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Tellabs Operations, Inc. v. Fujitsu Limited

May 13, 2009

TELLABS OPERATIONS, INC. PLAINTIFF,
v.
FUJITSU LIMITED AND FUJITSU NETWORK COMMUNICATIONS, INC., DEFENDANTS.
FJUITSU LIMITED, COUNTER-PLAINTIFF,
v.
TELLABS OPERATIONS, INC., TELLABS, INC., AND TELLABS NORTH AMERICA, INC., COUNTER-DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge James F. Holderman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER PRELIMINARILY CONSTRUING CERTAIN DISPUTED CLAIM TERMS BASED ON THE INTRINSIC EVIDENCE

On June 11, 2008, Tellabs Operations, Inc. filed a complaint against Fujitsu Limited and Fujitsu Network Communications, Inc. (collectively "Fujitsu"), alleging that Fujitsu infringed Tellabs Operations, Inc.'s United States Patent No. 7,369,772 ("the '772 patent"). On April 1, 2009, Fujitsu filed an amended answer and affirmative defenses as well as amended counterclaims alleging that Tellabs Operations, Inc., Tellabs, Inc., and Tellabs North America, Inc. (collectively "Tellabs") infringed two of Fujitsu's patents -- United States Patent Nos. 7,227,681 ("the '681patent") and 5,533,006 ("the '006 patent"). The parties requested that this court construe and determine the meaning of over a hundred claim terms used in the contested patents. The court has obliged that request in this opinion, to the extent the evidence intrinsic to the patents and their prosecution histories has allowed. A hearing will be set for the presentation of extrinsic evidence to assist the court in further construing the remaining disputed claim terms, unless the parties can resolve this matter.

Background

1. Tellab's '772 Patent

The '772 patent, issued to Tellabs Operations, Inc. on May 6, 2008, is entitled "Optical Line Terminal Arrangement, Apparatus and Methods." The abstract for the '772 patent describes the invention as:

A wavelength division multiplexed optical communication system including a first optical line interface optically coupled to a first transponder and an optical demultiplexer through which the first optical line interface is not optically coupled to the first transponder. The system also includes a second optical line interface and at least one switch. The switch is operable to optically couple the second optical line interface to (a) the first optical line interface through at least the optical demultiplexer, and alternatively (b) the second transponder. A method for an optical add/drop multiplexing system also is provided. ('772 patent, Abstract.) The Field of the Invention section of the '772 patent describes the invention as pertaining to: upgrading an in-service wavelength division multiplexed (WDM) optical communication system including a pair of optical line terminals (OLTs) that reside in the same office and are part of separate WDM networks to form an all optical pass-through from the line side of one OLT of the pair to the line side of the other OLT of the pair.

('772 patent, col. 1:16-22.)

OLTs allow optical signals to be multiplexed or demultiplexed so that wavelengths may be transmitted using either a peer OLT via a pass-through port or client equipment via a transponder and local port. ('772 patent, col. 2:40-52.) At the time the '772 patent was filed on December 18, 2003, "typical wavelength division multiplexing systems" required all wavelengths "to pass through from a source optical node to a predetermined sink optical node." ('772 patent, col. 1:38-40.) Thus, a need existed to "selectively pass-through, add or drop individual wavelengths at selected optical nodes," and to "utilize the optical line terminals to support complex mesh network structures while permitting growth of an in-service network without disrupting network service." ('772 patent, Summ. of Invention.)

2. Fujitsu's '681 Patent

The '681 patent, issued to Fujitsu Limited on June 5, 2007, is entitled "Controller Which Controls a Variable Optical Attenuator to Control the Power Level of a Wavelength-Multiplexed Optical Signal When the Number of Channels are Varied." The abstract for the '681 patent describes the invention as:

An optical amplifier which amplifies a wavelength division multiplexed (WDM) optical signal having a variable number of channels associated with different wavelengths and outputs the amplified WDM optical signal. The optical amplifier includes (a) an optical attenuator which controls a level of the amplified WDM optical signal, and (b) a controller which controls the WDM optical signal to be amplified with an approximately constant gain. ('681 patent, Abstract.)

The '681 patent explains that fiber optic communication systems use wavelength division multiplexing to transmit multiple wavelength channels through a single optical fiber. ('681 patent, col. 1:33-35.) An optical amplifier or optical repeater "is typically inserted between optical multiplexer and optical demultiplexer to amplify the wavelength-multiplexed optical signal traveling through optical fiber." ('681 patent, col. 1:66-2:3.) "Such an optical amplifier is typically a rare-earth doped optical fiber amplifier which directly amplifies the wavelength-multiplexed optical signal." ('681 patent, col. 2:3-5.) The use of a rare-earth doped optical fiber amplifier, however, "causes several problems when the number of channels in the wavelength-multiplexed optical signal is varied." ('681 patent, col. 2:10-13.) Specifically, "the optical power of each channel can undesirably be varied, [] causing non-linear degradation or S/N degradation of the wavelength-multiplexed optical signal." ('681 patent, col. 2:14-17.) The '681 patent addresses the degradation problem by providing "an optical amplifying apparatus which reduces non-linear degradation and S/N degradation of a wavelength-multiplexed optical signal when the number of channels are varied." ('681 patent, col. 2:21-25.)

3. Fujitsu's '006 Patent

The '006 patent, issued to Fujitsu Limited on July 2, 1996, is entitled "Control System for a Ring Type Network System." The abstract for the '006 patent describes the invention as:

A node for a ring type synchronous optical network can continue to communicate with another node, when a transmission path is interrupted, located on the opposite side of the interrupted transmission path. A cross connecting unit cross connects the ring type transmission path with an external transmission path. The cross connecting unit generates and sends to another node an alarm indication signal when the ring type optical path is interrupted. A path switching unit switches the connection of an external transmission path to either direction of the ring type transmission path. A controlling unit controls the path switching unit, when an alarm indication signal is received from another node, so that the path switching unit switches the connection to a side opposite to a side from which the alarm indication signal has been received. ('006 patent, Abstract.)

The '006 patent explains that the controlling unit component of the invention is designed to control path switching on receipt of an interruption alarm indication signal (AI signal) or on receipt of an unused path unequipment code signal (UNEQ signal). ('006 patent, Summ. of Invention.) The prior art control systems did not control path switching on receipt of a UNEQ signal. ('681 patent, col. 2:29-32.) Thus, the invention covered by the '006 patent was developed to provide a system to control path switching when a UNEQ signal is received. ('681 patent, col. 3:28-33.)

Legal Standards

Claim construction "is a matter of law for the court to determine." Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 976 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (en banc). While there is no "magic formula" for conducting claim construction and the sequence of steps used in consulting various sources is not important, the court should undertake claim construction from the viewpoint of a person of ordinary skill in the field of invention and determine how that person would understand the claim at the time of the invention. Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1313, 1324 (Fed. Cir. 2005); see On Demand Mach. Corp. v. Ingram Indus., Inc., 442 F.3d 1331, 1337-38 (Fed. Cir. 2006). When interpreting the meaning of a claim and the claim terms, the court should first look to intrinsic evidence, e.g., the claims themselves, the specification, the prosecution history, and the prior art cited within the patent, giving the greatest weight to the claim language and the specification. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1314-18. The court may also look to extrinsic evidence such as expert testimony, treatises, and dictionaries when appropriate, but extrinsic evidence "is less significant than the intrinsic record in determining the legally operative meaning of claim language." Id. at 1315, 1320-21.

When construing a claim, the words of the claim are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning that a person of ordinary skill in the art in question at the effective date of filing would have used. Old Town Canoe Co. v. Confluence Holdings Corp., 448 F.3d 1309, 1315 (Fed. Cir. 2006); Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312-13; Vitronics v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1999). The claim should be read in the context of the entire patent, including the specification, and not just in the context of the particular claim where the disputed term appears because the claims themselves provide substantial guidance in determining the meaning of particular claim terms. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1313-14. Moreover, there is a heavy, albeit rebuttable, presumption that a claim term carries its ordinary and customary meaning. CCS Fitness, Inc. v. Brunswick Corp., 288 F.3d 1359, 1366 (Fed. Cir. 2002).

A term's ordinary and customary meaning may be rebutted in several ways. For example, where the specification reveals that an inventor ascribed a different meaning to a term than the term's ordinary meaning, the inventor's lexicography governs. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1316. Similarly, if the specification or prosecution history contain an intentional disclaimer or disavowal of the claim scope, the court may rely on that disclaimer or disavowal as an expression of the inventor's intent. Id. at 1316-17. Generally, however, the court should not limit claims to the preferred embodiments in the specification even though the preferred embodiments can shed light on the intended scope of the claims. Id. at 1323; Astrazeneca AB v. Mut. Pharm. Co., 384 F.3d 1333, 1340 (Fed. Cir. 2004). In addition, the court may not apply the ordinary meaning to a claim term where the inventor phrased the claim in means-plus-function format. Allen Eng'g Corp. v. Bartell Ind., Inc., 299 F.3d 1336, 1347-48 (Fed. Cir. 2002).

Section 112 of the United States Patent Act provides that claims may be written in means-plus-function format:

An element in a claim for a combination may be expressed as a means or step for performing a specified function without the recital of structure, material, or acts in support thereof, and such claim shall be construed to cover the corresponding structure, material, or acts described in the specification and equivalents thereof.

35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6. "The use of the word 'means' triggers a presumption that the inventor used the term advisedly to invoke the statutory mandate for means-plus-function clauses while the absence of the term 'means' triggers a strong presumption that the inventor did not mean to invoke a means plus function construction." Allen Eng'g Corp., 299 F.3d at 1347 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Nevertheless, like all claim construction, means-plus-function language must be construed consistent with the meaning given to the claim term by a person of ordinary skill in the art. Biomedino, LLC v. Waters Tech. Corp., 490 F.3d 946, 950 (Fed. Cir. 2007); Atmel Corp. v. Info. Storage Devices, Inc., 198 F.3d 1374, 1380 (Fed. Cir. 1999).

In construing a means-plus-function limitation, the court must first determine the claimed function and then identify the corresponding structure in the written description that performs that function. Minks v. Polaris Indus., Inc., 546 F.3d 1364, 1377 (Fed. Cir. 2008); Biomedino, LLC, 490 F.3d at 950; JVW Enters., Inc. v. Interact Accessories, Inc., 424 F.3d 1324, 1330 (Fed. Cir. 2005). The court should not adopt a function different from that explicitly recited in the claim. JVW Enters., Inc., 424 F.3d at 1331. In addition, "to qualify as corresponding, the structure must not only perform the claimed function, but the specification must clearly associate the structure with performance of the function." Id. at 1332 (citations omitted). If a patent specification discloses multiple or alternative structures by which a function may be accomplished, the court is not required to articulate a single claim interpretation that is consonant with all structures in the specification corresponding to the claimed function. Ishida Co. v. Taylor, 221 F.3d 1310, 1316 (Fed. Cir. 2000).

Analysis

I. Disputed Claim Terms in the '772 Patent

The parties contest a total of 110 individual terms and phrases in the '772 patent that the court has grouped for construction purposes into sixteen categories of terms. The court has construed thirteen of the grouped terms based solely on intrinsic evidence. The remaining three term categories, identified in the conclusion of this memorandum opinion and order, will require the court to receive and consider extrinsic evidence in connection with the '772 patent.

The '772 patent claims terms which the court has construed based on the intrinsic evidence are set forth below.

A. "Optically Coupled To"

For the following reasons, the court construes the claim terms "optically coupled to" in claim 1, "is optically coupled to" in claims 3 and 11, and "optically couple . . . to" in claims 1, 6, and 7 to mean:

(Component A) can send optical information to (Component B) and/or (Component A) can receive optical information from (Component B).

The court arrived at this definition after considering the parties' respective positions as presented in their materials. As for Tellabs' '772 patent, Fujitsu identified a total of seven terms that use the language "optically coupled to," "is optically coupled to," or "optically couple . . . to" and provided an individual construction for each of the seven terms. (See generally Dkt. No. 90, Ex. C.) Fujitsu's proposed seven constructions are all in the form "can send/receive optical information bi-directionally to from." In response, Tellabs argued that:

Several of the terms raised by Fujitsu are of the form 'A optically coupled to B,' 'A is optically coupled to B,' or 'optically couple A to B,' where A and B are different elements. For this reason, Tellabs proposes a single construction that would apply to each of these claim terms with the insertion of the appropriate A and B elements. (Dkt. No. 91, Ex. C at 2.) The court agrees with Tellabs' proposition that a single construction should apply to all manifestations the "optically coupled to" language because each of the terms operate to establish that two separate components are optically coupled.

Patent '772's specification explains that optical line terminals (OLTs) are designed to send and receive optical signals:

[An] aspect of the invention to utilize optical line terminals having all-optical pass-through interfaces that provide for continued transmission of optical signals . . . and to connect two optical line terminals back-to-back . . . to provide an optical path from the line side interface of the first optical line terminal to the line side interface of the second line terminal. ('772 patent, col. 1:44-51, 61-2:11.) A single OLT "has an input/output line interface which is connected to an external fiber facility and transmits/receives an optical signal . . . on a single optical fiber which is multiplexed/demultiplexed by a multiplexer/demultiplexer [ ] which outputs demultiplexed wavelengths . . . on individual optical fibers." ('772 patent, col. 2:40-46.) In this manner, a wavelength can be "directly passed-through to a peer OLT rather than being sent to a client apparatus." ('772 patent, col. 2:18-21; col. 3:18-21.) Accordingly, the intrinsic evidence establishes that optical signals are sent and received between various components of one or more OLT. Therefore, "optically coupled to" requires that optical information can be sent or received between two different components.

B. "Optical Demultiplexer" and "Optical Multiplexer"

1. "Optical Demultiplexer"

For the following reasons, this court construes the claim term "optical demultiplexer" in claims 1, 4-6, 11-15, 17, 20, and 24 to mean:

A device that receives a plurality of wavelengths multiplexed together as an optical signal and outputs each of the plurality of wavelengths as at least one of the following: (a) individual wavelengths, (b) bands of wavelengths or (c) a combination of bands and individual wavelengths.

The specification for the '772 patents states that:

It is yet another aspect of the invention to utilize optical line terminals having a multiplexer/demultiplexer including one or more stages of inputting/outputting individual wavelengths or bands of a predetermined number of wavelengths, or a combination of bands and individual wavelengths. ('772 patent, col. 1:52-56.) In other words, an OLT can have a demultiplexer, which may have one or more stages for outputting (1) individual wavelengths or (2) bands of a predetermined number of wavelengths or (3) a combination of bands and individual wavelengths.

Figure 3 of the '772 patent specification shows a demultiplexer outputting a combination of bands and individual wavelengths in a two-stage process. ('772 patent, Fig. 3.) In the first stage, optical signals are demultiplexed and bands of wavelengths are output. ('772 patent, col. 4:7-42; see Fig. 3.) In the second stage, at least one of the bands is demultiplexed further and output as individual wavelengths. Id. The culmination of the two-stage process is the output of a combination of bands and individual wavelengths. ('772 patent, col. 3:61-4:6; see Fig. 3.) Thus, based on examination of the specification an "optical demultiplexer" is adevice that receives a plurality of wavelengths multiplexed together as an optical signal and outputs each of the plurality of wavelengths as at least one of the following: (a) individual wavelengths, (b) bands of wavelengths or (c) a combination of bands and individual wavelengths.

2. "Optical Multiplexer"

For the following reasons, this court construes the claim term "optical multiplexer" in claims 14 and 15 to mean:

A device that receives a plurality of wavelengths as at least one of the following:

(a) individual wavelengths, (b) bands of wavelengths or (c) a combination of bands and individual wavelengths, and outputs a plurality of wavelengths multiplexed together as an optical signal.

As with a demultiplexer, an OTL can have a multiplexer, which may have one or more stages for inputting (1) individual wavelengths or (2) bands of a predetermined number of wavelengths or (3) a combination of bands and individual wavelengths. Indeed, the specification provides that, "[t]he operation of the OLT is described with respect to the demultiplexing operation; however, it is to be understood that the multiplexing is merely the reverse operation." ('772 patent, col. 4:8-11.) Therefore, given the related nature of the terms "optical multiplexer" and "optical demultiplexer," the appropriate construction of the term "optical multiplexer" is similar to the "optical demultiplexer," with the only difference being that the input and output are reversed.

C. "Optical Demultiplexer Through Which the First Optical Line Interface Is Not Optically Coupled To the First Transponder"

For the following reasons, this court construes the claim term "optical demultiplexer through which the first optical line interface is not optically coupled to the first transponder" in claims 1 and 6 to mean:

The first optical line interface does not send optical information to the first transponder through the optical demultiplexer. Alternatively, the first optical line interface does not receive optical information from the first transponder through the optical demultiplexer.

Both claims 1 and 6 of patent '772 require that the first optical line interface and the first optical transponder are coupled. Claim 1 reads, "a first optical interface optically coupled to a first transponder." Claim 6 reads, "a first transponder optically coupled to the first optical line interface." Applying the definition for "optically coupled to," stated in A, supra, claims 1 and 6 become "a first optical line interface sends optical information to a first transponder and/or a first optical line interface receives optical information from a first transponder." With this rephrasing, the ordinary language of the term dictates that the first transponder and the first optical line interface do not send or receive optical information between each other through the optical demultiplexer.

Patent '772's specification supports this interpretation of the term by presenting a clear illustration of the situation contemplated by the language "optical demultiplexer through which the first optical line interface is not optically coupled to the first transponder" at Figure 3. Specifically, Figure 3 shows an optical line interface labeled 202 coupled to a transponder labeled T in the lower right hand corner of the illustration. The optical line interface and the transponder transmit optical information between each other via the following path: from input/output line interface 202 along line 320 to multiplexer/demultiplexer 204, then along line 214 to multiplexer/demultiplexer 216, and finally to transponder T. (See '722 patent, Fig 3.) Figure 3 also shows an optical multiplexer labeled 208 that is not situated along the transmission path that couples the optical line interface and the transponder. (Id.) The illustration at Figure 3 therefore shows that the first optical line interface does not send optical information to the first transponder through the optical demultiplexer. Alternatively, the first optical line interface does not receive optical information from the first transponder through the optical demultiplexer.

D. "Optical Line Interface" and "Bidirectional Optical Line Interface"

1. "Optical Line Interface"

For the following reasons, this court construes the claim term "optical line interface" in claims 1, 3-8, 11-13, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23, and 24 to mean:

An interface that can carry a plurality of wavelengths multiplexed together as an optical signal.

The parties agree that an optical line interface can send or receive a plurality of wavelengths multiplexed together. Specifically, Fujitsu's proposed construction states, "an interface adapted for carrying wavelength division multiplexed (WDM) optical communication signals of the highest relative order" (Dkt. No. 90, Ex. C at 2), while Tellabs' proposed construction states, "an interface that can carry a plurality of wavelengths multiplexed together as an optical signal" (Dkt. No. 91, Ex. C at 1).

Patent '772's specification also supports the parties' agreed-upon construction. The specification establishes that the invention pertains to a "wavelength division multiplexed (WDM) optical communication system" ('772 patent, col. 1:14-22) and that a "WDM system employs plural optical signal channels, each channel being assigned a particular channel wavelength" ('772 patent, col. 1:28-29). With regard to an OLT, the specification states, "[t]he OLT has an input/output line interface which is connected to an external fiber facility and transmits/receives an optical signal having N optical wavelengths." ('772 patent, col. 2:40-42; see Fig. 1.)

The parties, however, dispute the inclusion of the phrase "highest relative order" in the construed meaning of the phrase "optical line interface." Fujitsu's proposed construction requires that the optical signals be of the "highest relative order." (Dkt. No. 90, Ex. C at 2.) Fujitsu's proposed construction improperly imports a limitation from a preferred embodiment in the specification. See Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1323 (explaining that courts generally should not limit patent claims to the preferred embodiments in the specification); Astrazeneca AB, 384 F.3d at 1340 (same). Patent '772's specification only uses the term "highest relative order" once as the specification describes Figure 4, and states that "[t]he line interface is adapted for wavelength division multiplexed (WDM) optical communication signals of the highest relative order." ('772 patent, col. 4:48-50.) To incorporate the requirement that the ...


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