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LOCKHEED MARTIN CORP. v. SPACE SYSTEMS/LORAL

March 7, 2000

LOCKHEED MARTIN CORP., PLAINTIFF,
V.
SPACE SYSTEMS/LORAL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Illston, U.S. District Judge.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT OF NON-INFRINGEMENT OF U.S. PATENT NO. 4,084,772

On February 25, 2000, the Court heard argument on defendant's motion for summary judgment of non-infringement of U.S. Patent No. 4,084,772. Having considered the arguments of counsel and the papers submitted, and for the reasons set out below, the Court hereby GRANTS defendant's motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Lockheed Martin Corporation ("Lockheed") alleges infringement of United States Patent No. 4,084,772 (the "'772 patent"), entitled "Roll/Yaw Body Steering For Momentum Biased Spacecraft," by defendant Space Systems/Loral, Inc. ("SSL"). The '772 patent claims a system and method for reducing the pointing errors of a satellite that has entered into an inclined orbit by varying the speed of the satellite's transverse momentum wheel in a sinusoidal manner. Although Lockheed had alleged that ten different types of SSL satellites infringe the '772 patent, it now concedes that six of these types do not infringe. Because the four remaining types of satellites all use the same momentum wheel configuration and inclined orbit software, the focus of this action has been narrowed to the first of these four, which is the Intelsat VII satellite.

Most communications satellites operate optimally in a geosynchronous, equatorial orbit, circling the earth once every 24 hours in the equatorial plane and thus remaining in the same position relative to the earth's surface. Such positioning allows for a consistent relationship between the satellite and a transmitter on earth, from which the satellite receives and relays radio signals. It is essential that a satellite maintain a proper attitude, or orientation, so that its communication devices (e.g., antennae) are properly directed towards the earth. Satellites are subject to various destabilizing forces, such as gravitational effects from the sun and moon, or even the force exerted by light from the sun, which all serve to disturb ideal orbit and attitude. For example, the orbit of a geostationary satellite acquires an inclination at the rate of about 0.8 degrees a year due to the gravitational forces of the sun and moon. These forces cause the satellite to drift out of its orbit in the equatorial plane and into an inclined orbit, which in turn causes a periodic attitude error.

To maintain a proper attitude, most satellites employ at least one momentum wheel powered by an electric motor. A spinning momentum wheel creates angular momentum, or "stiffness," which provides a torquing force that alters the attitude of the satellite. Thus, by careful control, a proper attitude for the satellite can be maintained. The method and apparatus claimed by the '772 patent provide for a satellite momentum wheel that is used to correct for the natural periodic pointing error of inclined orbit satellites. This is accomplished by altering the speed of the wheel, which in turn adjusts satellite attitude and counteracts the attitude error introduced by the inclined orbit.

Case History

On August 19, 1998 the Court issued its Order Partially Granting Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, which construed a disputed claim term, granted SSL's motion for summary judgment of non-infringement of claim 7, and denied SSL's motion for summary judgment of non-infringement of claims 1-6. The term "hi-directional rotation," which is found in claim 1, was construed to require that the rotating transverse wheel accelerate in one direction, slow down to a speed of zero, and then rotate in the opposite direction.

On March 11, 1999 the Court issued its Claim Construction Order, which construed another disputed claim term and clarified other contested claim construction matters. The term "varies sinusoidally," which is also found in claim 1, was construed to mean a variation in a sine-shaped curve that passes through zero. The Court also found that this term inherently excludes any other added components that might cause the transverse wheel speed not to pass through zero. The Court's earlier construction of "bi-directional rotation" was reaffirmed, and the Court declined to adopt an additional proposed limitation that the wheel be capable of "operating through zero in a controllable manner."

After subsequent discovery, defendant SSL now moves again for summary judgment of non-infringement. Because the Court has already held that claim 7 is not infringed, and because claims 2-6 are dependent upon claim 1, a determination of non-infringement of claim 1 would be dis-positive. The issues presently before this Court are whether elements (b) and (f) of claim 1 may be found in the accused devices either literally or through the doctrine of equivalents.

LEGAL STANDARD

1. Summary Judgment

Noninfringement is an issue of fact. See Suntiger, Inc. v. Scientific Research Funding Group, 189 F.3d 1327, 1335 (Fed. Cir. 1999). A motion for summary judgment may be granted when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(c). See also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Summary judgment is as appropriate in a patent case as in any other case in which no genuine issue of material fact remains. See Barmag Barmer Maschinenfabrik AG v. Murata Mach., Ltd., 731 F.2d 831, 835 (Fed.Cir. 1984). Procedural matters not unique to patent law are decided by applying the law of the relevant regional circuit. See Transmatic, Inc. v. Gulton Indus., Inc., 58 F.3d 1270, 1278 (Fed.Cir. 1995).

It is initially the burden of the party moving for summary judgment to establish that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is therefore entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See British Airways Bd. v. Boeing Co., 585 F.2d 946, 951 (9th Cir. 1978). If the moving party meets its initial burden of identifying for the court those portions of the materials on file that it believes demonstrate the absence of any genuine issues of material fact, then the burden of production shifts so that the non-moving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir, 1987) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. at 2553). To carry this burden, the nonmoving party must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence is insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury ...


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