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Karl Storz Endoscopy-America Inc. v. Stryker Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 5, 2016

STRYKER CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.


          RICHARD SEEBORG United States District Judge.


         Plaintiff and patent owner Karl Storz Endoscopy-America, Inc. (“KSEA”) and defendants Stryker Corporation and Stryker Communications, Inc. (“Stryker”) compete to provide an array of medical products, including endoscopes and integrated operating room systems. Fresh off a crosscountry trip to the United States Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”), they now seek construction of nine terms pursuant to Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (en banc). For the reasons set forth below, the disputed terms are construed as follows.


         KSEA manufactures endoscopes, devices, and camera systems for medical and industrial applications. Stryker likewise manufactures an array of medical and surgical products, including endoscopes. On February 26, 2014, KSEA sued Stryker alleging infringement of four patents related to endoscopic devices and integrated operating room systems. Stryker denied the allegations and asserted counterclaims for noninfringement and invalidity. Stryker also averred KSEA’s claims were barred by a settlement agreement entered into to resolve previous litigation. See Karl Storz Endoscopy-Am., Inc. v. Stryker, Inc. et al., 09-cv-00355-WHA (“Karl Storz I”).

         Over the ensuing months, KSEA added allegations that Stryker’s products infringe a fifth patent. KSEA then moved to dismiss Stryker’s counterclaims and to strike affirmative defenses arising out of alleged breaches of the Karl Storz I settlement agreement. KSEA’s motion to dismiss was granted on October 3, 2014. KSEA subsequently served supplemental infringement contentions and Stryker served its invalidity contentions.

         The parties filed their respective opening claim construction briefs on February 13, 2015. Less than a week later, Stryker filed petitions for inter partes reexamination (“IPR”) of each of the five patents at issue in this litigation. Contemporaneous with its IPR petitions, Stryker moved to stay these proceedings. The stay was granted on March 30, 2015.

         The PTAB (1) denied Stryker’s IPR petitions for U.S. Patent Nos. 7, 471, 310 (“’310 patent”); 7, 821, 530 (“’530 patent”); 7, 844, 657 (“’657 patent”); and 8, 439, 821 (“’821 patent”), (2) granted Stryker’s IPR petitions for U.S. Patent No. 8, 069, 420 (“’420 patent”) on 42 of the 44 challenged claims, and (3) denied Stryker’s IPR petitions for the ’420 patent on 2 of the 44 challenged claims. KSEA disclaimed the 42 claims for which IPR had been instituted, and the PTAB granted KSEA’s request for adverse judgment and terminated the IPR proceedings. The stay was lifted on January 5, 2016. The parties have re-briefed the claim terms at issue in this proceeding.


         Claim construction is a question of law to be determined by the Court. Markman, 52 F.3d at 979. “Ultimately, the interpretation to be given a term can only be determined and confirmed with a full understanding of what the inventors actually invented and intended to envelop with the claim.” Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1316 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (quoting Renishaw PLC v. Marposs Societa’ per Azioni, 158 F.3d 1243, 1250 (Fed. Cir. 1998)). Accordingly, a claim should be construed in a manner that “most naturally aligns with the patent’s description of the invention.” Id.

         The first step in claim construction is to look to the language of the claims themselves. “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, 415 F.3d at 1312 (quoting Innova/Pure Water, Inc. v. Safari Water Filtration Sys., Inc., 381 F.3d 1111, 1115 (Fed. Cir. 2004)). A disputed claim term should be construed in a manner consistent with its “ordinary and customary meaning, ” which is “the meaning that the term would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art in question at the time of the invention, i.e., as of the effective filing date of the patent application.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312-13. The ordinary and customary meaning of a claim term may be determined solely by viewing the term within the context of the claim’s overall language. See Id. at 1314 (“[T]he use of a term within the claim provides a firm basis for construing the term.”). Additionally, the use of the term in other claims may provide guidance regarding its proper construction. Id. (“Other claims of the patent in question, both asserted and unasserted, can also be valuable sources of enlightenment as to the meaning of a claim term.”).

         A claim should also be construed in a manner that is consistent with the patent’s specification. See Markman, 52 F.3d at 979 (“Claims must be read in view of the specification, of which they are a part.”). Typically the specification is the best guide for construing the claims. See Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1315 (“The specification is . . . the primary basis for construing the claims.”); see also Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996) (“[T]he specification is always highly relevant to the claim construction analysis. Usually, it is dispositive; it is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term.”). In limited circumstances, the specification may be used to narrow the meaning of a claim term that otherwise would appear to be susceptible to a broader reading. See SciMed Life Sys., Inc. v. Advanced Cardiovascular Sys., Inc., 242 F.3d 1337, 1341 (Fed. Cir. 2001); Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1316. Precedent forbids, however, a construction of claim terms that imposes limitations not found in the claims or supported by an unambiguous restriction in the specification or prosecution history. Laitram Corp. v. NEC Corp., 163 F.3d 1342, 1347 (Fed. Cir. 1998) (“[A] court may not import limitations from the written description into the claims.”); Comark Commc’ns., Inc. v. Harris Corp., 156 F.3d 1182, 1186 (Fed. Cir. 1998) (“[W]hile . . . claims are to be interpreted in light of the specification, it does not follow that limitations from the specification may be read into the claims.”); SRI Int’l v. Matsushita Elec. Corp. of Am., 775 F.2d 1107, 1121 (Fed. Cir. 1985) (en banc) (“It is the claims that measure the invention.”) (emphasis in original). A final source of intrinsic evidence is the prosecution record and any statements made by the patentee to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) regarding the scope of the invention. See Markman, 52 F.3d at 980.

         Courts may also consider extrinsic evidence, such as expert testimony, dictionaries, or technical treatises, especially if such sources are “helpful in determining ‘the true meaning of language used in the patent claims.’” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1318 (quoting Markman, 52 F.3d at 980). Ultimately, while extrinsic evidence may aid the claim construction analysis, it cannot be used to contradict the plain and ordinary meaning of a claim term as defined within the intrinsic record. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1322-23.


         A. The ’310 & ’530 Patents (Camera Patents)

         The ’310 and ’530 patents are entitled “Intelligent Camera Head.” The patents are related and share a common specification.[1]

         By way of background, video cameras can be separated into two basic categories based upon their physical configurations. First, there are “all-in-one units, ” such as camcorders, where the portion that captures video images is combined in the same housing with the portion that controls operation and processes the images to create video. Second, there are video cameras in which physically separate, individual units achieve these respective functions. In these “separated” systems, the capturing portion is called a “camera head, ” while the control and processing portion is called a “camera control unit” (“CCU”). The camera head and CCU typically are connected to each other through a cable. The ’310 and ’530 patents fall into the “separated” category. That is, each contains claims that recite three components: a camera head, a CCU, and a cable connecting the two.

         The inventions relate to the interchangeability of camera heads with CCUs. Specifically, in previous systems, timing signals (which synchronize electronic components) were generated in the CCU and transmitted to the camera head, but this limited which camera heads could be connected to each particular CCU because the technical features had to match. The camera patents improve interchangeability by generating timing signals in the camera head and transmitting them to the CCU-as opposed to the other way around. They also improve interchangeability by employing a memory device within the camera head to store information. The disputed claim terms relate to these various features.

         1. “video imaging system”

         Stryker maintains this term is non-limiting and does not require construction. KSEA agreed at oral argument and subsequently withdrew its proposed construction. The term “video imaging system” accordingly will not be further construed.

         2. “camera head”

         The term “camera head” appears in virtually all claims of the ’310 and ’530 patents.[2]KSEA would construe it as an “endoscopic video camera, i.e., a video camera that includes or is adapted to be connected to an endoscope, ” whereas Stryker proposes “a device that generates an uninterrupted sequence of data that represents moving visual images.”

         The term “camera head” shall be construed to mean “endoscopic video camera, i.e., a video camera that includes or is adapted to be connected to an endoscope.” Stryker’s principal argument is that “camera head” is not expressly defined. The specification may not contain a textbook example of what it looks like to define a term, but it is still highly persuasive where it states “Endoscopic video cameras (hereinafter referred to as ‘camera heads’) are most advantageously small and lightweight . . . .” Dkt. No. 176, Ex. 1 at 1:18-20. It goes on to use “camera head” in a manner that supports this definition, see, e.g., id. at 1:40-41 (‚ÄúSimilar to the camera head itself, it is advantageous that cables be ...

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