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PERSISTENCE SOFTWARE, INC. v. OBJECT PEOPLE INC.

December 22, 2000

PERSISTENCE SOFTWARE, INC., PLAINTIFF,
V.
THE OBJECT PEOPLE INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

The motion of defendants The Object People, Inc. and The Object People (U.S.) Inc. (collectively referred to as "defendants" or "TOP") for summary judgment came on for hearing on December 13, 2000, before this court, the Honorable Phyllis J. Hamilton presiding. Defendants appeared by their counsel Michael J. Bettinger. Plaintiff Persistence Software, Inc. ("Persistence") appeared by its counsel L.J. Chris Martiniak. Having carefully reviewed the parties' papers and considered their arguments and the relevant legal authority, and good cause appearing, the court hereby GRANTS summary judgment for the reasons stated below.

INTRODUCTION

The present case stems from alleged patent infringement. Persistence alleges that defendants infringed a number of its software patents. Specifically, Persistence alleges that defendants infringed United States Patent No. 5,615,362 ("the '362 patent") and United States Patent No. 5,706,506 ("the '506 patent").*fn1 Both patents are entitled "Method and Apparatus for Managing Relational Data in an Object Cache." The '362 patent contains at least 11 claims, numbers 1-7 and 11 are at issue in the present litigation. The '506 patent contains at least 14 claims, numbers 1, 4, 6 and 12-14 are at issue in the present litigation.

The software at issue in the subject patents provides a method and an apparatus for accessing and managing information stored in relational databases while using object-oriented applications. Object-oriented applications, such as reservation programs for airlines, are software programs that use objects containing both data (e.g., a passenger's name) and the functional behavior to be performed by the application (e.g., seat booking). Prior to the developments contained in the subject inventions, users of object-oriented applications were not able to access data stored in relational databases and were not able to store the data used in the programs in relational databases.

BACKGROUND

In the Spring of 1990, Brian Skinner, a computer programer working for Light. house Design ("Lighthouse"), designed software program that provided a system which enabled users of object-oriented applications to store and access the data used in said applications in relational databases. The software program was called "Exploder." Shortly thereafter, Skinner left Lighthouse. Lighthouse, however, retained the Exploder.

In early 1991, Nippon Steel Corporation ("Nippon") offered to make an investment in the Exploder. As a result, Jonathon Schwartz, Lighthouse's founder, Chris Keene, Derek Henninger, and Richard Jensen formed Persistence (initially named Fulcrum Innovations, Inc.) to "commercialize the Exploder prototype."

Shortly thereafter, Chris Keene contacted Skinner to help translate the program from the computer language Objective-C to C ; the latter is compatible with the Sun workstation. The translation was completed around November of 1991. While the Exploder software was now in C , no design changes were made. Accordingly, the translated Exploder was the same as the original Exploder created by Skinner.

By January of 1992, Persistence developed both a user's manual and functional specifications for the Exploder prototype. By March of 1992, Persistence had changed the name of the software from the Exploder to Persistence. In addition, around this time, Persistence began marketing its software. In connection with its marketing efforts, Persistence attended the Object World Trade Show on July 21, 1992 and further advertised its software.

Persistence's marketing efforts paid off. By July 31, 1992, Persistence had entered into contracts with Du Pont and Anderson Consulting. Said contracts provided a license to Du Pont and Anderson, respectively, for the beta version of the Persistence software in exchange for $10,000. On August 17, 1992, Persistence shipped the beta versions to Du Pont and Anderson.

From August 17, 1992, until approximately March of 1993, Persistence continued to work on the software, fixing bugs brought to its attention by Du Pont and Anderson and adding enhancements to the software.

On August 3, 1993, Persistence filed the applications for the '362 and '506 patents. Henninger, Jensen, and Keene were the listed inventors of the software.

DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue as to material facts and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R.Civ.P. 56. Material facts are those that might affect the outcome of the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is "genuine" if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See id. The court may not weigh the evidence, and is required to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See id.

A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion, and of identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery responses that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Cetotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Where the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party can prevail merely by pointing out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. See id. If the moving party meets its initial burden, the opposing party must then set forth specific facts showing that there is some genuine issue for trial in order to defeat the motion. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Regardless of whether plaintiff or defendant is the moving party, each party must "establish the existence of the elements essential to [its] case, and on which [it] will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

B. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

Defendants contend that the claims at issue in the subject patents are invalid and unenforceable. Specifically, they argue that the on-sale bar of 35 U.S.C. ยง 102 (b) renders the patent claims at issue invalid. Defendants also argue that the public disclosure bar renders the patent claims at issue invalid. Finally, they argue that Persistence's omission of Skinner's contributions to the invention in its ...


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