The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dean D. Pregerson United States District Judge
CLAIM CONSTRUCTION ORDER [Plaintiffs' Opening Claim Construction Brief Filed on June 11, 2010; Counterclaimant's Opening Claim Construction Brief Filed on March 4, 2011; second Markman hearing held on September 9, 2011]
Plaintiff Nomadix, Inc. is the owner of U.S. Patent Numbers 6,130,892 ("the '892 Patent"); 7,088,727 ("the '727 Patent"); 7,554,995 ("the '995 Patent"); 6,636,894 ("the '894 Patent"); 7,194,554 ("the '554 Patent"); 6,868,399 ("the '399 Patent"); 6,789,110 ("the '110 Patent"); 7,689,716 ("the '716 Patent"); and 6,875,009 ("the '009 Patent"). The technology at issue generally facilitates network access, e.g. access to the Internet, by mobile computers and is widely used at hotels, airports, and public locations.
More specifically, the '892 Patent, '995 Patent, '099 Patent, and the '727 Patents permit users to access the Internet even though their computers are not configured for the particular network they are visiting. These patents resolve such issues as, for example, when a laptop is configured to connect to only a certain "home" network or, alternatively, to a "proxy server," but has moved to a "foreign" network. These patents aid with connectivity so that, for example, a business traveler using a company laptop can readily use a hotel's network without manually reconfiguring their laptop for the foreign network.
The '894 Patent, '554 Patent, and '716 Patent concern the ability of a network operator to control and customize network access. For example, the '894 Patent involves the use of a gateway to redirect a computer to a login web page (e.g., a hotel login page). This technology permits network operators to, among other things, grant network access to guests only after they agree to pay for the service. The '399 Patent relates to network usage charges and helps facilitate the billing by a network operator of network users by, for example, formatting the network usage data to look like a telephone call record.
Nomadix alleges that Defendants have infringed these eight patents.
Counterclaimant iBAHN Corporation ("iBAHN") is the owner of U.S. Patent Numbers 6,934,754 ("the '754 Patent"); 6,996,073 ("the '073 Patent"); and 7,580,376 ("the '376 patent"). The iBAHN Patents all describe and claim techniques for providing high-speed network access in hotels, conference centers, and other venues. iBAHN alleges that Nomadix has infringed these three patents.
I. THE CLAIM CONSTRUCTION PROCESS
A patent infringement analysis involves two steps: (1) determining the meaning and scope of the patent claims asserted to be infringed; and (2) comparing the properly construed claims to the accused device. See generally Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370 (1996). The first step in this sequence is presently before the Court.
"It is a bedrock principle of patent law that the claims of a patent define the invention to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude." Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc) (internal quotation marks omitted). The construction of a particular patent claim term presents a question of law, to be decided by the Court. Markman, 517 U.S. at 391.
The starting point for claim construction is a disputed term's ordinary meaning. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1313. Ordinary meaning, in the patent claim construction context, is the meaning that a person of ordinary skill in the art would attribute to a claim term in the context of the entire patent at the time of the invention, i.e., as of the effective filing date of the patent application. ICU Med., Inc. v. Alaris Med. Sys., Inc., 558 F.3d 1368, 1374 (Fed. Cir. 2009).
The claims, of course, do not stand alone; a person of ordinary skill in the art "is deemed to read [a] claim term not only in the context of the particular claim in which the disputed term appears, but in the context of the entire patent, including the specification." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1313-14 (emphasis added). Accordingly, the specification is "the primary basis for construing the claims" in light of the "statutory requirement that the specification describe the claimed invention in full, clear, concise, and exact terms." Id. at 1315 (internal quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added).
In determining the proper construction, the claim language, specification, and prosecution history -- together referred to as the "intrinsic evidence" -- are of paramount importance. Id. at 1315 ("[T]he best source for understanding a technical term is the specification from which it arose, informed, as needed, by the prosecution history."(internal quotation marks omitted)). Consistent with this principle, courts have recognized that the specification may reveal a special definition given to a claim term by the patentee that differs from the meaning it would otherwise possess. Id. at 1316. In such cases, the inventor's lexicography governs. Id. In other cases, the specification may reveal an intentional disclaimer, or disavowal, of claim scope by the inventor. Id.
While the court interprets claim terms in light of the specification, it should generally not "import limitations from the specification into the claims absent a clear disclaimer of claim scope." Andersen Corp. v. Fiber Composites, LLC, 474 F.3d 1361, 1373 (Fed. Cir. 2007). "[T]he distinction between using the specification to interpret the meaning of a claim and importing limitations from the specification into the claim can be a difficult one to apply in practice." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1323. In walking this "tightrope," Andersen, 474 F.3d at 1373, the court hews to the question of "how a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand the claim terms." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1323.
Consideration of intrinsic evidence will resolve any claim term ambiguity in most circumstances. See id. at 1313-14. Where it does not, however, the court may consider certain "extrinsic evidence." See id. at 1317. Expert testimony, for example, may provide helpful background on the technology at issue, explain how an invention works, or establish that a claim term has a particular meaning in the relevant field. See id. at 1319. Dictionaries and treatises may also be helpful in this regard. Id. at 1318. Precedent counsels against reliance on dictionary definitions at the expense of the specification, however, because such reliance "focuses the inquiry on the abstract meaning of words rather than on the meaning of claim terms within the context of the patent." Id. at 1321; see also Nystrom v. Trex Co., 424 F.3d 1136, 1145 (Fed. Cir. 2005).
The court's ultimate goal is to construe the disputed terms in a manner consistent with the way the inventor defined them and a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand them. "The construction that stays true to the claim language and most naturally aligns with the patent's description of the invention will be, in the end, the correct construction." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1316 (internal quotation marks omitted).
II. CONSTRUCTION OF CLAIM TERMS
A. Patents asserted by Nomadix
1. '399 patent 1. "management system"
No construction necessary a management system that is separate from the network gateway device for managing a property's operations and connected to the network gateway device via a physical link
Nomadix states that the term "management system" does not require clarification because it can be readily understood according to its ordinary meaning. Defendants would describe the term as a system that is (1) separate from the gateway device; (2) utilized for "managing a property's operations"; and (3) connected to the gateway device by a "physical link." In support of their position that the management system must be physically connected to the network gateway, Defendants rely on language from the specification. That language, however does not require the limitations Defendants seek.
The '399 Patent specification states that the "network gateway devices communicat[e] with management systems," ('399 Patent 2:45-49); that "[a]ccording to one aspect of the invention, the gateway device is in direct communication with the management system," ('399 Patent 5:21-23 (emphasis added)); and that "[t]ypically, the gateway device  is connected . . . to the management system . . . ." ('399 Patent 6:6-11 (emphasis added)). None of the language that Defendants cite requires that the management system must be physically connected to the gateway device. The court will not import a limitation from a preferred embodiment into the claim terms. See Andersen 474 F.3d at 1373. The court declines to adopt Defendants' proposed construction of "management system." The court agrees with Nomadix that no construction is required.
2. "absent additional agents implemented by the computer" & "absent additional agents implemented by the user's computer"
absent additional special client software implemented by the computer for managing the communication between the computer and the gateway service
Defendants do not oppose Nomadix's construction
absent additional special client software implemented by the computer for managing the communication between the computer and the gateway device
Defendants do not oppose Nomadix's construction. The court, therefore, adopts Nomadix's proposed construction for the "absent additional agents" terms.