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Magna Carta Holdings, LLC v. Nextgen Healthcare Information Systems

March 9, 2012

MAGNA CARTA HOLDINGS, LLC, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEXTGEN HEALTHCARE INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC., FOX MEADOWS SOFTWARE, LTD., AND E-CLINICAL WORKS, LLC, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Magna Carta Holdings, LLC, ("Magna Carta") sued E-Clinical Works, LLC ("E-Clinical") and others alleging E-Clinical's Words electronic medical records system infringes on United States patent nos. 5,704,371 and 6,026,363 (together, the "patents in suit"). The Court stayed the proceedings for 18 months while the Patent Office re-examined the patents in suit. During re-examination, the Patent Office allowed only those claims that included what the parties call "the Comparator Term." The Court then granted E-Clinical's request that the Court construe the Comparator Term before any of the other disputed claim language, as the parties noted (albeit at different times) that the Court's construction of the Comparator Term would likely end the case, either via summary judgment motion or settlement. (See Docs. 84, 101.) For the below reasons, the Court construes the Comparator Term as follows:

A software tool or data structure that examines one thing to see if it is analogous to a second thing, the two things being: (1) predetermined code words, numbers or symbols recorded on a physical or electronic form; and (2) a longer written description of medical information assigned to the particular code word, number or symbol. The comparator does not, by itself, decode the predetermined code words, numbers or symbols into the longer written descriptions of medical information.

I. BACKGROUND

The patents' specifications*fn1 disclose systems for recording information about a patient during a medical examination. As the doctor examines the patient, he or she tells a medical assistant certain information about the patient. The medical assistant then records that information using a series of codes. Those codes are later, manually or via computer, transcribed (or decoded) into their corresponding formal explanations for purposes of preparing a patient report. For instance, using the example in the specification, a doctor examining a patient would say "male-02" to the assistant. The assistant would type that code into a computer. The computer would then transcribe that code into its assigned explanation, "CURRENT COMPLAINTS: The patient denies any right hip pain. This has improved since his last visit." After decoding, the computer would then generate a patient report that reads in natural language to put in the patient's file or for any other purpose. In essence, the invention is a shorthand system that frees highly-compensated and notoriously busy doctors from having to spend time writing notes in their patients' charts.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Claim construction resolves disputed meanings in a patent to clarify and explain what the claims cover. See Terlep v. Brinkmann Corp., 418 F.3d 1379, 1382 (Fed. Cir. 2005). The construction of the claims at issue is a legal determination to be made by the court. See id. (citing Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 970-71 (Fed. Cir. 1995)). Generally, the terms of a claim are given the ordinary and customary meaning that the terms would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the filing date of the patent application. See Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1313 (Fed. Cir. 2005). When interpreting an asserted claim, the court looks first to intrinsic evidence: the words of the claims, the patent specification, and the prosecution history. See Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996).

The claim language is the starting point for claim construction analysis because it frames and ultimately resolves all issues of claim interpretation. See Robotic Vision Sys., Inc. v. View Eng'g Inc., 189 F.3d 1370, 1375 (Fed. Cir. 1997). In some cases, the "ordinary and customary" meaning of the claim language may be readily apparent, even to lay judges, and the court applies the widely accepted meaning of the commonly understood words. See Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1314. In such cases, a general purpose dictionary may be helpful. See id. In many cases, however, the court must proceed beyond the bare language of the claims and examine the patent specification. See id. at 1314-15. "The person of ordinary skill in the art is deemed to read the claim term not only in the context of the particular claim in which the disputed term appears, but in the context of the entire patent, including the specification." Id. at 1313. The specification is usually dispositive; "it is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term." Id. at 1315 (quoting Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996)). In the specification, the patentee provides a written description of the invention that allows a person of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention. See id. at 1323. At times, the patentee uses the specification to "set forth an explicit definition for a claim term that could differ in scope from that which would be afforded by its ordinary meaning." Rexnord Corp. v. Laitram Corp., 274 F.3d 1336, 1342 (Fed. Cir. 2001).

The court may also look to the patent's prosecution history. See Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. While the prosecution history often lacks the clarity of and is less useful than the specification, it may inform the court of the meaning of a claim term by illustrating how the inventor understood the invention as well as how the inventor may have limited the scope of the invention. See id. The prosecution history is generally relevant if a particular interpretation of the claim was considered and specifically disclaimed during the prosecution of the patent. See Schumer v. Lab. Comp. Sys., 308 F.3d 1304, 1313 (Fed. Cir. 2002).

Finally, a court may also consult "extrinsic evidence," such as dictionaries, treatises, and expert testimony, to "shed useful light on the relevant art." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317-18. Generally, extrinsic evidence is "less reliable" than intrinsic evidence and is "unlikely to result in a reliable interpretation of patent claim scope unless considered in the context of the intrinsic evidence." Id. at 1318-19. With respect to the use of dictionaries, technical or general, a court may consult such evidence "so long as the dictionary definition does not contradict any definition found in or ascertained by a reading of the patent documents." Id. at 1322-23.

III. DISCUSSION

A. The Comparator Term and the Parties' Proposed Construction

The Comparator Term appears in all the claims that Magna Carta asserts against E-Clinical. It reads: "a comparator for comparing the optional text variable segment to the encoded indicia." (See Doc. 95-1, '371 patent, ind. claims, 2, 7, and 17; Doc. 95-2, '363 patent, ind. claims 2, 7, 17 and 39.) When the Patent Office re-examined the patents in suit, it disallowed many claims as anticipated by the prior art or unpatentable as obvious. (See Doc. 95-7, '371 re-examination action.) However, the Patent Office allowed the claims that included the ...


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