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LOCKWOOD v. AMERICAN AIRLINES

July 29, 1993

LAWRENCE B. LOCKWOOD, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC., Defendant.


ENRIGHT


The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM B. ENRIGHT

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

BACKGROUND

 This is a patent infringement action brought by plaintiff Lockwood against American Airlines, Inc. Lockwood is the inventor and owner of the two patents involved in this suit. Lockwood alleges that American infringes U.S. Patent No. 32, 115 ('115 patent) and U.S. Patent No. 4,567,359 ('359 Patent) by providing its SABREvision system to travel agents.

 The Lockwood patents relate to interactive, audiovisual systems and apparatus useful in computerized reservation systems. American's recent enhancement of its computerized "Sabre" reservation system, SABREvision, provides interactive visual presentation of information, e.g. descriptions of resorts, hotels and cruises beyond the traditional scheduling and prices.

 A. The '115 Patent

 The '115 patent is entitled "Self-Service Terminal." It claims a self-contained, transportable machine for promoting and dispensing goods and services. The Patent discloses a fully automated, self-service terminal for dispensing voice and video information, goods and printed documents, and for accepting orders and payments directly from customers by coins or credit cards, without the need for a live salesperson. The terminal is installed for direct access by prospective customers. It has a video display and a loudspeaker for presenting information to customers, a printer, a goods dispenser, a coin box and credit card reader for accepting payments, and a telephone for communicating with the staff of a remote central station. With the aid of the video display, the customer is able to interact with the system to select the offered goods and services. It was described by Lockwood's patent attorney as "an auto-mated teller machine . . . with the addition of an audio-visual display to give information about the product or service sold through the terminal."

 Lockwood alleges that American has infringed Claim 11 of the '115 patent.

 B. The '359 Patent

 The '359 patent claims a collection of similar machines interconnected through a computer network. The machines automatically dispense information, services and products to customers in a self-service fashion. The self-service information and sales terminals contain automation which creates, for example, a "factitious insurance agent" to interactively communicate with prospective customers, to collect customer information and to provide information to customers on various alternative insurance policies. If the customer decides to make a purchase, the terminal accepts the customer's credit card, institutes a credit check and, on approval, dispenses a policy.

 Lockwood claims that American has infringed independent Claim 1 and dependent Claims 2, 4 and 7.

 C. The American SABREvision System

 The Sabrevision system is a manually operated system in which a travel agent gathers sales information from a customer either in person or by telephone. The travel agent then uses a computer terminal access schedule, cost and availability information stored in the central Sabre computer. The travel agent may also access a stored library of still photographs of places of interest to travelers such as hotels, restaurants, and cruise ships, as well as maps of countries, cities and airports, and display these still images on the computer terminal screen. The travel agent then gives the information to the customer as if it had been locked up in the agent's library or travel reference books.

 If the customer decides to purchase a ticket, the travel agent solicits credit information or accepts cash payment from the customer. If a credit card is used, the travel agent must manually type in the credit information on the keyboard of the agent's computer terminal. Once credit is approved, the Sabre host computer commands a ticket printer at the travel agency to print a ticket which the travel agent delivers to the customer. The Sabrevision system accepts no information directly from the customer.

 American moves for summary judgment on non-infringement grounds. In short, American's argument is that the Lockwood patents do not cover the Sabrevision system because the claims in each patent recite a type of self-contained, self-service computerized vending machine designed to replace travel agents or other sales personnel through advanced automation. In contrast, American argues that the Sabrevision system is not self-contained and is not sufficiently automated to replace travel agents. To the contrary, American argues it is an in-office computer system used exclusively by travel agents.

 Additionally, American argues that Lockwood is estopped from arguing that the Sabrevision system is "equivalent" to that which the patents may cover. It argues that the arguments Lockwood made when prosecuting the patents are inconsistent with the equivalency arguments Lockwood now makes.

 Lockwood argues that summary judgment must be denied because there are material issues of fact relating to the definition of several of the terms in the claims.

 DISCUSSION

 I. STANDARD

 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment against a party which "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of proving that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that judgment may be entered as a matter of law. Richards v. Neilsen Freight Lines, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). "[A] party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment . . . 'must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)) (footnotes omitted). The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor. Id. at 255.

 Claim construction is a question of law which may be resolved on summary judgment. Intellicall, Inc. v. Phonometrics, Inc., 952 F.2d 1384, 1387 (Fed. Cir. 1992). The words in a claim should be given their ordinary meaning unless it appears that the inventor used them differently. See ZMI Corp. v. Cardiac Resuscitator Corp., 844 F.2d 1576, 1579 (Fed. Cir. 1988). It is Lockwood's burden on this motion to come forward with sufficient evidence in support of his proposed claim construction to warrant a trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250-252; Intellicall, 952 F.2d at 1387-88.

 II. ALLEGED INFRINGEMENT OF THE '115 PATENT

 A. Literal Infringement

 Infringement is found only when each and every limitation of a patent claim is met by the accused product exactly or by a substantial equivalent. See, e.g. Pennwalt Corp. v. Durand-Wayland, Inc., 833 F.2d 931, 934-36 (Fed. Cir. 1987).

 This court agrees with American that Claim 11 contains several elements which are lacking in the ...


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