The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT OF NON-INFRINGEMENT
Defendants Stuart Frost and Datallegro, Inc. bring this motion for summary judgment of non-infringement of a patent owned by Plaintiff Cary Jardin. A hearing in this case was held on March 14, 2011. After reviewing the briefs and related materials submitted by the parties, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion.
Plaintiff Cary Jardin filed this action against Defendants Stuart Frost and Datallegro for infringement of U.S. Patent Number 7,177,874 (the "'874 Patent"). Plaintiff is an inventor and entrepreneur in the database architecture field. Defendant Stuart Frost was previously the CEO of XPrime, Inc., a company Plaintiff founded. After Defendant Stuart Frost was terminated as CEO, he founded Defendant Datallegro, Inc., which created a distributed database product allegedly derived from technology disclosed in the '874 patent.
The technology of the '874 Patent relates to the field of distributed database systems. Businesses rely on such systems for storage and retrieval of large amounts of information. Generally, distributed database systems are designed to divide searches into a series of smaller tasks that can be distributed among the various computers on a network. Because no individual computer processes the entire job by itself, this configuration increases efficiency. The '874 patent describes methods of distributing data and processing over a plurality of nodes in order to reduce the time to process search results as compared to previously-known systems. In particular, the invention relates to systems and methods for increasing the performance of computer systems by distributing the data processing load among multiple processors in a clustered environment.
Defendants' technology includes two pieces of software: a back-end database provided by Ingres Corporation ("Ingres") and a proprietary query optimization engine provided by DATAllegro. The proprietary query engine runs on a computer called a "control node." The Ingres database runs on a series of computers called "compute nodes." The DATAllegro technology cannot do anything alone; it must be integrated with a customer's data and data definition, and it needs commands from a user to determine which processes to perform and how to perform them in light of the user's data definition.
Plaintiff asserts that DATAllegro version 2.X and 3.X products infringe the '874 patent. When Plaintiff's '874 patent issued on February 13, 2007, the current build of the accused technology was version 2.1.1. Subsequent versions were made, with the last being made just before Microsoft acquired DATAllegro.*fn1 All subsequent versions operate similarly to version 2.1.1.
At issue in this motion is whether the DATAllegro system infringes independent Claims 1 and 15 of the '874 patent. Specifically, Defendants contend Plaintiff has not provided evidence of an infringing "query command" as recited by Claims 1 and 15. Additionally, Defendants contend that the DATAllegro system does not perform the "comparing" or "intermediate results files" limitations of Claim 1. Defendants also contend that the DATAllegro system does not perform the "comparing," "intermediate results files," or "join table definitions" limitations of Claim 15.
"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Miller v. Glenn Miller Prod., Inc., 454 F.3d 975, 987 (9th Cir. 2006).
The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact with respect to an essential element of the non-moving party's claim, or to a defense on which the non-moving party will bear the burden of persuasion at trial. Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos. Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000). When the non-moving party would bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden on summary judgment by simply pointing out an absence of evidence from the non-moving party. Miller, 454 F.3d at 987. "The moving party need not disprove the other party's case." Id.
Once the movant has made that showing, the burden shifts to the opposing party to produce "evidence that is significantly probative or more than 'merely colorable' that a genuine issue of material fact exists for trial." LVRC Holdings LLC v. Brekka, 581 F.3d 1127, 1137 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing FTC v. Gill, 265 F.3d 944, 954 (9th Cir. 2001)); see also Miller, 454 F.3d at 988 ("[T]he non-moving party must come forward with more than 'the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence.'") (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The nonmoving party cannot merely rest on mere allegations or denials of his pleadings, but rather must designate specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325.
"To infringe a method claim, a person must have practiced all steps of the claimed method. Lucent Techs. Inc. v. Gateway, Inc., 580 F.3d 1301, 1317 (Fed. Cir. 2009), cert. denied Microsoft Corp. v. Lucent Techs. Inc., ---U.S.---, 130 S. Ct. 3324 (2010). "[A] finding of infringement can rest on as little as one instance of the claimed method being performed during the pertinent time period." Id. To prove an instance of infringement, "a patentee must either point to specific instances of direct infringement or show that the accused device necessarily infringes the patent in suit." ACCO Brands, Inc. v. ABA Locks Mfr. Co., 501 F.3d 1307, 1313 (Fed. Cir. 2007). A patentee may show infringement with direct or circumstantial evidence. Lucent, 580 F.3d at 1318.
Infringement may be literal or established under the doctrine of equivalents. In either case, an infringement analysis is a two-step inquiry: the court must first construe the claims, and, second, the court must apply the construed claims to the accused device. See, e.g., Acumed LLC v. Stryker Corp., 483 F.3d 800, 804 (Fed. Cir. 2007).
To establish literal infringement of a method claim, each and every step or limitation must be performed exactly as claimed. BMC Res., Inc. v. Paymentech, L.P., 498 F.3d 1373, 1379 (Fed. Cir. 2007). "[A]ny deviation from the claim precludes a finding of literal infringement." Litton Sys. Inc. v. Honeywell, Inc., 140 F.3d 1449, 1454 (Fed. Cir. 1998).
To establish infringement under the doctrine of equivalents, the patentee must show that the accused device, which literally lacks one or more elements, contains an "equivalent" to any missing element. See Zelinski v. Brunswick Corp., 185 F.3d 1311, 1316 (Fed. Cir. 1999); see also TIP Sys., LLC v. Phillips & Brooks/Gladwin, Inc., 529 F.3d 1364, 1377 (Fed. Cir. 2008) ("Infringement under the doctrine of equivalents may be found when the accused device contains an 'insubstantial' change from the claimed invention."). "Whether equivalency exists may be determined based on the 'insubstantial differences' test or based on the 'triple identity' test, namely, whether the element of the accused device 'performs substantially the same function in substantially the same way to obtain the same result.'" TIP Sys., 529 F.3d at 1377 (quoting Warner-Jenkinson Co. v. Hilton Davis Chem. Co., 520 U.S. 17, 38-40 (1997)).
The doctrine of equivalents does not allow a court to ignore claim limitations, however. The "all elements" rule precludes the application of the doctrine of equivalents where it would entirely vitiate a claim limitation. See Warner-Jenkinson Co., 520 U.S. at 39 n.8; Tronzo v. Biomet, Inc., 156 F.3d 1154, 1160 (Fed. Cir. 1998). "Under the 'all elements' rule, 'the doctrine of equivalents must be applied to individual elements of the claim, not to the invention as a whole." E-Pass Techs., Inc. v. 3Com Corp., 473 F.3d 1213, 1221 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (quoting ...