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

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

May 23, 2018

THE CHAMBERLAIN GROUP, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
TECHTRONIC INDUSTRIES CO., LTD., TECHTRONIC INDUSTRIES Judge Harry D. Leinenweber 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, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Plaintiff Chamberlain Group, Inc. (“Chamberlain”) won a jury verdict against 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, “TTI”), in which the jury found that TTI willfully infringed two of Chamberlain's patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 7, 224, 275 (“the ‘275 patent”) and 7, 635, 966 (“the ‘966 patent”). Both parties have filed post-trial motions. This opinion presumes familiarity with the case's background, as described in this Court's previous rulings. (See, e.g., Dkt. 104 (preliminary injunction opinion); 2017 WL 368027 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 23, 2017) (contempt opinion); Chamberlain Grp., Inc. v. Techtronic Indus. Co., No. 16 C 6097, 2017 WL 1304559 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 7, 2017) (claim construction opinion); Chamberlain Grp., Inc. v. Techtronic Indus. Co., No. 16 C 6097, 2017 WL 3205772 (N.D. Ill. June 28, 2017) (order denying motion to transfer venue).)

         I. TTI's Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law

         The Court “should render judgment as a matter of law when a party has been fully heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 149 (2000) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)). This is a stringent standard under which the Court “construe[s] the facts strictly in favor of the party that prevailed at trial.” Schandelmeier-Bartels v. Chi. Park Dist., 634 F.3d 372, 376 (7th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). On a motion for JMOL, “the court does not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence, ” id., though the Court must “disregard all evidence favorable to the moving party that the jury is not required to believe.” Reeves, 530 U.S. at 151. The court leaves the jury's factual findings “undisturbed as long as they are supported by substantial evidence, ” i.e., “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Akamai Techs., Inc. v. Cable & Wireless Internet Servs., Inc., 344 F.3d 1186, 1192 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)).

         In its renewed Motion for JMOL, TTI argues it is entitled to judgment because: (1) the asserted ‘275 patent claims are directed to ineligible subject matter under Alice Corp. Pty. v. CLS Bank Int'l, 134 S.Ct. 2347 (2014); (2) the ‘275 patent was anticipated or rendered obvious by prior art; (3) TTI's products do not literally infringe the ‘275 patent; (4) the doctrine of equivalents does not apply here, and the jury should not have considered it; (5) TTI does not induce infringement of the ‘275 patent, (6) TTI does not willfully infringe the ‘275 patent; (7) the ‘966 patent was anticipated or rendered obvious by prior art; (8) TTI does not literally infringe the ‘966 patent; (9) TTI does not induce infringement of the ‘966 patent; (10) TTI does not willfully infringe the ‘966 patent; and (11) Chamberlain failed to prove damages. The Court takes each argument in turn.

         A. Ineligibility of Asserted ‘275 Patent Claims

         Anyone who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof” may obtain a patent. 35 U.S.C. § 101. But because patent protection does not extend to claims that monopolize the “building blocks of human ingenuity, ” claims directed to laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patent eligible. Alice, 134 S.Ct. at 2354. The Supreme Court instructs courts to distinguish between those claims directed to patent-ineligible subject matter and those that “integrate the building blocks into something more.” Id. To do so, courts follow the two-step Alice framework. Id. First, a court must “determine whether the claims at issue are directed to a patent-ineligible concept.” Id. at 2355. If they are not so directed, the claims satisfy § 101, and the inquiry ends. Visual Memory LLC v. NVIDIA Corp., 867 F.3d 1253, 1262 (Fed. Cir. 2017). But if the claims are so directed, the court proceeds to step two and “examine[s] the elements of the claim to determine whether it contains an ‘inventive concept' sufficient to ‘transform' the claimed abstract idea into a patent-eligible application.” Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. v. LG Elecs., Inc., 880 F.3d 1356, 1361 (Fed. Cir. 2018) (quoting Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc., 566 U.S. 66, 72, 79 (2012)).

         To begin the Alice analysis, the court must “articulate what the claims are directed to with enough specificity to ensure the step one inquiry is meaningful.” Id. (quoting Thales Visionix Inc. v. United States, 850 F.3d 1343, 1347 (Fed. Cir. 2017)). Further, “claims are considered in their entirety to ascertain whether their character as a whole is directed to excluded subject matter.” Internet Patents Corp. v. Active Network, Inc., 790 F.3d 1343, 1346 (Fed. Cir. 2015). The court “look[s] to whether the claims . . . focus on a specific means or method that improves the relevant technology or are instead directed to a result or effect that itself is the abstract idea and merely invoke generic processes and machinery.” Smart Sys. Innovations, LLC v. Chi. Transit Auth., 873 F.3d 1364, 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (quoting McRO, Inc. v. Bandai Namco Games Am. Inc., 837 F.3d 1299, 1313 (Fed. Cir. 2016)).

         Here, TTI claims that wireless transmission of content is an abstract idea, and that the asserted ‘275 patent claims are directed to nothing more. First off, the cases TTI cites in support of this proposition do not hold that wireless transmission is an abstract idea. Affinity Labs of Tex., LLC v. DIRECTV, LLC, 838 F.3d 1253, 1258 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (holding that the concept of providing out-of-region access to regional broadcast content is an abstract idea), cert. denied sub nom. Affinity Labs of Tex., LLC v. DIRECTTV, LLC, 137 S.Ct. 1596 (2017); Affinity Labs of Tex., LLC v. Amazon.com Inc., 838 F.3d 1266, 1271-72 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (holding that the concept of delivering user-selected media content to portable devices is an abstract idea), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 1596 (2017). And second, the Federal Circuit has warned against the dangers of over-abstraction, Core Wireless, 880 F.3d at 1361 (“[W]e must be mindful that ‘all inventions at some level embody, use, reflect, rest upon, or apply laws of nature, natural phenomena, or abstract ideas.'” (quoting Mayo, 566 U.S. at 71)), and disapproved of parties' efforts to render abstract objects that are not, id. at 1362 (“The asserted claims in this case are directed to an improved user interface for computing devices, not to the abstract idea of an index, as argued by LG on appeal.”). Here, the ‘275 patent claims are not directed to the transmission of data, but “to garage door openers that wirelessly transmit status information.” The Chamberlain Grp., Inc. v. Techtronic Indus. Co., 676 Fed.Appx. 980, 982 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (appeal from this Court's initial claim construction). Having identified what the ‘275 patent claims are directed to, the Court must now determine whether this object is an abstract idea.

         “The Supreme Court has not established a definitive rule to determine what constitutes an ‘abstract idea' sufficient to satisfy the first step of the [Alice] inquiry, ” and as such the appropriate analysis “compare[s] claims at issue to those claims already found to be directed to an abstract idea in previous cases.” Enfish, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., 822 F.3d 1327, 1334 (Fed. Cir. 2016). Post-Alice decisions have found ineligible: paying for mass transit rides with a credit card, Smart Sys. Innovations, LLC v. Chi. Transit Auth., 873 F.3d 1364, 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2017); “the abstract idea of testing operators of any kind of moving equipment for any kind of physical or mental impairment, ” Vehicle Intelligence & Safety LLC v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, 635 Fed.Appx. 914, 917 (Fed. Cir. 2015); the “abstract idea for increasing sales implemented via ‘some unspecified, generic computer, '” DDR Holdings, LLC v. Hotels.com, L.P., 773 F.3d 1245, 1266 (Fed. Cir. 2015); creating a “transaction performance guaranty” over an unspecified network, buySAFE, Inc. v. Google, Inc., 765 F.3d 1350, 1355 (Fed. Cir. 2014); “offering media content in exchange for viewing an advertisement, ” Ultramercial, Inc. v. Hulu, LLC, 772 F.3d 709, 715-16 (Fed. Cir. 2014); the abstract idea of a conversion chart, Tech. Dev. & Licensing, LLC v. Comcast Corp., 258 F.Supp.3d 884, 887 (N.D. Ill. 2017); and the routine and conventional activity of making and storing lists on a microprocessor, Tech. Dev. &, Licensing, LLC v. Gen. Instrument Corp., 225 F.Supp.3d 729, 735 (N.D. Ill. 2016).

         Chamberlain, of course, argues the ‘275 patent claims are not directed to abstract ideas as in the cases above and should pass muster under § 101. In doing so, Chamberlain relies in large part on Chamberlain Group, Inc. v. Linear LLC, 114 F.Supp.3d 614 (N.D. Ill. 2015). In Linear, Chamberlain claimed the defendant infringed its GDO patents (though not the patents asserted here), and the defendant moved to dismiss on the grounds that the claims were not directed to patent-eligible subject matter. Id. at 621. The court described the relevant patent claims as directed to “opening and closing a movable barrier, (e.g., garage door) using a computer network for communication between the monitor or operator (including a controller), and movable barrier, ” id. at 626, and held this to be eligible subject matter in part because the claims “ha[d] physical and tangible components that are directed to more than performance of an abstract idea, ” id. at 625. The court also held that the asserted claims were directed to a technological improvement because they integrated a GDO and a network. Id. at 626-27.

         Both of these rationales have met with disagreement, however. First, another court in this district observed that Linear did not benefit from the guidance of the Federal Circuit's later decision in Vehicle Intelligence & Safety LLC v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, 635 Fed.Appx. 914, 920 (Fed. Cir. 2015), which demonstrated that “the mere presence of a ‘real-world, physical' purpose, such as controlling equipment, does not show that the claims do not preempt an abstract idea.” Joao Control & Monitoring Sys., LLC v. Telular Corp., 173 F.Supp.3d 717, 729 (N.D. Ill. 2016) (characterizing Vehicle Intelligence). Second, an out-of-circuit district court opined that “[t]he alleged technological improvement in [Linear] amounts to nothing more than operating an existing device from a remote location over a network, ” which cannot suffice for a “technological improvement.” ChargePoint, Inc. v. SemaConnect, Inc., No. CV 17 3717, 2018 WL 1471685, at *11 (D. Md. Mar. 23, 2018).

         Neither of these critiques compels the Court to find patent-ineligible subject matter, however. The Vehicle Intelligence decision does not cite Linear nor express any opinion on it. And TTI itself points out that Linear “involved a different Chamberlain patent . . . that solved a different problem and recited limitations different from those in the claims asserted here.” (TTI's Reply in Supp. of Summary Judgment at 1, Dkt. 546.) Unlike Joao's characterization of the claims in Linear, the claims asserted here are not directed to an abstract idea that merely happens to make use of physical equipment. And as for the Chargepoint critique, the technological improvements of the asserted ‘275 patent claims are not limited to the introduction of network connectivity. Rather, the asserted ‘275 claims are directed to a particular improvement over prior art which uses a particular manner of sending and experiencing data. This particularity distinction matters. In Core Wireless, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court's patent-eligibility finding for claims directed to “an improved user interface for computing devices.” 880 F.3d at 1362. The court explained: “Although the generic idea of summarizing information certainly existed prior to the invention, these claims are directed to a particular manner of summarizing and presenting information in electronic devices.” Id. at 1362 (emphasis added). Concerning this “particular manner, ” the court noted that the claims stated specific limitations which “disclose[d] a specific manner of displaying a limited set of information to the user, rather than using conventional user interface methods to display a generic index on a computer. . . . [T]hese claims recite a specific improvement over prior systems.” Id. at 1363. Indeed, the Federal Circuit has repeatedly found claims directed to patent-eligible subject matter when those claims “focused on various improvements of systems.” Id. at 1362; see, e.g., Enfish, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., 822 F.3d 1327, 1336, 1338 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (claims reciting a self-referential table for a computer database directed to a particular improvement in the computer's functionality); Thales Visionix Inc. v. United States, 850 F.3d 1343, 1345, 1349 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (claims reciting an improved method of utilizing particularly configured sensors to determine position and orientation of an object on a moving platform, which relied on a particular method of utilizing raw data which eliminated complications inherent in conventional methods); Visual Memory LLC v. NVIDIA Corp., 867 F.3d 1253, 1258-59 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (claims reciting programmable operational characteristics that provided flexibility not possessed by the prior art).

         Thus, the Federal Circuit's case law suggests that particular and unconventional improvements to prior art are § 101-eligible. Such guideposts protect against overbroad patents preempting “the use of the underlying [abstract] ideas.” See, Alice, 134 S.Ct. at 2354; Accenture Global Servs., GmbH v. Guidewire Software, Inc., 728 F.3d 1336, 1341 (Fed. Cir. 2013) (expressing in pre-Alice opinion that “[i]n the case of abstractness, the court must determine whether the claim poses any risk of preempting an abstract idea.”) (citation and internal quotation omitted); accord Joao, 173 F.Supp.3d at 728 (expressing same).

         Chamberlain's ‘256 patent claims recite such particular and unconventional improvements. The moveable barrier operator (“MBO, ” often used interchangeably in the briefing with garage door opener, or “GDO”) taught by the ‘275 patent does not merely receive transmissions, as did MBOs in the prior art; instead, Chamberlain's MBO experiences-via an onboard controller -status conditions and then transmits them to other devices. This improvement eliminated the need for a “physical interface . . . to support numerous potentially utilized peripheral devices, ” thus cutting out “undesired additional cost when part of the [otherwise, necessarily installed] interface goes unused in a given installation.” (‘275 Patent 1:55-63, Dkt. 1-2).) In addition, the improvements taught by the ‘275 patent brought new compatibility to the MBO; the prior art, by contrast, “fail[ed] to permit compatible support of a given peripheral, ” and precluded users from coupling their prior-art MBO with a new function “not specifically supported by a given [MBO].” (Id. at 2:4-16.)

         Thus, contrary to TTI's assertions, the ‘275 patent claims are unlike the ones in Vehicle Intelligence, which merely specified the abstract idea of testing operators of moving equipment for impairment and indicated that such testing could be conducted more quickly, accurately, and reliably by using an “expert system” that the claims failed to define. Vehicle Intelligence, 635 Fed.Appx. at 917. Rather, the ‘275 patent claims better fit the mold in Visual Memory LLC v. NVIDIA Corp., 867 F.3d 1253, 1259 (Fed. Cir. 2017), where the Federal Circuit held claims patent-eligible which were directed to an improved computer memory system with programmable operational characteristics, which “provided flexibility that prior art processors did not possess, and obviated the need to design a separate memory system for each type of processor.” Core Wireless, 880 F.3d at 1362 (characterizing the findings in Visual Memory) (emphasis added). The ‘275 patent provides exactly this enhanced flexibility, which transcends prior art conventions. Finally, the particularity of the claims- specifically, that the controller must experience the status conditions-diminishes the preemption concerns that undergird the Alice inquiry. 134 S.Ct. at 2354.

         The asserted claims are directed to patent-eligible subject matter under § 101, so the Alice analysis ends before we reach step two. Elec. Power Grp., LLC v. Alstom S.A., 830 F.3d 1350, 1353 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (citing Alice, 134 S.Ct. at 2355). TTI's JMOL Motion on § 101 ineligibility is denied.

         B. Invalidity of the ‘275 Patent

         1. Anticipation

         Under 35 U.S.C. § 102, a patent is invalid if a prior art reference discloses, either explicitly or inherently, every limitation of the claimed invention. Liebel-Flarsheim Co. v. Medrad, Inc., 481 F.3d 1371, 1381 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate if no reasonable jury could find, as the one here did, that the prior art did not anticipate, and thus invalidate, the patent. See, Krippelz v. Ford Motor Co., 667 F.3d 1261, 1268 (Fed. Cir. 2012) (applying Seventh Circuit JMOL standard). As it argued at trial, TTI contends that the Menard PCT prior art anticipated claims 1, 5, and 15 of the ‘275 patent.

         These claims recite:

1. A movable barrier operator comprising:
a controller having a plurality of potential operational status conditions defined, at least in part, by a plurality of operating states;
a movable barrier interface that is operably coupled to the controller;
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: 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
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.
5. The movable barrier operator of claim 1 wherein the plurality of operating states includes at least one of:
moving a movable barrier in a first direction;
moving the movable barrier in a second direction;
reversing movement of the movable barrier;
halting movement of the movable barrier;
detecting a likely presence of an obstacle to movement of the movable barrier;
detecting a likely proximal presence of a human;
receiving a wireless remote control signal;
receiving a wireline remote control signal;
receiving a learning mode initiation signal;
a lighting status change;
a vacation mode status change;
detecting a likely proximal presence of a vehicle;
detecting the identification of a proximal vehicle; and
receiving an operating parameter alteration signal.

         15. The method of claim 14 wherein detecting at least one predetermined condition includes detecting at least one of:

moving a movable barrier in a first direction;
moving the movable barrier in a second direction
reversing movement of the movable barrier;
halting movement of the movable barrier;
detecting a likely presence of an obstacle to movement of the movable barrier;
detecting a likely proximal presence of a human;
receiving a wireless remote control signal;
receiving a wireline remote control signal;
receiving a learning mode initiation signal;
a lighting status change;
a vacation mode status change;
detecting a likely proximal presence of a vehicle; and
receiving an operating parameter alternation signal.

(‘275 Patent 8:5-21, 8:30-46, 9:39-55, Dkt. 1-2.) Claim 1 identifies a movable barrier operator comprising both a controller and a transmitter. (Id. at 8:5-21.) But TTI did not present any evidence that the Menard GDO 1000-as opposed to an add-on module to that GDO-contained a controller or wireless transmitter. Indeed, Chamberlain's technical expert, Dr. Rhyne, presented evidence showing that the Menard GDO 1000 and the system 10000 (the aforementioned module) each have their own, separate controllers and power supplies. (Id. 1297:16-1299:8.) In response to this, TTI emphasizes that the Chamberlain claims do not require the controller to be housed in the GDO's head unit. (See, Chamberlain's Resp. to JMOL Mot. at 9, Dkt. 651 (Chamberlain admitting its asserted claims do not require “the controller, the movable barrier interface, and the wireless status condition transmitter to be located in a single housing.”).) But Chamberlain explains that the key limitation in its claims is not whether the controller and transmitter share a housing, but instead whether they are part of the GDO at all, instead of-as in Menard's system 10000-part of a separate module that can send signals to the GDO. Chamberlain presented evidence of this distinction through Dr. Rhyne's testimony:

A: [T]he . . . Menard module . . . has a separate module that you add on top of the garage door and, as a result, the controller in the module is what sends out the state signal, not the controller in the GDO.
. . .
Q: Dr. Rhyne, you were asked a couple questions about whether the Menard module, that modular system we discussed, system 10000, can send control signals to the GDO 1000. In your opinion, is that -- does that make the module in Menard a movable barrier operator under the Court's constructions?
A: No. It's not the movable barrier operator in Figure 37. That movable barrier operator is the GDO 1000 down in the bottom. The top guy is not a movable barrier operator.
Q: And can a smartphone also send control signals to open and close a door on a garage door opener?
A: Yes.
Q: And is a smartphone a movable barrier operator?
A: Not in that sense, no, any more than the pushbutton switch, the 6500 is a movable barrier operator.

         (Rhyne Tr. 1310:18-21, 1374:9-22.) This is substantial evidence that Chamberlain's asserted claim 1 claims limitations not present in the prior art, so JMOL is not appropriate as to TTI's anticipation argument as to claim 1.

         As for claims 5 and 15, Chamberlain contends that JMOL is not appropriate because both claims recite a limitation that is not disclosed in the Menard prior art. Specifically, claim 5 depends from claim 1's recitation of “a controller having a plurality of potential operational status conditions defined, at least in part, by a plurality of operating states, ” and claim 15 depends from claim 14's recitation of “a movable barrier operator detecting at least one predetermined condition as corresponds to a present operational status defined, at least in part, by at least two operating states[.]” (See, Rhyne Tr. 1309:21-22; Foley Tr. 871:5-8 (both citations describing dependent relationships of claims).) In contrast, the Menard prior art does not explain how its signals are defined:

Q. Do [Dr. Foley's slides concerning the Menard prior art] show a condition defined by a plurality of states as claimed?
A. They show things that the Menard module can report like whether the door is open, closed, or partially closing, freezing, normal, overheating on the temperature of the unit, but it doesn't - there's no disclosure of how those things are defined, and there are other ways to do it than having states that would define those conditions.
Q. Can you provide us one example?
A. A good one would be door position. You can report the number of times the motor has turned, so the rotations. And every rotation incrementally pulls the door up or, if it's going the other way, it lets it down a little bit. And then you can leave it up to the receiver at the other end to decide how many rotations is it going to take to get the door open, how many is it going to take to get the door to close. And if it sees the rotations coming at a different speed, it knows that it's partially closing. Those are not reporting specific states in the message itself.

         (Rhyne Tr. 1307:16-1308:9.) Simply put, the jury heard substantial evidence that while the Menard PCT status conditions could be defined in a number of ways, Chamberlain's ‘275 claims limit its status conditions to one type of definition. Because that limitation appears only in the asserted claims, the Menard prior art does not anticipate them. See, Liebel-Flarsheim Co., 481 F.3d at 1381.

         2. Obviousness

         TTI also contends that the Cohen prior art renders the asserted claims obvious. Under 35 U.S.C. § 103, “[o]bviousness is a question of law based on underlying findings of fact.” Wyers v. Master Lock Co., 616 F.3d 1231, 1237 (Fed. Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). The underlying factual inquiries include: (1) the scope and content of the prior art, (2) the differences between the prior art and the claims at issue, (3) the level of ordinary skill in the art, and (4) any relevant secondary considerations, such as commercial success, long felt but unsolved needs, and the failure of others. Id. (citing Graham v. John Deere Co., 383 U.S. 1, 17-18 (1966)).

         TTI contends that a person of ordinary skill in the art would have been motivated to combine the Menard PCT door-position prior art discussed earlier with the Cohen prior art, which TTI maintains teaches the signal format recited in the ‘275 patent. But at trial, Chamberlain presented evidence showing that the Cohen prior art does not claim sending status conditions defined by two or more states. (Rhyne Tr. 1312:3-9 (“All [the Cohen reference] does is it talks about a state signal that indicates in a way that is not described that the door is opening, closing, opening, or closing. And as I said, there are certainly ways to do it that doesn't involve sending a state -- a status condition signal that gives you two states as, for example, that rotational information as an alternative.”).) Further, Dr. Rhyne explained that just like the Menard prior art, the Cohen reference teaches an add-on modular device, meaning that once again a controller in the module sends out the signal-not the controller in the GDO itself. (Rhyne Tr. 1310:11-21.) Because, according to Dr. Rhyne's testimony, this combination does not teach the limitations of the ‘275 patent claims, the jury heard substantial evidence supporting a finding of nonobviousness. See, Hearing Components, Inc. v. Shure Inc., 600 F.3d 1357, 1374 (Fed. Cir. 2010), abrogated on other grounds by Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 2120 (2014).

         C. Literal Infringement of the ‘275 Patent

         This argument is nothing new. TTI moved for pre-trial summary judgment of non-infringement of the ‘275 patent, and the Court denied that motion. (June 21, 2017, Order, Dkt. 397.) TTI posits once more that the Ryobi signal does not “correspond[] to a present operational status condition defined, at least in part, by at least two from the two or more operational conditions being experienced by the controller, ” as recited in claims 1 and 24. Chamberlain, 2017 WL 1304559 (emphasis added). According to TTI, this is so because the Ryobi controller cannot simultaneously experience two operational conditions given that-in TTI's reading-such conditions are mutually exclusive, e.g., “[t]he controller cannot simultaneously be experiencing door open, closed, opening, closing, or fault.” (Mem. in Supp. at 18, Dkt. 618.) But as the Court has already noted, this contention misses the mark: “[M]any (if not all) GDO components contain multiple potential but mutually exclusive positions or states, making it unclear how a transmitter as [TTI] conceive[s] [is recited by the ‘275 patent] would even be operative.” (June 21, 2017, Order at 4, Dkt. 397.) In short, TTI's renewed argument depends upon a narrow reading of “operational status condition” which does not square with this Court's earlier construction of the term as encompassing status conditions of other categories of information the controller may experience (for example, light on/off, vacation mode on, etc.). (See, id. at 5-6 (“[a present] status condition [may] be defined (or determined, or its meaning clarified) by multiple operational conditions being experienced by the controller (for example, lights on in tandem with, as a result of, or in response to the garage door's opening, a sensor's detection of a proximal vehicle, or a user's flipping the vacation mode switch).”).)

         Claim 1 recites a transmitter that transmits “a status condition signal that: corresponds to a present operational status condition defined, at least in part, by at least two operating states from the plurality of operating states . . .” (‘275 Patent 8:13-17, Dkt. 1-2.) At trial, Chamberlain's evidence demonstrated that the Ryobi GDOs (both the GD200 and the revised, GD200A) do exactly that. Dr. Rhyne explained that in both versions of the Ryobi GDO, the device “send[s] a signal corresponding to a present operational status condition.” (Rhyne Tr. 288:4-5.) Such a signal (for example, “light on”) is defined both by the status condition it carries and the potential, but not present, condition(s) it necessarily precludes (in this example, “light off”). (See, June 21, 2017, Order at 4, Dkt. 397 (indicating that Court's Markman order did not limit the operational conditions that are “experienced by the controller and capable of defining its operational status condition(s)” to only potential or to only present status conditions).) Dr. Rhyne explained as much to the jury:

[N]otice this light state [in the Ryobi electronic system architecture and design specifications]. This is the status condition on the light, and it's got two states. Remember, we had to have a plurality of states, two or more: Off and on. This is the status condition for the door. It's got five states: Closed, open, closing, opening, or a fault. . . . [Y]ou can see here are those five states that are available. So I've got a status for the door defined by five possible states, the same words [as in the ‘275 patent].

         (Rhyne Tr. 275:15-20, 277:14-17.) Chamberlain presented the jury with substantial evidence that accorded with the Court's claim constructions showing that the device taught by the ‘275 patent and the Ryobi GDOs send signals defined in the same way. A reasonable jury hearing this testimony could find literal infringement, so the Court will not grant TTI's JMOL and vacate that finding.

         D. Doctrine of Equivalents Infringement of the ‘275 Patent

         “The doctrine of equivalents allows the patentee to claim those insubstantial alterations that were not captured in drafting the original patent claim but which could be created through trivial changes.” AquaTex Indus., Inc. v. Techniche Sols., 419 F.3d 1374, 1382 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (quoting Festo Corp. v. Shoketsu Kinzoku Kogyo Kabushiki Co., 535 U.S. 722, 733 (2002)). Here, TTI marshals two arguments against the jury's finding that TTI infringed the ‘275 patent under the doctrine of equivalents. First, TTI contends that because Chamberlain narrowed its claims during prosecution, it is estopped from arguing the doctrine of equivalents. Second, TTI argues that even if Chamberlain is not so estopped, Chamberlain nevertheless failed to present the jury with substantial evidence on the equivalents theory. Neither argument is persuasive.

         1. Prosecution ...


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