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InfoGation Corp. v. ZTE Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. California

March 27, 2017



          MARILYN L. HUFF, District Judge.

         On February 24, 2017, Defendants ZTE (USA), Inc., [1] HTC, [2] and Huawei, [3] each filed a motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) for judgment on the pleadings. (16-cv-1901-Doc. No. 41; 16-cv-1902-Doc. No. 49; 16-cv-1903-Doc. No. 46.) On March 13, 2017, Plaintiff InfoGation Corp. filed its oppositions to Defendants' motions. (16-cv-1901-Doc. No. 45; 16-cv-1902-Doc. No. 55; 16-cv-1903-Doc. No. 50.) On March 20, 2017, Defendants filed their replies. (16-cv-1901-Doc. No. 47; 16-cv-1902-Doc. No. 57; 16-cv-1903-Doc. No. 53.)

         The Court held a hearing on the matter on March 27, 2017. John P. Moy and Heather W. Schallhorn appeared for InfoGation. Harold H. Davis appeared for ZTE. Fred I. Williams appeared for HTC. David S. Almeling, Mark Liang, and Jason W. Wolff appeared for Huawai. For the reasons below, the Court denies Defendants' motions for judgment on the pleadings.


         On July 27, 2016, Plaintiff InfoGation Corp. filed three separate complaints for patent infringement against Defendants ZTE, HTC, and Huawei, alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6, 292, 743. (16-cv-1901-Doc. No. 1; 16-cv-1902-Doc. No. 1; 16-cv-1903-Doc. No. 1.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants' smartphones, which run the Android operating system and can connect to a Google Maps navigation server through a wireless carrier's network data, infringe, either literally or through the doctrine of equivalents, claim 15 of the '743 patent. (Id.)

         The '743 patent is entitled “Mobile Navigation System” and “relates generally to [a] mobile navigation system and apparatus, and more particularly to a distributed navigation system having a wireless connection to a server for calculating optimal routes using real-time data.” U.S. Patent No. 6, 292, 743, at 1:5-8. In describing the prior art, the '743 patent explains that, at the time of the invention, “navigation systems, in which automobiles are equipped with a navigational computer that includes a display screen, an input means such as a keypad or a remote control, and a storage means such as a CD” had become quite popular. Id. at 1:10-14. The '743 patent explains that the problem with these devices is that they are “stand-alone devices that rely completely on data stored on the local storage device for geographical and other information. Thus, the capacity of the storage device becomes a limiting factor as to how much information is available to users. In addition, users must update their mapping databases frequently to stay current.” Id. at 1:27-32.

         In light of these problems, the '743 patent explains that it is desirable to have an online navigation system that can provide current information to the user - including real-time information such as traffic, weather, and road conditions - without the need for the system to update its local databases whenever changes occur. '743 Patent at 1:36-41. The '743 patent acknowledges that there are some prior art navigation systems, such as Toyota's MONET system, that are able to connect to online servers and provide real-time information to the user. Id. at 1:46-61. But the '743 patent notes that there are several problems with those real-time navigation systems.

         The '743 patent explains the problems with the real-time navigation systems at the time of the invention as follows:

In these current systems, all geographical data transmitted by the server is in a propriety [sic] format. That is, downloaded information used to describe geographical data, such as point-of-interest addresses and detailed map data, includes data points, indices and the like that are specific to the particular mapping database used on the client.
Accordingly, the client navigation system must have a particular pre-defined mapping database installed in order to work with the server. In some cases, the mapping database used by the client and server must be identical. If there is a mismatch between the expected mapping database and the actual mapping database used on the client, the client cannot properly interpret the geographical data downloaded from the server and the system will fail to operate.
Accordingly, customers using these current systems must obtain the latest version of the mapping database software available. This presents a major burden for customers and manufacturers alike due to the high frequency in which these databases must be updated.
In addition, the data downloaded by the client generally requires high bandwidth communication channels due the shear volume of data transmitted by these current systems. Such high bandwidth communication channels are expensive and may not be readily available in all areas. It would be desirable to develop a system that requires lower bandwidth communication channels than that required by these current systems.
Another problem with the current systems outlined above is that the client must include sophisticated algorithms for calculating optimal routes. In addition, these route-calculating algorithms in the client must be updated in accordance with current services and options available on the server. . . .
Another problem with the current systems is that the proprietary server cannot be used with navigation systems and mapping databases provided by other manufacturers.

'743 Patent at 1:62-2:37.

         The '743 patent seeks to remedy these problems in the prior art systems by using a generic natural language description to specify the optimal routing information that is generated at the server and then transmitted from the server to the client. '743 Patent at 3:21-23. The specification of the '743 patent describes “a client navigation system” as follows:

The client navigation system establishes a wireless connection to the server via cellular telephone technology or the like. Once connected, the client requests a specific route by uploading start and stop specifications to the server. The server independently calculates an optimal route for the user based on real-time and current data available to the server, as well as user preferences or the like.
The routing information is formatted using a natural language specification in accordance with each specific embodiment ...

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