A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware


Entries for tag: Claim Construction

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 …

Speed
Arthur Poulin, Unsplash

In January, we noticed an interesting new procedure from Judge Norieka where, rather than address the pending motions on eleven grounds in detail, she ordered the parties to file a joint letter ranking their summary judgment motions and identifying any disputes over claim scope.

When the parties identified some "dispositive" claim construction disputes in the letter, the Court ordered briefing on those disputes.

Now, the Court has held its Markman hearing (less than a month after close of briefing), and issued an oral ruling on the new constructions at the hearing. It found for the defendants on all disputes.

The parties then filed a letter, where the plaintiff admitted that, if the Court sticks with …

Looks like they went with the low-cost version
Looks like they went with the low-cost version Markus Winkler, Unsplash

In the District of Delaware, five of our eight judges use form scheduling orders that provide a deadline for the submission of a "Technology Tutorial" around the time of claim construction.

Former Judge Stark required the parties to submit a tech tutorial in patent cases with the opening claim construction brief. Judge Stark's form order, for example, provided that:

Tutorial Describing the Technology and Matters in Issue. Unless otherwise ordered by the Court, the parties shall provide the Court, no later than the date on which their opening claim construction briefs are due, a tutorial on the technology at issue. In that regard, the parties may separately …

As frequent readers of this blog already know, some judges in Delaware have limited parties to a total of 10 terms for construction across all asserted patents.

We've noted at least one previous instance where Chief Judge Connolly seemed to limit the parties to 10 claim construction disputes. Last week, the Court made an even clearer statement on the issue.

The parties in MG FreeSites Ltd v. ScorpCast, LLC, C.A. No. 20-1012-CFC-JLH (D. Del.) filed their joint claim chart in advance of claim construction, and listed 15 terms in dispute. They also included a footnote smartly noting Chief Judge Connolly's practice not to permit argument on indefiniteness at the claim construction stage.

They then filed a stipulation …

As discussed in a previous post, Judge Noreika now requires that Markman briefing occur after the exchange of final infringement and invalidity contentions. But the Judge's oral orders setting forth that requirement did not expressly anchor the Markman process or the contention deadlines to any other dates in the overall schedule.

As we pointed out in our last post, it would make sense to set those deadlines late in the fact discovery period: "Although this order encourages parties to exchange claim construction positions 'early in the case,' it seems likely that parties will propose later Markman deadlines in addition to earlier final contention deadlines, to ensure that sufficient fact discovery has occurred to create meaningful final contentions."

Judge Noreika recently offered additional guidance along these lines regarding the relative timing of contentions, fact discovery, and claim construction...

Stop
Markus Spiske, Unsplash

We've written before about why some parties—especially patentees—like to propose "plain and ordinary meaning" constructions for claim terms, and about the potential hazards of doing so. These include having to submit a new joint chart with proposed constructions or, more significantly, risking cancellation of the Markman hearing and a decision for the other side (as Chief Judge Connolly suggested).

But sometimes parties still decide to risk it. Last week Judge Noreika ordered the parties in two separate cases to articulate specific meanings after they proposed "plain and ordinary meaning" constructions:

ORDER re . . . Joint Claim Construction Chart - IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: (1) The Markman hearing will be narrowed. On or before …

In a recent order, issued shortly after the Markman hearing in Allergan USA, Inc. v. Aurobindo Pharma Ltd., C.A. No. 19-1727-RGA, Judge Andrews addressed the question of "how much weight should be assigned to a Patent Examiner's statement, in a Notice of Allowance, about the meaning of a claim."

He explained the background as follows:

During prosecution of the '291 Patent, Plaintiffs initially argued that the claimed percentage of mannitol, a well-known filler, should be calculated separately from the claimed percentage of filler. The Examiner disagreed, and, in his Notice of Allowance, indicated that the percentage of mannitol would be included in calculating the percentage of filler.

(emphasis added)

The plaintiffs/patentees urged the Court to ignore their initial statements and arguments, and instead adopt the Examiner's position. Judge Andrews declined to do so...

robert-anasch-ZFYg5jTvB4A-unsplash
Robert Anasch, Unsplash

As we've discussed at length, judges in the District of Delaware will usually let parties stipulate to reasonable adjustments to the case schedule, within certain limitations (including that stipulating to change the dispositive motion deadline may in some instances lead to the loss of the parties' trial date).

So it's always interesting to see when a stipulation is denied. In Osteoplastics, LLC v. Conformis, Inc., C.A. No. 20-405-MN-JLH (D. Del.), just before the close of fact discovery, the parties stipulated to a roughly 5 month delay in the remainder of the case. As the parties explain in the stip, the purpose of the delay is to provide the Court time to rule …

We mentioned earlier this week that "plain and ordinary meaning" (sometimes shortened as "plain meaning" or "ordinary meaning") is the default in claim construction. But what is it?

As the Federal Circuit has said, plain and ordinary meaning is the meaning of a phrase to a person of skill in the art:

The ordinary and customary meaning of a claim term 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. . . . The inquiry into how a person of ordinary skill in the art understands a claim term provides an …

Caution
Scott Rodgerson, Unsplash

At a claim construction hearing earlier this month, Chief Judge Connolly noted some concerns with parties who offer "plain and ordinary meaning" constructions without explaining what that meaning is:

THE COURT: And going forward, Mr. Oakes, Mr. Russell, I am tempted to say the next time I get this situation [where] one side, the plaintiff[,] says, oh, plain and ordinary meaning and offers no alternative definition and all it does is criticize the defendant['s construction], which there's some actual[ly] support for, [then] I don't hold a hearing. I'm just going with the defendant. I was really tempted to do that in this case. So get the word out.

Volterra Semiconductor LLC v. Monolithic Power Systems, Inc., C.A. No. 19-2240-CFC-SRF, at 22:22-23:7 (D. Del. Nov. 12, 2021) (transcript).

Chief Judge Connolly also pointed out a "new trend" of parties ...