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Pinpoint Incorporated v. Groupon, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 17, 2014

GROUPON, INC., Defendant.


EDMOND E. CHANG, District Judge.

Plaintiff Pinpoint Incorporated brought this suit against Defendant Groupon, Inc. alleging patent infringement, in violation of 35 U.S.C. § 271. R. 1, Compl. Pinpoint contends that Groupon owns and operates a website that infringes three of Pinpoint's patents, namely, United States patent numbers 5, 754, 938 (the '938 patent), 7, 853, 600 (the '600 patent), and 8, 056, 100 (the '100 patent). Id. ¶¶ 16, 19, 22. The parties briefed the construction of disputed terms in the claims at issue, and the Court held a claim construction hearing, comprised of oral argument. The Court decides the construction of disputed terms as set forth below.[1]

I. Background

The '600 and '100 patents are continuations of, and share a common specification with, United States patent number 5, 758, 257 and its continuation-in-part, patent number 6, 088, 722. R. 115, Def.'s Br. at 2. The common specification describes a "system and method for scheduling the receipt of desired movies and other forms of data from a network which simultaneously distributes many sources of such data to many customers, as in a cable television system." R. 98-1, '100 Patent, J.A. at 1. "Customer profiles are developed for the recipient describing how important certain characteristics of the... data are to each customer. From these profiles, an agreement matrix' is calculated by comparing the recipient's profiles to the actual profiles of the characteristics of the... data." Id. "Based on the comparison results, one or more customized programming channels are created for transmission... containing a collection of only those [data] having content profiles which best match the customer's profile and hence are most desirable to the customer." Id. at 20-21. Pinpoint contends that Groupon infringes the '600 patent and the '100 patent by operating the website, which includes features for creating customer profiles and emailing Groupon-selected deals to specific customers. Compl. ¶¶ 19, 22.

In the '600 and '100 patents, the parties have identified six disputed terms for construction. To give some context to these terms, examples of their usage in the patents are provided by excerpting Claim 29 of the '600 patent and Claim 36 of the '100 patent (the disputed terms are in bold italics ). From Claim 29 of the '600 patent:

29. A method of presenting data from a plurality of data objects, comprising the steps of:
creating at least one customer profile for a customer, said customer profile indicating the customer's preferences for data having predetermined characteristics;
creating content profiles for each of said data objects, said content profiles indicating at least one of the presence or the degree of content of said predetermined characteristics in data of each of said data objects;
relating, using a microprocessor, said at least one customer profile with the content profiles for the data available from each data object;
at a location remote from said customer, determining a subset of said data objects having content profiles which are determined, in said relating step, to most closely match said at least one customer profile; and
transmitting via a data communication system, said determined subset of said data objects to said customer location for selection by said customer.

R. 98-2, '600 Patent, J.A. at 91. And from Claim 36 of the '100 Patent:

36. A method for recommending one or more textual information items to customers from a content collection of textual information items and content profiles of said textual information items, said content profiles indicating the presence or absence or degree of presence or absence of one or more predetermined descriptive characteristics of said textual information items, the method comprising the steps of:
creating one or more customer profiles with or without a customer explicitly expressing preference for said predetermined characteristics, said customer profiles representing the customers' preferences for said predetermined characteristics;
storing said customer profiles in a memory in association with respective customer identifiers;
retrieving a customer profile subsequently from said memory, by name or other customer identifier;
operating a computer adapted by stored programming to find a subset of said textual information items having content profiles that most closely match said customer profile; and
electronically sending said subset at least partly via a data communications network to said customer for selection.

Id. at 45. The parties propose competing definitions for the terms "customer profile"/"user profile"; "content profile"; "most closely match"/"most closely correlate"/"closely match"; "information items"; "textual information item"; and "data object"/"data source"/"information source." See R. 124, Joint Claim Construction Chart.[2]

In addition, Groupon asks the Court to construe three terms from the '938 patent. The '938 patent claims "a cryptographically-based pseudonym proxy server... provided to ensure the privacy of a user's target profile interest summary, by giving the user control over the ability of third parties to access this summary and to identify or contact the user." R. 98-3, '938 Patent, J.A. at 96. Claim 1 of the '938 patent claims, in part, "[a] method for automatically providing a user with confidential access to selected ones of a plurality of target objects" by " confidentially generating a user pseudonym at a proxy server, which pseudonym is unique to said user, by means of authenticated user credentials provided by an authenticating entity. " Id. at 149-50. Pinpoint alleges that Groupon has infringed the '938 patent by using at least one proxy server in connection with Compl. ¶ 11. The parties have submitted competing constructions for the terms "confidential"/"confidentially"; "proxy server"; and "an authenticating entity." Joint Claim Construction Chart.

II. Legal Standard

Before it can be determined whether a claim is valid or infringed, the Court must first construe the claim in order to determine its scope. SeeProveris Scientific Corp. v. Innovasystems, Inc., 739 F.3d 1367, 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2014); Kahn v. Gen. Motors Corp., 135 F.3d 1472, 1476 (Fed. Cir. 1998). "When construing claim terms, we first look to, and primarily rely on, the intrinsic evidence, including the claims themselves, the specification, and the prosecution history of the patent, which is usually dispositive." Sunovion Pharms., Inc. v. Teva Pharms. USA, Inc., 731 F.3d 1271, 1276 (Fed. Cir. 2013). "[E]xtrinsic evidence in general' is less reliable than the patent and its prosecution history in determining ...

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