability" as set forth in the textbook definitions.
  • The Court relied on plaintiff's …

Analog Clock
None, Ocean Ng, Unsplash

A recurring question here in D. Del. is "how long should we request for the Markman hearing?" (when such a request is required under the scheduling order).

Parties often request around 2-3 hours, depending on the number of terms. But I was curious how much time judges actually order for Markman, so we collected some statistics. Here is how many minutes each judge has permitted for Markman oral argument, on average, over the last year:

  • Judge Stark: 91 minutes on average (7 hearings)
  • Judge Andrews: 92 minutes on average (9 hearings
  • Judge Noreika: 102 minutes on average (18 hearings)
  • Magistrate Judge Burke: 170 minutes (9 hearings)
  • Magistrate Judge Hall …

Plaintiff Trident Holdings, LLC at oral argument, pointing to a claim construction
Kedar Gadge, Unsplash

Having a legitimate claim construction dispute that would lead to subject matter eligibility is a great way to survive a § 101 motion. Ideally, obviously, that argument should be set forth in an answering brief. But an opinion yesterday describes how a patentee was able to avoid a negative result on its § 101 motion through claim construction arguments offered at oral argument:

[Plaintiff] Trident suggested for the first time at oral argument that the “optimization engine” and “adaptive scoring” limitations required construction before the Court decides eligibility. . . . That claim construction wasn’t expressly raised until the oral argument suggests that [Trident] may not have actually thought there was a claim construction issue …