09
Aug
By Eric Schweibenz
On July 30, 2010, ALJ Charles E. Bullock issued Order No. 18 in Certain Mobile Communications and Computer Devices and Components Thereof (Inv. No. 337-TA-704).  In the Order, ALJ Bullock construed various claim terms in the asserted claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,455,599 (the ‘599 patent), 5,379,431 (the ‘431 patent), 6,424,354 (the ‘354 patent), and 5,920,726 (the ‘726 patent).

By way of background, the Complainant in this investigation is Apple Inc. (“Apple”) and the Respondents are Nokia Corporation and Nokia Inc. (collectively, “Nokia”).  The investigation was instituted on February 18, 2010 based on Apple’s complaint of January 15, 2010.  See our February 22, 2010 post for more details.  On April 26, 2010, ALJ Bullock granted the Commission Investigative Staff’s (“OUII”) motion for partial consolidation of the investigation with Inv. No. 337-TA-710.

ALJ Bullock conducted a Markman hearing on June 14, 2010 regarding the interpretation of certain terms of the asserted claims of the ‘599, ‘431, ‘354, and ‘726 patents.  According to the Order, Apple, Nokia, and OUII met and conferred prior to the hearing in an effort to reduce the number of disputed claim terms to a minimum.  The parties also filed initial and reply claim construction briefs, wherein each party offered its construction for the claim terms in dispute along with support for its proposed interpretation.  According to the Order, the parties further conferred during the Markman hearing and, in some instances, modified or came to agreement regarding the construction of certain disputed claim terms.  After the hearing, the parties submitted an updated Joint Claim Construction Chart on June 21, 2010.

In the July 30 Order, ALJ Bullock stated that “[h]ereafter, discovery and briefing in this Investigation shall be governed by this construction of the claim terms.  All other claim terms shall be deemed undisputed and shall be interpreted by the undersigned in accordance with ‘their ordinary meaning as viewed by one of ordinary skill in the art.’”  (Emphasis in original; citation omitted).

The ‘599 Patent

The ‘599 patent is directed to an “Object-Oriented Graphic System.”  The parties disputed the constructions of the following claim terms:  (a) “grafport object,” (b) “graphic object,” (c) “means for connecting the graphic device object to the grafport object to output graphic information on the one of the one or more graphic devices under the control of the graphic object,” (d) “geometric object,” (e) “modeling layer object,” (f) “state information,” and (g) “rendering information.”

ALJ Bullock construed “grafport object” as “an object that stores graphic state information (e.g. an attribute bundle, transformation matrix, etc.) and that translates draw functions to render calls of at least one graphic device object, thereby allowing a graphic object to dump its contents into the graphic device object.”  In doing so, the ALJ adopted OUII’s proposed construction of the term, which was narrower than Apple’s proposed construction but broader than Nokia’s proposed construction.  Apple had argued that the term should be construed simply as “an object that stores graphic state information and allows a graphic object to convey its contents to a graphic device object.”  According to the Order, ALJ Bullock chose OUII’s proposed construction over Apple’s because OUII’s “contains exemplary language and more clearly comports with the claim language and the specification.”  Also, based on certain examples in the specification and Apple’s alleged disclaimer of a broader claim scope during prosecution, Nokia had wanted to limit the term to an object that contains a method that takes a “geometric primitive.”   However, ALJ Bullock found Nokia’s arguments unpersuasive because the examples in the specification were not all limited to methods requiring “geometric primitives,” and Apple had not made a clear disavowal of claim scope during prosecution.

ALJ Bullock construed the term “graphic object” as “an object that contains graphic data and at least one method to generate a draw call to the grafport object.”  Again, the dispute was over whether the graphic data had to be limited to definitions of geometric primitives -- Nokia argued for a narrow construction with the “geometric primitives” limitation and Apple argued for a broad construction without that limitation.  As with his construction of “grafport object,” ALJ Bullock found Nokia’s arguments unpersuasive here and construed “graphic object” without the “geometric primitives” limitation.

With respect to “means for connecting the graphic device object to the grafport object to output graphic information on the one of the one or more graphic devices under the control of the graphic object,” ALJ Bullock determined that a corresponding structure for this mean-plus-function term was not sufficiently disclosed in the specification.  In particular, while there were references in the specification to connecting a grafport object to a graphic device, ALJ Bullock could find no support for connecting the grafport object to a graphic device object as claimed. Accordingly, ALJ Bullock found the means-plus-function term indefinite and held that claim 1 of the ‘599 patent was invalid.  ALJ Bullock then declined to construe “geometric object,” because that term only appeared in claims that depended on claim 1.

ALJ Bullock construed “modeling layer object” to mean “a graphic object in the modeling layer that encapsulates both geometry and appearance.”  Again, Nokia had asked that additional limitations be read into the term by proposing “an object that contains geometric primitives, a set of transformation methods, and has associated attribute bundles defining the representation of the geometric primitives” as the proper construction.  However, ALJ Bullock found that “Nokia has not persuasively demonstrated that the claim term modeling object should be limited in the manner it suggests.”

With respect to “state information,” ALJ Bullock construed the term as “information including at least the current transform, appearance, or clipping.”  Nokia had initially argued for the term to be construed as “the current transform, appearance, and clipping” (emphasis added), but according to the Order had backed away from that position in its reply brief and at oral argument.

Finally, with respect to “rendering information,” ALJ Bullock construed the term as “the drawing sequence of a graphic object.”  As with other terms in the ‘599 patent, Nokia had argued for a “geometric primitives” limitation -- but ALJ Bullock again rejected that argument.

The ‘431 Patent

The ‘431 patent is directed to a “Boot Framework Architecture For Dynamic Staged Initial Program Load.”  In the ‘431 patent, the parties disputed the construction of the single claim term “to configure.”  Apple argued that the term was readily understood in the industry and therefore did not require construction.  Nokia argued for a construction of “to find, identify, and instantiate the storage, input/output, and other peripheral devices of the computer system.”  OUII argued for a construction of “to find, identify, and tailor or customize devices of.”

In the Order, ALJ Bullock rejected Apple’s plain meaning argument because “it fails to adequately capture the dynamic requirement of the invention.”  Instead, the ALJ accepted Nokia’s and OUII’s limitation of “to configure” to “to find and identify…”  However, ALJ Bullock disagreed with Nokia’s and OUII’s use of “devices,” because the specification indicated that “to configure” applied to both hardware (“devices”) and software.  Accordingly, ALJ Bullock construed the term as “to find, identify, and tailor or customize components of.”

The ‘354 Patent

The ‘354 patent is directed to an “Object-Oriented Event Notification System With Listener Registration Of Both Interests and Methods.”  In the ‘354 patent, the parties disputed the constructions of the following claim terms:  (a) “associated object method,” (b) connection information representing the first/receiver object’s interest in, and an associated object method for, receiving notification of a change to a second/source object,” (c) “connection object,” (d) “registering the connection information with/using a connection object,” (e) “creating an event representing a change in the second/source object,” (f) “notifying the first/receiver object of the event by invoking the associated object method for receiving notification registered with/using the connection object,” and (g) “each of a notification type plurality corresponds to a unique connection object method.”

According to the Order, the prosecution history played a large part in ALJ Bullock’s construction of the disputed terms in the ‘354 patent.  In particular, the Order notes that during prosecution, “the Examiner posed two distinct sets of questions to the applicants, namely ‘what is’ a given claim element and ‘where in’ the specification and drawings can certain claim elements be found.”  ALJ Bullock found that the applicants’ answers to the “what is” questions constituted disclaimers that limited claim scope, but that the applicants’ answers to the “where in” questions did not constitute limiting disclaimers.

With respect to “associated object method,” ALJ Bullock construed the term as “a method of the receiver object.”  This was Nokia’s and OUII’s proposed construction, and was supported by the applicants’ responses to a “what is” question during prosecution.  Apple had unsuccessfully argued for the term to be construed in accordance with its plain meaning.

As to “connection information representing the first/receiver object’s interest in, and an associated object method for, receiving notification of a change to a second/source object,” ALJ Bullock again limited the term in accordance with the prosecution history as advocated by Nokia and OUII.  The term was construed as “information, stored in a connection object, indicating specific source object events in which a receiver object is interested and the receiver object method that should receive notification.”

ALJ Bullock construed “connection object” as “object containing a method for dispatching notifications from the notifier to the specific receiver objects that have identified to the connection object an interest in specific source object events.”  Again, ALJ Bullock limited the term in accordance with the prosecution history.  Here, however, he disagreed with Nokia’s attempt to further limit the scope of the term by arguing for a requirement that the “notifier” be in object form, since this was not a limitation apparent from the prosecution history.  Accordingly, instead of Nokia’s proposed use of “notifier object,” ALJ Bullock used “notifier” in his construction of “connection object.”

With respect to “registering the connection information with/using a connection object,” ALJ Bullock construed the term according to its plain meaning, as requested by Apple.  Unlike other terms in the ‘354 patent, this one was not limited by the prosecution history because the applicants’ had only discussed it in response to a “where in” question as opposed to a “what is” question.  Accordingly, ALJ Bullock did not limit the term based on the prosecution history and instead simply relied on the plain meaning.

Similarly, with respect to “creating an event representing a change in the second/source object,” ALJ Bullock chose not to limit the term based on the prosecution history as advocated by Nokia and instead adopted Apple’s broad proposed construction:  “generating notification information representing a change in the second object.”  Again, the discussion of the term in the prosecution history was based on a “where in” question rather than a “what is” question.

As for “notifying the first/receiver object of the event by invoking the associated object method for receiving notification registered with/using the connection object,” ALJ Bullock again declined to limit the term based on “where in” questions in the prosecution history and adopted Apple’s and OUII’s proposed construction:  “sending the notification information to the first object by calling the associated object method for receiving that notification.”

Finally, with respect to “each of a notification type plurality corresponds to a unique connection object method,” the issue centered on whether the patent required notification objects in all cases.  Nokia argued that the term should be limited to notification objects, while Apple and OUII argued against such a limitation.  As with his construction of “connection object,” ALJ Bullock declined to limit the term to notification objects and instead construed the term broadly as “each of the notification types corresponds to a unique connection object method.”

The ‘726 Patent

The ‘726 patent is directed to a “System And Method For Managing Power Conditions Within A Digital Camera Device.”  The parties disputed the constructions of the following claim terms:  (a) “digital camera device,” (b) “power manager,” (c) “status information,” (d) “interrupt information,” (e) “control information,” and (f) “for managing said digital camera device.”

The construction of “digital camera device” centered on the prosecution history of the ‘726 patent and specifically on whether the applicant had disclaimed a digital camera that was attached to a “general purpose computer system architecture or a uniform power management system geared to a computer system including software layer and add-in components.”  ALJ Bullock examined the prosecution history and stated that he was “not convinced that the file history evidences a ‘clear disavowal’ of claim scope, as Nokia alleges.”  According to the Order, “[t]he applicant distinguished the prior art as not teaching power management of a digital camera device, not based on the definition or scope of the claimed digital camera device.”  Thus, ALJ Bullock construed the term as simply “a device specifically adapted to capture images for digital processing and storage.”

With respect to “power manager,” ALJ Bullock adopted Nokia’s and OUII’s proposed construction of the term as “a device specifically adapted to detect and handle power failures and to manage the supply of backup power in a digital camera.”  Apple had argued for a plain meaning interpretation of the term, but ALJ Bullock found that references in the specification and a disclaimer during prosecution led to the narrower construction.  Specifically, the specification repeatedly refers to “a power manager for detecting and handling power failures” and during prosecution, the applicants had distinguished their invention from the prior art by stating that “[t]he system includes a power low condition wherein a backup power supply provides power to critical systems…”  Accordingly, ALJ Bullock rejected Apple’s plain meaning argument and adopted the more limited construction for the term.

As for “status information,” ALJ Bullock construed the term as “information indicating the state of conditions affecting the operation of the digital camera device.”  This was OUII’s proposed construction and was based on certain statements in the prosecution history limiting “status information” to the digital camera context.  Nokia had argued for additional limitations based on the preferred embodiment described in the specification, but ALJ Bullock rejected Nokia’s arguments.  ALJ Bullock also rejected Apple’s proposed plain meaning construction, as such a construction would not have limited the term to digital cameras as required by the prosecution history.

ALJ Bullock construed “interrupt information” as “information relating to an interrupt signal affecting the operation of the digital camera device.”  As with “status information,” ALJ Bullock here adopted OUII’s proposed construction because Apple’s plain meaning argument did not limit the term to the digital camera context as required by the prosecution history and Nokia was improperly attempting to read in additional limitations from an embodiment in the specification.

ALJ Bullock construed “control information” as “information relating to settings of the digital camera device.”  Once again, ALJ Bullock adopted OUII’s proposed construction because Apple’s plain meaning argument did not limit the term to the digital camera context and Nokia was improperly attempting to narrow the term in a way not supported by the intrinsic evidence.

Finally, with respect to “for managing said digital camera device,” ALJ Bullock construed the term to mean “for preserving the integrity of captured image data and for assisting the camera to recover from an intervening power failure.”  The claim construction dispute here was essentially the same as that for the “power manager” term, and the result was analogous.  ALJ Bullock rejected Apple’s plain meaning argument and adopted Nokia’s and OUII’s more limited construction based on the specification and prosecution history.  According to the Order, “the specification repeatedly describes the claimed invention as being directed at preserving the integrity of captured image data and assisting the camera to recover from intervening power failure.”  Also, during prosecution, “the patentee did indeed disclaim forms of control that are not either preserving the integrity of captured image data or for assisting the camera to recover from an intervening power failure.”  Accordingly, ALJ Bullock adopted his narrow construction for the term.
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