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Vasudevan Software, Inc v. International Business Machines Corporation and Oracle Corporation

January 20, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Seeborg United States District Judge



Plaintiff Vasudevan Software, Inc. contends that defendants International Business Machines Corporation and Oracle Corporation (collectively "defendants") infringe three patents it owns. The 21 patents-in-suit are United States Patent Nos. 6,877,006 (the '006 Patent), 7,167,864 (the '864 Patent), and 7,720,861. The parties agree that all three patents are entitled to the same priority date 23 of July 19, 2000. On October 20, 2010, the Court held a claim construction hearing and heard 24 argument on the following claim terms: database(s), OLAP cube, and stored retrieved data. For the 25 reasons stated below, the following constructions are adopted: (1) Database: a structured set of data; (2) OLAP cube: a data structure having more than two dimensions; (3) Stored retrieved data: stored 27 retrieved data that does not consist solely of metadata.

the analysis of complex information including business data. For example, a user may wish to 4 analyze the sales results for specific items, periods, and locations. The data necessary to answer the 5 user's query may reside on multiple, geographically dispersed databases. The OLAP cube is an 6 analysis tool for capturing such data and making the information available to display to the user.


The technology in this dispute involves online analytical processing (OLAP) capabilities for

According to both parties, one prior art limitation of OLAP technology was that data residing in 8 different databases were often stored in incompatible formats or schemas. Where disparate 9 databases*fn1 were involved, an OLAP cube could not be constructed dynamically*fn2 on "live" data.

of a user's request and stored in an intermediate data repository described as a data warehouse.

Therefore, a business organization might extract data from disparate databases each night and store 13 the results in a data warehouse. In that case, any resulting OLAP cube constructed from data in the 14 warehouse would consist of "stale" data. By contrast, one aspect of the claimed invention involves 15 creating the OLAP cube dynamically in response to a user's request. Thus, data from disparate 16 databases are accessed directly to assemble the OLAP cube without going through an intermediate 17 repository of stale data.

Construction of the scope and meaning of disputed claim terms is a matter of law. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 979 (Fed. Cir. 1995). In construing claim terms, the 21 Instead, the data from disparate databases needed to be transformed into a compatible format ahead


Court focuses on how a person of ordinary skill in the art would have understood them at the time of 22 the invention. Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1313 (Fed. Cir. 2005) ("The inquiry into how 23 a person of ordinary skill in the art understands a claim term provides an objective baseline from 24 which to begin claim interpretation."). Accordingly, the Court considers "sources available to the 25 public" in order to understand how one of skill in the art would interpret the disputed claim terms.

Id. at 1314. These sources include the claims themselves, the specification as a whole, the 2 prosecution history, and extrinsic evidence shedding light on "scientific principles, the meaning of 3 technical terms, and the state of the art." Id.

most relevant evidence in construing disputed claim terms. In particular, the focus "begins and ends 6 in all cases with the actual words of the claim." Renishaw PLC v. Marposs Societa' per Azioni, 158 Courts consider the intrinsic evidence found in the patent and prosecution history to be the F.3d 1243, 1248 (Fed. Cir. 1998). The claims, however, do not stand alone. They must be read in 8 light of the entire specification to understand what the inventors invented and intended to claim. Id. 9 at 1250. The prosecution history also forms part of the intrinsic record, but often "lacks the clarity" 10 of the specification and thus may be less useful. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. Finally, extrinsic evidence including expert testimony, dictionaries, and technical treatises may shed light on the state of the relevant art at the time of the invention. Markman, 52 F.3d at 980.

A. Database(s)

structured data." Defendants contend that "a structured set of data" is sufficient to define the term. 17

Thus, the parties essentially agree that a database is a structured set or collection of data.*fn3 In dispute 18 is whether the collection of data, or the data itself, must be "persistent." At oral argument, plaintiff 19 clarified its position that it is the data within the collection that must be persistent. It offered the 20 construction "collection of structured data that is persistent," as an alternative. Tr. at 33:9-19. 21

Furthermore, plaintiff claims that persistence is not a matter of the medium on which the database is 22 present (e.g., whether the data reside in memory or on hard disk), Tr. at 33:20-23, but instead that 23 persistent describes "the nature of the data that populates the databases." The data, according to 24 plaintiff, must be "at least semipermanent." Pl. Reply at 4:5-7. Therefore, plaintiff reasons, the

At oral argument, plaintiff defined structured data as that "arranged in some orderly fashion so you can use it." Tr. at 11:18-19.


Plaintiff's proposed construction for the term database is "a persistent collection of opposite of persistent data is transient data, which includes data stored temporarily while it is 2 accessed. 3

ascribe any special meaning to the term database. Instead, they disagree over whether one of skill in 5 the art at the time of the invention would understand that term, used in its ordinary sense, to 6 encompass only structured sets of persistent data. In plaintiff's view, including persistent in the 7 construction does not exclude certain databases, but instead recites a property of all databases. See 8

Based on the parties' respective arguments, they appear to agree that the patentee did not

Tr. at 15:1-3 ("[Plaintiff is] not suggesting that there's such a thing as a transient database . . . ."). It 9 admits that the patent nowhere uses the word persistent, or even transient by contrast, but suggests 10 that the term database was well understood in the art and required no explication. Defendants, for their part, insist that plaintiff's construction reads a limitation into the term that will effect a hindsight change to the scope of the patent claims.

construction. For example, the '006 Patent claim 1*fn4 requires "accessing with a computer a plurality 15 of disparate digital databases and retrieving with a computer requested data from such databases."

Moreover, the claim requires the further steps of accepting a user update of specific data, accessing 17 a database relevant to the update, and "updating that database dynamically on demand with the 18 specific data of the user update." See '006 Patent claim 1(e) and 1(f). According to plaintiff, if the 19 data contained in the databases were transient, then the computer could not reliably retrieve the 20 requested data or execute the user update. At oral argument, plaintiff summarized its position as 16:2-3. This argument, however, appears only to require that a database, to be useful for the 23 invention, must contain data at the time of execution of the method. It does not suggest, as 24 plaintiff's construction would have it, that the data persist for any time before or after the execution 25 of the method. Although plaintiff contends that a database not retaining data between sessions

Plaintiff argues that the context in which database appears in the claims supports its "[t]he data needs to be reliably in the source databases or the invention simply won't work." Tr. at 22 would be useless, and therefore essentially not a database, none of the claims expressly require user 2 updates to be maintained for any period. So long as the steps of the patented method have been 3 performed, then the invention as claimed has been practiced.

construction during prosecution of the patent. A patentee's communications with the Patent and 6 PTO and the inventor understood the patent." Phillips, 415 F. 3d at 1317. In describing his 8 invention, the patentee explained that the claimed OLAP cube is assembled "without accessing any 9 multidimensional database(s) of stored or persisted retrieved data assembled a priori." Pl. Exh. 14 10 at 19. Plaintiff's position, however, is not that the inventor claimed databases with persistent data, but that by definition all databases contain persistent data. If its construction is adopted, then the patentee's reference to a "database of" persisted data would necessarily be redundant. Instead, a fair 13 reading of the passage suggests that the inventor understood that databases could contain other than 14 persisted data. Without placing too much ...

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