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Cave Consulting Group, Inc. v. Truven Health Analytics Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 25, 2017



          SUSAN ILLSTON United States District Judge

         On April 19, 2017, the Court held a supplemental Markman hearing. The Court adopts the constructions set forth below.


         On May 14, 2015, plaintiff Cave Consulting Group, Inc. filed this lawsuit alleging that defendant Truven Health Analytics Inc. directly infringes U.S. Patent No. 8, 768, 726 (“the '726 patent”), titled “Method, System, and Computer Program Product for Physician Efficiency Measurement and Patient Health Risk Stratification Utilizing Variable Windows for Episode Creation, ” by making, importing, using, selling, and/or offering for sale its physician efficiency measurement software and services. The '726 patent relates to evaluating medical information to provide measurements of physician efficiency. '726 Patent 1:29-31.

         The Court held a Markman hearing on April 11, 2016, regarding the disputed '726 patent term “calculating weighted episode of care statistics across medical conditions for a specialty type utilizing a predefined set of medical conditions for a specific specialty type.”[1] The Court construed that term to mean “calculating cost or length of care statistics for a group of medical conditions, using the relative importance of each condition to others of the group, using only medical conditions within a set defined in advance of processing for a specific specialty type.” On February 15, 2017, the Court granted CCGroup leave to amend its complaint to include allegations that Truven indirectly infringes the '726 patent. In its third amended complaint, CCGroup alleges infringement of claims 1-5, 9, and 10 (the “asserted claims”). The Court granted the parties a supplemental Markman hearing for disputed terms arising from the additional indirect infringement allegations.

         The parties dispute two terms: (1) “assigning complete (non-partial) episodes of care to physicians” and (2) “consists of a subset of most prevalent medical conditions related to that specialty type.”[2]


         Claim construction is a matter of law. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 372 (1996). Terms contained in claims are “generally given their ordinary and customary meaning.” Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005). “[T]he ordinary and customary meaning of a claim term 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.” Id. at 1312. In determining the proper construction of a claim, a court begins with the intrinsic evidence of record, consisting of the claim language, the patent specification, and, if in evidence, the prosecution history. Id. at 1313; see also Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996). “The appropriate starting point . . . is always with the language of the asserted claim itself.” Comark Comm'ns, Inc. v. Harris Corp., 156 F.3d 1182, 1186 (Fed. Cir. 1998); see also Abtox, Inc. v. Exitron Corp., 122 F.3d 1019, 1023 (Fed. Cir. 1997).

         Accordingly, although claims speak to those skilled in the art, claim terms are construed in light of their ordinary and accustomed meaning, unless examination of the specification, prosecution history, and other claims indicates that the inventor intended otherwise. See Electro Med. Sys., S.A. v. Cooper Life Scis., Inc., 34 F.3d 1048, 1053 (Fed. Cir. 1994). The written description can provide guidance as to the meaning of the claims, thereby dictating the manner in which the claims are to be construed, even if the guidance is not provided in explicit definitional format. SciMed Life Sys., Inc. v. Advanced Cardiovascular Sys., Inc., 242 F.3d 1337, 1344 (Fed. Cir. 2001). In other words, the specification may define claim terms “by implication” such that the meaning may be “found in or ascertained by a reading of the patent documents.” Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582, 1584 n.6.

         Additionally, the claims must be read in view of the specification. Markman, 52 F.3d at 978. Although claims are interpreted in light of the specification, this “does not mean that everything expressed in the specification must be read into all the claims.” Raytheon Co. v. Roper Corp., 724 F.2d 951, 957 (Fed. Cir. 1983). For instance, limitations from a preferred embodiment described in the specification generally should not be read into the claim language. See Comark, 156 F.3d at 1187. However, it is a fundamental rule that “claims must be construed so as to be consistent with the specification.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1316. Therefore, if the specification reveals an intentional disclaimer or disavowal of claim scope, the claims must be read consistently with that limitation. Id.

         Finally, the Court may consider the prosecution history of the patent, if in evidence. Markman, 52 F.3d at 980. The prosecution history limits the interpretation of claim terms so as to exclude any interpretation that was disclaimed during prosecution. See Southwall Techs., Inc. v. Cardinal IG Co., 54 F.3d 1570, 1576 (Fed. Cir. 1995). In most situations, analysis of this intrinsic evidence alone will resolve claim construction disputes. See Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1583.

         Courts should not rely on extrinsic evidence in claim construction to contradict the meaning of claims discernable from examination of the claims, the written description, and the prosecution history. See Pitney Bowes, Inc. v. Hewlett Packard Co., 182 F.3d 1298, 1308 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (citing Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1583). However, it is entirely appropriate “for a court to consult trustworthy extrinsic evidence to ensure that the claim construction it is tending to from the patent file is not inconsistent with clearly expressed, plainly apposite, and widely held understandings in the pertinent technical field.” Id. Extrinsic evidence “consists of all evidence external to the patent and prosecution history, including expert and inventor testimony, dictionaries, and learned treatises.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. All extrinsic evidence should be evaluated in light of the intrinsic evidence. Id. at 1319.


         Claims 1 and 10 are representative of the asserted claims for purposes of the Court's Markman analysis:

1. A method implemented on a computer system of determining physician efficiency, the method comprising:
obtaining medical claims data stored in a non-transitory computer readable medium on the computer system;
performing patient analysis using said obtained medical claims data to perform episodes of care utilizing the computer system;
assigning complete (non-partial) episodes of care to physicians utilizing an assignment rule that allows assignment of an episode of care to more than one physician; assigning at least one physician to a report group based on
geographic area designation utilizing the computer system, each physician assigned to no more ...

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