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The Chamberlain Group, Inc. v. Techtronic Industries Co., Ltd.

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

April 7, 2017

THE CHAMBERLAIN GROUP, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
TECHTRONIC INDUSTRIES CO., LTD., TECHTRONIC INDUSTRIES NORTH AMERICA, INC., ONE WORLD TECHNOLOGIES, INC., OWT INDUSTRIES, INC., ET TECHNOLOGY WUXI CO. LTD., and RYOBI TECHNOLOGIES, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Chamberlain Group, Inc. (“Chamberlain”) alleges in this suit that Defendants Techtronic Industries Co., Ltd., Techtronic Industries North America, Inc., One World Technologies, Inc., OWT Industries, Inc., Et Technology (WUXI) Co. Ltd., and Ryobi Technologies (collectively, the “Defendants”) infringe U.S. Patent Nos. 7, 224, 275 (“the ‘275 patent”) and 7, 635, 966 (“the ‘966 patent”), both of which it owns. The parties dispute the construction of eleven terms that appear throughout the claims of the asserted patents; they have briefed those disputes pursuant to Local Rule 4.2. This opinion sets forth the Court's construction of the contested claim language.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The ‘275 Patent

         1. The Invention, Disputed Terms, and Asserted Claims

          The ‘275 patent, titled “Movable Barrier Operators Status Condition Transception Apparatus and Method, ” recites a moveable barrier operator, such as a garage door opener (“GDO”), featuring a wireless status condition data transmitter that wirelessly relays status condition messages to one or more remote devices. The asserted claims of the ‘275 patent, with the six disputed terms in italics, are produced in full below. (Chamberlain is no longer asserting claims 2 or 21 against Defendants. (See, ECF No. 172 (“Pl.'s Opp. Br.”) at 21; ECF No. 156; ECF No. 191 at 4.))

Claim

Term

Text

1

1

A movable barrier operator comprising:

1[a]

2

a controller having a plurality of potential operational status conditions defined, at least in part, by a plurality of operating states

1[b]

-

a movable barrier interface that is operably coupled to the controller

1[c]

3

a wireless status condition data transmitter that is operably coupled to the controller, wherein the wireless status condition data transmitter transmits a status condition signal that:

1[c.i]

3

corresponds to a present operational status condition defined, at least in part, by at least two operating states from the plurality of operating states

1[c.ii]

4

and comprises an identifier that is at least relatively unique to the movable barrier operator, such that the status condition signal substantially uniquely identifies the movable barrier operator.

14

-

A method comprising:

14[a]

-

at a movable barrier operator:

14[a.i]

5

detecting at least one predetermined condition as corresponds to a present operational status defined, at least in part, by at least two operating states, of the movable barrier operator

14 [a.ii]

3

in response to detecting the at least one predetermined condition, automatically wirelessly transmitting a status condition signal that:

14[a.ii.1]

3

represents the present operational status defined, at least in part, by the at least two operating states; and

14[a.ii.2]

-

comprises an identifier that is at least relatively unique to the movable barrier operator, such that the status condition signal substantially uniquely identifies the movable barrier operator.

24

-

An apparatus comprising:

24[a]

-

a movable barrier operator having:

24[a.i]

2

a controller having a plurality of potential operational status conditions defined, at least in part, by a plurality of operating states; and

24[a.ii]

3

a wireless status condition transmitter operably coupled to the controller, wherein the wireless status condition data transmitter transmits a status condition signal that:

24[a.ii.1]

3

corresponds to a present operational status condition defined, at least in part, by at least two operating states from the plurality of operating states;and

24[a.ii.2]

-

comprises an identifier that is at least relatively unique to the movable barrier operator, such that the status condition signal substantially uniquely identifies the movable barrier operator

24[b]

6

a remote peripheral having:

24[b.i]

-

a wireless receiver that is communicatively compatible with the wireless transmitter

24[b.ii]

-

a peripheral controller that is operably coupled to the wireless receiver.

         The specification of the ‘275 patent credits existing technology with providing “a motor or other motion-imparting mechanism” to move a barrier, which motor is typically controlled by a “movable barrier operator.” (‘275 patent at 1:21-25.) Users control these operators either “by indicating a selection via one or more control surfaces that are physically associated with the movable barrier operator” or “by the transmission of a wireless remote control signal to the movable barrier operator.” (Id. at 1:25-30.) At the time of the ‘275 patent application, the capabilities of commercially available operators had expanded “to include actions other than merely opening and closing a corresponding movable barrier, ” including providing ambient lighting, sensing the presence of an obstacle in the path of the barrier, and facilitating different control strategies (such as vacation mode). (Id. at 1:31-47.)

         The specification notes, however, that prior art movable barrier operators are often partially or wholly inadequate to suit present or developing needs of a given user or setting. For example, movable barrier operators manufactured with the ability to support a wide range of functionality require a physical interface to support “numerous potentially utilized peripheral devices (including but not limited to sensors, control surfaces, alarms, displays, ambient and/or spot lighting, and so forth).” (‘275 patent at 1:48-60.) This physical interface can entail undesired additional cost when part of the interface goes unused in a given installation. Furthermore, even if all potentially supported peripherals are used, the physical installation itself often includes “a physical signaling path to couple the movable barrier operator to the various peripherals, ” which can “result in undesired exposed wiring and/or an undesired increase in installation time.” (Id. at 1:64-2:3.) The specification ascribes a final shortcoming to existing devices: a tendency to “fail to permit compatible support of a given peripheral, ” which can thwart a user who wishes, for example, to support a relatively new function “not specifically supported by a given movable barrier operator.” (Id. at 2:4-16.)

         The ‘275 patent (says that it) solves these problems by incorporating into extant technology “a controller having a plurality of potential operational status conditions, a movable barrier interface that operably couples to the controller, and a wireless status condition data transmitter that is operably coupled to the controller as well.” (‘275 patent at 2:56-61.) In the preferred embodiment, the wireless status condition data transmitter relays a status condition signal corresponding to at least one of the potential operational status conditions, and a remote peripheral (such as a display, an alarm, or a lighting control unit) can receive and process this status condition information. (Id. at 2:56-3:9.) First, this invention gives a user the ability to set a movable barrier operator to transmit a wide variety of wireless messages containing information that “can then be utilized to compatibly support a wide range of presently desired and later-developed features and functionality.” (Id. at 3:16-20.) Second, “the overall cost of a given platform can be reduced as the need to over-design a physical peripheral interface becomes diminished.” (Id. at 3:20-23.) Finally, this platform “has an improved opportunity to remain compatible with evolving features and legal and/or regulatory requirements to thereby promote a longer useful service life.” (Id. at 3:23-26.)

         2. Procedural Background

         After an extensive hearing, the Court granted Chamberlain's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and, on September 20, 2016, entered an order (the “PI Order”) prohibiting Defendants from further making, using, selling, or offering to sell in the United States or importing into the United States any of their Ryobi GD200 garage door openers likely to infringe claims 1 and 5 of the ‘275 patent. Defendants appealed this decision to the Federal Circuit, arguing that the Court improperly construed claim 1 to require a self-aware controller - that is, a controller that does not rely upon any external sensors to obtain status conditions. The Federal Circuit agreed with Defendants and vacated the PI order, holding in relevant part:

Claim 1 neither recites nor requires a ‘self-aware controller.' The written description of the ‘275 patent makes clear that the controller can obtain the operational status conditions through self-awareness or through externally-developed information, e.g., sensors.

The Chamberlain Group, Inc. v. Techtronic Industries North America et al., No. 2016-2713, slip op. at 9 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 25, 2017). Both the language of claims 1 and 2 as well as the written description of the ‘275 patent contemplate self-aware controllers and controllers that rely on sensors. Id. At 10. The Federal Circuit rejected Chamberlain's argument that “the use of the terms ‘having' and ‘potential' in claim 1 demonstrate [sic] that the claim is directed to a self-aware controller.” Id. at 11. It also found that the prosecution history of the ‘275 patent does not support Chamberlain's argument that sensor-based prior art was overcome during prosecution. Id. at 11. The Federal Circuit's findings are binding on this Court.

         With the Federal Circuit decision in hand, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (the “PTAB”) denied Defendants' two petitions to institute inter partes review of the ‘275 patent. In those two decisions, the PTAB construed several of the claims at issue here. First, the PTAB construed “controller” to mean “any programmable platform, such as a microprocessor, microcontroller, programmable logic or gate array, or the like.” One World Techs., Inc., et al. v. The Chamberlain Grp., Inc., IPR2016-01772, Paper 9, at 8 (P.T.A.B. Feb. 21, 2017); One World Techs., Inc., et al. v. The Chamberlain Grp., Inc., IPR2016-01774, Paper 8, at 7 (P.T.A.B. Feb. 21, 2017). It then construed the limitation “controller having a plurality of potential operational status conditions” in light of its “plain and ordinary meaning, ” which does not “require that the controller be ‘self-aware' or [] prohibit the controller from ‘rely[ing] upon any external sensors to obtain status conditions.'” IPR2016-01772 at 8-12; IPR2016-01774 at 8-11. Finally, the PTAB construed “a present operational status condition” to mean “a present status condition of the controller's operation.” IPR2016-01772 at 12-14; IPR2016-01774 at 11-14. In so doing, it noted that the specification “discloses that the status condition signal ‘simply reflects the actions being taken by the controller 11 and/or the other operational conditions being experienced by the controller 11.” IPR2016-01772 at 14; IPR2016-01774 at 13 (citing ‘275 patent at 5:33-36).

         B. The ‘966 Patent

          The ‘966 patent, titled “Barrier Movement Operator Battery Backup and Power Equipment Battery Charging Center, ” covers a GDO with a rechargeable, removable battery that can be used to power other equipment physically separate from the GDO. Unlike the ‘275 patent, Chamberlain does not practice the ‘966 patent. The asserted claims of the ‘966 patent, with the five disputed terms in italics, are produced below. (Chamberlain has indicated that it no longer intends to assert claim 19 against Defendants. (See, Pl.'s Op. Br. at 25 n.9.))

Claim

Term

Text

1

2

A system for providing a rechargeable battery backup for a barrier movement operator, comprising:

1[a]

2

a barrier movement operator for controlling the movement of a moveable barrier,

1[a.i]

2

the barrier movement operator having a head unit to command the moveable barrier to perform moveable barrier functions,

1[a.i.1]

-

wherein the head unit is supplied power by a power source;

1[b]

1

a battery charging station in electrical communication with at least one rechargeable battery and in electrical communication with the head unit to supply power to the at least one rechargeable battery;

1[c]

-

circuitry electrically connected to the battery charging station to supply power from the at least one rechargeable battery to the head unit; and

1[d]

1

electrically powered equipment other than and physically separate or separable from the barrier movement operator comprising

1[d.i]

3

an apparatus for receiving the at least one rechargeable battery and to be powered by the at least one rechargeable battery to perform a predetermined function.

2

-

The system of claim 1,

2[a]

4

wherein the rechargeable battery is removably connectable to the electrically powered equipment.

3

-

The system of claim 1,

3[a]

1

wherein the head unit is in communication with the battery charging station via a cord.

4

-

The system of claim 1, further comprising

4[a]

-

an indication element to notify a user in response to at least one of:

4[a.i]

1

the at least one rechargeable battery being removed from the battery charging station, and

4[a.ii]

-

the stored power of the at least one rechargeable battery being below a threshold amount.

6

-

The system of claim 1,

6[a]

2

wherein the barrier movement operator is selected from the group consisting of: a garage door operator, a gate operator, and a commercial door operator.

9

-

A battery charging apparatus, comprising:

9[a]

1, 2

a battery charging station in electrical communication with a rechargeable battery and in electrical communication with a head unit of a barrier movement operator for supplying power to at least one rechargeable battery,

9[a.i]

4, 2

the at least one rechargeable battery being removably connectable to electrically powered equipment other than and separate or separable from the barrier movement operator to provide power to the electrically powered equipment; and

9[b]

1

circuitry electrically connected to the battery charging station to supply power from the at least one rechargeable battery to the head unit.

10

-

The battery charging apparatus of claim 9,

10[a]

1

wherein the head unit is in communication with the battery charging station via a cord.

11

-

The battery charging apparatus of claim 9, further comprising

11[a]

-

an indication element to notify a user in response to at least one of:

11[a.i]

1

the at least one rechargeable battery being removed from the battery charging station;

11[a.ii]

-

and the stored power of the at least one rechargeable battery being below the threshold amount.

15

5

A method of power flow between at least one rechargeable battery, a barrier movement operator, electrically powered equipment other than and physically separate or separable from the barrier movement operator, the method comprising:

15[a]

1

detecting whether the at least one rechargeable battery is in electrical communication with a battery charging station;

15[b]

1

providing power from a power source to the at least one rechargeable battery via the battery charging station;

15[c]

1

providing stored power from the at least one rechargeable battery to the head unit via the battery charging station to perform movable barrier functions; and

15[d]

-

providing power from the at least one rechargeable battery to the electrically powered equipment in response to the at least one rechargeable battery being electrically connected to the electrically powered equipment.

16

-

The method of claim 15, further comprising

16[a]

-

notifying a user in response to at least one of:

16[a.i]

1

the at least one rechargeable battery being removed from the battery charging station, and

16[a.ii]

-

the stored power of the at least one rechargeable battery being below the threshold amount.

22

-

The kit of claim 19, further comprising

22[a]

2

the electrically powered equipment other than and physically separate or separable from the barrier movement operator.

         Surveying existing technology, the ‘966 patent notes the availability of “[v]arious remotely controllable access control mechanisms, ” including barrier movement operators for garage doors, which “are often powered via an electrical outlet.” (‘966 patent at 1:15-25.) In the event of a power outage, such devices are unable to open or close a garage door, and a user must manually open or close it. (Id. at 1:25-30.) While “[s]ome current barrier movement operators can be powered via a backup battery, ” they receive power from “battery backups that are independent items . . . typically used only for operating the barrier movement operator.” (Id. at 1:31-39.) The background section then briefly surveys cordless power tools, which also require batteries and charging systems. (Id. at 1:42-44.) Such batteries are often plug-in devices that are charged in a separate cradle capable only of recharging that battery. (See, Id. at 1:44-47.) According to the specification, then, the chief shortcoming in prior art devices is the inconvenience and expense they leave intact: a user must charge her barrier movement operator backup battery and cordless power tool battery pack separately in separate charging cradles, and the two are not interchangeable.

         Seeking to remedy the problem, the ‘966 patent invention provides a rechargeable battery backup for use with a barrier movement operator which, in the event of a power outage, may provide power to the barrier movement operator to permit opening or closing of the barrier. A battery charging station connected to the head unit of the movable barrier operator charges the rechargeable battery backup, which may be removed and inserted into other equipment - such as garden tools, saws, drills, lights, and the like - to supply electric power. Because the battery charging station is connected via circuitry to the head unit (which is itself connected to a power supply), the battery backup may supply power to the head unit or vice versa. (See, ‘966 patent at 3:19-56, 6:46-7:15.) Thus, a user can conserve cost and space by minimizing the number of batteries needed on hand, and can use a single battery charging station “instead of two separate battery charging stations or cradles as is required according to current system.” (Id. at 7:16-25.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “A court hearing a patent infringement suit must construe the patent's claims, both to settle disputes about their scope and to translate technical terms into concise definitions that jurors can understand.” Cascades Streaming Techs., LLC v. Big Ten Network, LLC, No. 13 C 1455, 2016 WL 2344578, at *6 (N.D. Ill. May 4, 2016) (citations omitted). A district court is not required to construe every limitation present in a patent's asserted claims, only those terms “that are in controversy, and only to the extent necessary to resolve the controversy.” Vivid Techs., Inc. v. Am. Sci. & Eng'g, Inc., 200 F.3d 795, 803 (Fed. Cir. 1999); see also, O2 Micro Int'l Ltd. v. Beyond Innovation Tech. Co., 521 F.3d 1351, 1362 (Fed. Cir. 2008). Claim construction is a question of law that involves “determining the meaning and scope of the patent claims asserted to be infringed.” Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 970 (Fed. Cir. 1995).

         Claim construction begins with the language of the claims themselves. Imaginal Systematic, LLC v. Leggett & Platt, Inc., 805 F.3d 1102, 1008 (Fed. Cir. 2015). The words of a claim “are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning, which is the meaning that the term would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention.” Id. at 1108-09. Sometimes, “the ordinary meaning of claim language as understood by a person of skill in the art may be readily apparent even to lay judges, and claim construction in such cases involves little more than the application of the widely accepted meaning of commonly understood words.” Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1314 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc); see also, Brown v. 3M, 265 F.3d 1349, 1352 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (noting that “elaborate interpretation” is generally unnecessary for terms that “are not technical terms of art”).

         A person of ordinary skill in the art “is deemed to read the claim term . . . in the context of the entire patent, including the specification.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1314. For this reason, a court interpreting the claim language also considers the intrinsic record, including the specification and prosecution history. Kaneka Corp. v. Xiamen Kingdomway Grp. Co., 790 F.3d 1298, 1304 (Fed. Cir. 2015). Intrinsic evidence is the most important evidence of a term's ordinary meaning. See, e.g., Power-One, Inc. v. Artesyn Techs., In., 599 F.3d 1343, 1348 (Fed. Cir. 2010) (“When construing claims . . . the intrinsic evidence and particularly the claim language are the primary resources.”); MBO Labs., Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson & Co., 474 F.3d 1323, 1329 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (“Extrinsic evidence . . . may be helpful but is less significant than the intrinsic record in determining the legally operative meaning of claim language.”) (internal quotation marks omitted). Within the intrinsic record, the specification is more important than the prosecution history. See, Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc. v. Covidien, Inc., 796 F.3d 1312, 1324 (Fed. Cir. 2015) (“Claim language must be viewed in light of the specification, which is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term.”) (internal quotation marks omitted). Courts must take care, however, to avoid importing limitations from the specification into the claim. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1323; Hill-Rom Servs., Inc. v. Stryker Corp., 755 F.3d 1367, 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (“While we read claims in view of the specification, of which they are a part, we do not read limitations from the embodiments in the specification into the claims.”).

         Extrinsic evidence, on the other hand, derives from outside the intrinsic record and includes “expert and inventor testimony, dictionaries, and learned treatises.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317 (noting that extrinsic evidence is “less significant than the intrinsic record”) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also, Netcraft Corp. v. eBay, Inc., 549 F.3d 1394, 1396 (Fed. Cir. 2008). The Federal Circuit frames the order of operations thusly: “[a]fter considering intrinsic evidence, a court may also seek guidance from extrinsic evidence. . . .” H-W Tech., L.C. v. Overstock.com, Inc., 758 F.3d 1329, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 2014). A court relying on extrinsic evidence may need to decide, for example, what a person of ordinary skill in the art would have understood a term of art to mean at the time of the invention. Teva Pharms. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 831, 841 (2015) (discussing “subsidiary factual findings”). Once a court makes such a determination of fact, however, it must decide the further legal question of what the term means “in the context of the specific patent claim under review.” Ibid. (emphasis in original).

         Finally, if the plain and ordinary meaning of a claim term is evident on its face, there are two exceptions to construing it as such. First, the specification may define a claim term in a manner that conflicts with the meaning it would otherwise possess. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1316. Known as “lexicography, ” this exception to the general plain meaning rule reflects the fact that a patentee is entitled to redefine terms. Hill-Rom, 755 F.3d at 1371. In this situation, “the patentee's lexicography must govern the claim construction analysis.” Braintree Labs., Inc. v. Novel Labs., Inc., 749 F.3d 1349, 1356 (Fed. Cir. 2014). Second, the specification or the prosecution history may evidence “disavowal” or “disclaimer” if the Applicant disclaims the patent's application to certain technology - even if the claim limitations would, if interpreted consonant with their ordinary meaning, cover that technology. See, e.g., Pacing Techs., LLC v. Garmin Int'l, Inc., 778 F.3d 1021, 1025 (Fed. Cir. 2015) (finding clear and unmistakable disavowal in the specification); GE Lighting Sol'ns, LLC v. AgiLight, Inc., 750 F.3d 1304, 1309 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (“There are certainly cases where we have found disavowal or disclaimer based on clear and unmistakable statements by the patentee that limit the claims.”); Computer Docking Station Corp. v. Dell, Inc., 519 F.3d 1366, 1379 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (“[T]he sum of the patentees' statements during prosecution would lead a competitor to believe that the patentee had disavowed coverage of laptops.”). A statement only constitutes a disavowal if it demonstrates “clear and unambiguous” intent to disavow claim scope. Saffran v. Johnson & Johnson, 712 F.3d 549, 559 (Fed. Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. The ‘275 Patent

         1. “A movable barrier operator comprising” (Claim 1)

         The Court construes “a movable barrier operator comprising” to mean “an operator that controls movement of the movable barrier and may contain additional functionality, comprising.”

         First, the Court notes that this preamble requires construction to the same extent as the balance of the claim. A claim preamble constitutes a limitation “when the claim(s) depend on it for antecedent basis, or when it is essential to understand limitations or terms in the claim body.” C.W. Zumbiel Co. v. Kappos, 702 F.3d 1371, 1385 (Fed. Cir. 2012). A preamble limits its claim if it is “necessary to give life, meaning, and vitality” to the claim. Am. Medical Sys., Inc. and Laserscope v. Biolitec, Inc., 618 F.3d 1354, 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). Here, the preamble is necessary to give life and meaning to claim 1 and its limitations; it “is not merely a statement describing the invention's intended field of use.” Metraflex Co. v. Flex-Hose Co., Inc., No. 10 C 302, 2011 WL 4001144, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 8, 2011). Absent the preamble, the ensuing limitations recite mere components without situating them within the operator. Further, language in the body of claim 1 relies upon the preamble for antecedent basis. (See, e.g., ‘275 patent at 8:11-19 (“[T]he wireless status condition data transmitter transmits a status condition signal that: . . . comprises an identifier that is at least relatively unique to the movable barrier operator”) (emphasis added).) Thus, the preamble must be construed as if in the balance of the claim.

         Chamberlain argues that the preamble is readily understandable on the basis of its plain and ordinary meaning and that, if a construction is necessary, the preamble should be construed as: “An operator that controls the movement of a moveable barrier and may have other functionality.” Defendants counter by proposing the construction: “A set of components that controls the movement of a movable barrier.” The Court finds fault with both proposed constructions to the extent they implicitly cabin a movable barrier operator's function to moving the barrier. While true that a movable barrier operator controls the motion-imparting mechanism of the barrier, the specification unequivocally discloses greater capabilities than just barrier motion control. Replacing “operator” with “a set of components that controls the movement” defines the operator solely with reference to controlling the barrier's movement and gives the impression that the operator's function is limited to moving the barrier.

         The same rationale also undergirds the Court's rejection of Chamberlain's construction that the operator “may have other functionality.” From the plain language of the term, a movable barrier operator must be capable of operating (i.e., moving) the moveable barrier. And the specification makes clear that even movable barrier operators capable of more than mere barrier movement can nonetheless still move the barrier. (See, ‘275 patent at 1:31-34 (“Over time, the capabilities of and features supported by such movable barrier operators has [sic] expanded to include actions other than merely opening and closing a corresponding movable barrier.” (emphasis added).) On its own, Chamberlain's proposed “other functionality” - instead of, for example, “additional functionality” - is ambiguous as to whether a movable barrier operator could, instead of moving the barrier, do something else entirely and still remain within claim 1.

         Finally, the parties agree that a movable barrier operator does not include “remote components, ” such as smart phones. The specification is in accord, contrasting movable barrier operator uses involving physical association with other, physically separate “remote” control strategies. (See, e.g., ‘275 patent at 1:25-30 (“In some cases a user may control the movable barrier operator by indicating a selection via one or more control surfaces that are physically associated with the movable barrier operator. In other cases such control can be effected by the transmission of a wireless remote control signal to the movable barrier operator.”); id. at FIG. 2 (depicting “remote components” as physically separate from the moveable barrier operator).) This explains the Court's rejection of Chamberlain's proposed construction “may have other functionality” in favor of “may contain additional functionality, ” which more clearly indicates that any added functionality derives from architecture within the operator itself. (In addition, construing “operator” to mean “a set of components” merely replaces what Defendants allege is an unclear term, “operator, ” with an equally nebulous epithet, “a set of components.” Separately, adopting this construction also makes it conceptually more difficult for a jury to exclude remote components.)

         2. “a controller having a plurality of potential operational status conditions defined, at least in part, by a plurality of operating states” (Claims 1 & 24)

         The Court construes this term to mean “a programmable platform (such as, for example, a microprocessor, a microcontroller, a programmable logic or gate array, or the like), that can obtain, though self-awareness or through externally developed information (e.g., from sensors), two or more potential operational status conditions defined, at least in part, by two or more operational conditions being experienced by the controller [programmable platform].” The chief disputes over this term are threefold. First, Chamberlain and Defendants dispute how best to incorporate the Federal Circuit's guidance. Second, the parties disagree on the proper construction of “potential operational status conditions.” Third, they dispute whether “defined, at least in part, by a plurality of operating states” should be construed to require two actions performed at a single time.

         a. “a controller having”

         As an initial matter, the Court finds that the term “a controller” should be construed beyond its plain language to mean “a programmable platform (such as, for example, a microprocessor, a microcontroller, a programmable logic or gate array, or the like).” The specification supports this construction by disclosing that “the controller 11 will preferably comprise a programmable platform (such as, for example, a microprocessor, a microcontroller, a programmable logic or gate array, or the like).” (‘275 patent at 3:31-33.) Although this disclosure is worded in the nature of a preferred embodiment, none of the intrinsic evidence suggests an embodiment comprising a different controller. Presumably, it was for this reason that the PTAB also construed the term this way. See, e.g., IPR2016-01772 at 8; IPR2016-01774 at 7.

         With respect to the first bone of contention, there is no dispute that the Federal Circuit's opinion vacating the preliminary injunction spoke directly to this limitation of claim 1: “Claim 1 neither recites nor requires a ‘self-aware controller.' The written description of the ‘275 patent makes clear that the controller can obtain the operational status conditions through self-awareness or through externally-developed information, e.g., sensors. Chamberlain Grp., slip op. at 9 (citing ‘275 patent at 2:56-64, 4:52-59, 6:33-36). Both parties therefore agree that the controller itself need not be “self-aware” of its operational status conditions. Defendants seek to construe the word “having” as “that can obtain, through self-awareness or through externally-developed information, e.g., sensors.” Chamberlain, on the other hand, contends that no construction of “having” is necessary and instead addresses the Federal Circuit's opinion by adding to the end of its construction of the entire limitation the following language: “where the controller can be self-aware of such operational status conditions or the controller can be provided with externally developed information regarding the condition.”

         In keeping with Defendants' proposal, the Court construes “having” to mean “that can obtain, though self-awareness or through externally developed information (e.g., from sensors).” The Court will not depart from the Federal Circuit's construction by replacing that court's language, as Chamberlain advocates, with a corresponding quote from the specification. The Court acknowledges the concern that the status conditions are associated with the controller itself, as the PTAB emphasized when it adopted the plain language of “having” over Defendants' proposed construction of “having” as “knowing.” See, IPR2016-01772 at 8-12; IPR2016-01774 at 8-11. In fact, it is this distinction that militates against Chamberlain's construction, because its use of passive language from the specification - namely, its retention of “having” and addition of “the controller can be provided with externally developed information regarding the condition” - raises the specter of confusion regarding whether the status condition is of the controller itself.

         Besides a clarifying punctuation edit, the only change the Court makes to Defendants' construction is the addition of the word “from.” This is intended to avoid any confusion attending Defendants' (and the Federal Circuit's) apparently inadvertent equation of “sensors” with “externally developed information.” Rather than constituting the externally developed information, the external sensors are the media through which this external information is detected and provided to the controller.

         b. “a plurality of potential operational status conditions”

         The parties' second point of dispute concerns “a plurality of potential operational status conditions.” (The parties do not appear to dispute construction of the word “plurality, ” and the Court notes that a patent's usage of the term “plurality” is routinely determined to mean “two or more.” See, e.g., Dayco Prods., Inc. v. Total Containment, Inc., 258 F.3d 1317, 1327-28 (Fed. Cir. 2001). As such, the Court construes “a plurality of” to mean “two or more.”) Defendants construe “potential operational status conditions” to mean “potential status conditions of the controller's operation, ” whereas Chamberlain argues that the term requires no construction because its plain meaning conveys as much.

         Because an operational status condition “is a condition that the controller has” and because it did not believe “operational status condition” was clear on its face, the PTAB construed “present operational status condition” to mean “a present status condition of the controller's operation.” IPR2016-01772 at 14 (emphasis added); IPR2016-01774 at 13-14. (Neither “present” nor “potential” requires construction, and the other claim terms are identical. See, e.g., Omega Eng'g, Inc. v. Raytek Corp., 334 F.3d 1314, 1334 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (“[T]he same claim term in the same patent . . . carries the same construed meaning.”).) Similarly, the claim language and the specification make clear that “operational status condition” refers to a status condition of the controller's operation. The specification explains that the controller sources a status condition signal to “reflect[] the actions being taken by the controller 11 and/or the other operational conditions being experienced by the controller 11.” (‘275 patent at 5:27-36.) It further defines an operational status condition to be “of the controller 11.” (Id. at 4:64-67.) In addition, it notes that “the controller 11 will have a plurality of potential operational status conditions” and, for example, “might have two or more of the following potential operational status conditions, ” each one representing an action taken or a condition experienced by the controller. (Id. at 4:6-45.)

         However, the Court does not need to construe this term because the parties do not appear to dispute its meaning. Chamberlain claims that the plain meaning of the term refers to operational status conditions of the controller. Defendants claim that the term needs to be construed to give it this meaning. The Court is confident that its full construction of Term 2 and its other claim constructions establish in context that the status condition is of the controller's operation. It thus declines to construe this sub-term, finding it to be redundant in the context of its ...


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