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Intellect Wireless Inc v. Sharp Corporation

March 9, 2012

INTELLECT WIRELESS INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
SHARP CORPORATION, SHARP ELECTRONICS CORPORATION, HEWLETT-PACKARD COMPANY, PALM, INC., DELL INC., AND GARMIN INTERNATIONAL, INC. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Rebecca R. Pallmeyer

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Intellect Wireless ("Plaintiff" or "IW") holds U.S. Patent Numbers 7,266,186 (the "'186 Patent") and 7,310,416 (the "'416 patent"), which contain both apparatus and method claims for improving wireless communications systems. Specifically, the patents enable device users to receive messages that include features now familiar to cell phone users: they display the photograph and phone number of the sender. Defendants, who are manufacturers of wireless communications devices, seek summary judgment of noninfringement on Plaintiff's claims of direct infringement and induced infringement. On the issue of direct infringement, Defendants contend that they cannot directly infringe Plaintiff's patent because Defendants do not make, use, or supply the message center, which Defendants argue is a necessary structural component of the relevant claim.On the issue of induced infringement, Defendants arguethat Plaintiff has failed to establish the existence of any direct infringer and cannot prove that Defendantsknew that the induced acts constitute patent infringement. For the reasons below, Defendants' motions for summary judgment are granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The claims at issue in the '186 and '416 patent, both issued in 2007, describe a wireless portable communications device used to receive a picture and caller ID information over a telephonic communications network. ('186 patent, claim 1; '416 patent, claim 1.) The '186 patent alsodescribes a method of relaying picture messages to the device whereby a "message originator" sends the message to a "message center coupled to a communications network," which then transmits the message to the device along with the caller ID of the message originator, automatically provided by the communications network. ('186 patent, claim 18.) On October 20, 2010, IW filed suit against Defendants Sharp Corp., Sharp Electronics Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Palm Inc., and Dell Inc. (collectively, the "Defendants"),*fn1 manufacturers of wireless portable communications devices, claiming infringement of the apparatus claims. These manufacturers produce devices capable of sending and receiving picture messages, a common feature in modern cellular telephones.

The parties agree that noninfringement can be determined by analyzing claim 1 of the '186 patent, which reads:

1. A wireless portable communication device for use by a message recipient for receiving a picture from a message originator having a telephone number, comprising: a receiver operably coupled to receive a message from a message center over a wireless connection the message including a non-facsimile picture supplied by the message originator and a caller ID automatically provided by a communications network that identifies the telephone number of the message originator, the message originator sending the caller ID with the picture to the message center; a display; and a controller operably coupled to display the picture and caller ID on the display.

('186 patent, claim 1.) Patent '416 contains similar language, including the limitation on which Defendants' motion for summary judgment turns: a "receiver operably coupled to receive a message from a message center over a wireless connection." ('416 patent, claim 1.)*fn2 Plaintiff claims that Defendants directly infringed the patents by manufacturing and selling "wireless portable communication devices that receive and display caller ID information, non-facsimile picture, video messages and/or Multimedia Messaging Service." (Pl.'s First Am. Compl. for Patent Infringement (hereinafter "Compl.") ¶¶ 14, 16, 18, 20.) Plaintiff further claims that Defendants, having been put on notice of the patents-in-suit by Plaintiff's complaint, continued to induce consumers to infringe the patents by demonstrating the devices' capability to receive and display such messages and instructing consumers how to use the device in an infringing manner. (Compl. ¶¶ 15, 17, 19, 21.) Plaintiff presents no evidence other than the notice given by its complaint to support its assertion that Defendants have knowledge of the patents. As evidence of continued inducement, Plaintiff presents advertisements and user manuals that Defendants published and disseminated after the date of the complaint. (Exs. G, H, I to IW's Resp. to Sharp's Rule 56.1 Statement [117].) Those materials, Plaintiff asserts, promote use of the devices for picture messaging.

On May 27, 2011, the court heard arguments on Defendants' motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim. In those motions, Defendants made substantially the same arguments they now make in support of their motions for summary judgment: that (1) Defendants do not directly infringe the patents because claim 1 requires a wireless connection with a message center, which the Defendants neither make, use, or supply; and (2) IW cannot prove its claim of indirect infringement because consumers cannot directly infringe the patent and Defendants lacked knowledge that the induced acts constitute patent infringement. This court denied the motions to dismiss without prejudice because it was "reluctant to render a dispositive ruling that rests on claim construction or invalidity issues at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage." (Minute Order [91], May 27, 2011.) The court granted Defendants leave to file motions for summary judgment of noninfringement that address issues of claim construction. (Tr. [92] at 72-75.)Those motions are now before the court.

DISCUSSION

The court grants summary judgment if "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). The evidence the parties submit, pursuant to this court's Local Rule 56.1, is assessed to determine whether "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant." BMC Res., Inc. v. Paymentech, L.P., 498 F.3d 1373, 1378 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). The court will construe all facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Del. Valley Floral Grp., Inc. v. Shaw Rose Nets, LLC, 597 F.3d 1374, 1379 (Fed. Cir. 2010).

Because Defendants seek summary judgment for noninfringement, the court must engage in a two-step infringement analysis: "(1) the court must first interpret the claim, and (2) it must then compare the properly construed claims to the allegedly infringing device." SafeTCare Mfg., Inc. v. Tele-Made, Inc., 497 F.3d 1262, 1268 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (citing Cybor Corp. v. FAS Techs., Inc., 138 F.3d 1448, 1454 (Fed. Cir. 1998) (en banc)). The first step, claim construction, is a question of law for the court to determine. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 384 (1996). The second step, determination of infringement, is a question of fact. Id.

I. Claim Construction*fn3

Because an invention is defined by the claims of the patent, claim construction-the process of giving meaning to the claim language-defines the scope of the invention. Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1311-12 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc) (citing 35 U.S.C. § 112). As the Federal Circuit clarified in Phillips, claim construction begins with the words of the claims themselves, giving those words their ordinary and customary meaning; that 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." Id. at 1312-13. That person is assumed to read the claim terms "in the context of the entire patent, including the specification." Id. at 1313. The specification cannot, however, "be used to narrow a claim term-to deviate from the plain and ordinary meaning-unless the inventor acted as his own lexicographer or intentionally disclaimed or disavowed claim scope." Retractable Techs., Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson & Co., 659 F.3d 1369, 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2011) (citing Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1316).

In addition to reading the claim terms in the context of the specification, the court may also consider the record of the patent's prosecution as evidence of how both the inventor and the Patent Office understood the patent. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. The court must, however, be mindful that prosecution history represents an "ongoing negotiation," so it "often lacks the clarity of the specification and thus is less useful for claim construction purposes." Id. Finally, in some cases, the court must go beyond the claim language, the specification, and the prosecution history-the so-called intrinsic evidence-to consider extrinsic evidence such as technical dictionaries, treatises, and expert testimony. Id. at 1317-18. Extrinsic evidence is deemed less reliable than the intrinsic evidence for several reasons outlined by the Federal Circuit in Phillips. Id. at 1318-19. Courts may, however, "rely on dictionary definitions when construing ...


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