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Facebook, Inc. v. Blackberry Limited

United States District Court, N.D. California

December 13, 2019

FACEBOOK, INC., Plaintiff,
BLACKBERRY LIMITED, et al., Defendants.

          CLAIM CONSTRUCTION ORDER Re: Dkt. No. 49


         The Court has been presented with a technology tutorial and briefing leading up to a hearing pursuant to Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370 (1996). This Order construes the disputed claim terms selected by the parties, which appear in the patents at issue in this case: U.S. Patent Nos. 6, 356, 841 (“'841 Patent”), 6, 744, 759 (“'759 Patent”), 7, 228, 432 (“'432 Patent”), 7, 302, 698 (“'698 Patent”), 7, 567, 575 (“'575 Patent”), and 8, 429, 231 (“'231 Patent”).


         Plaintiff Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”) contends that Defendants BlackBerry Limited and BlackBerry Corporation (collectively, “BlackBerry”) infringe six of its patents. The six patents are described as follows:

• The '841 Patent is titled “G.P.S. Management System” and is directed towards “a management system” that uses G.P.S. receivers to “track[] remote units from a central office” and further “determin[e] if those remote units have varied from a set of predetermined parameters of operation.” ('841 Patent, Title, Abstract.)
• The '759 Patent is titled “System and Method for Providing User-Configured Telephone Service in a Data Network Telephony System” and is directed to “providing user-configured telephone service to a user of a data network telephone.” ('759 Patent, Title, Abstract.)
• The '432 Patent is titled “Method and Apparatus for Providing Security for a Computer System” and is directed to “providing security for a computer system” using a “dedicated security processor” that receives a request for a file, validates the file, and provides the requested file to another processor. ('432 Patent, Title, Abstract.)
• The '698 Patent is titled “Operation of Trusted State in Computing Platform.” ('698 Patent, Title.) The '698 Patent is purportedly directed to placing a computer entity into a trusted state and monitoring that state using a trusted component. (Id., Abstract.)
• The '575 Patent is titled “Personalized Multimedia Services Using a Mobile Service Platform” and is directed to “providing multimedia data” from a multimedia source to a mobile device by communicating a series of information. ('575 Patent, Title, Abstract.)
• The '231 Patent is titled “Voice Instant Messaging” and is directed towards establishing both instant messaging and voice communication “through an instant messaging host.” ('231 Patent, Title, Abstract.)

         The parties initially proposed ten terms for claim construction. (Dkt. No. 71.) However, following the Court's Order regarding tentative constructions and questions for the hearing (Dkt. No. 78), the parties agreed on four of the terms. (Dkt. Nos. 80, 81, 85.) The parties also modified in part their proposed constructions in response to the Court's questions. (Dkt. No. 80.) The Court shall address additional facts as necessary in the remainder of this Order.


         A. Legal Background

         Claim construction is a question of law for the Court. Markman, 517 U.S. at 384. 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) (citation omitted). “The purpose of claim construction is to determine the meaning and scope of the patent claims asserted to be infringed.” O2 Micro Int'l Ltd. v. Beyond Innovation Tech. Co., 521 F.3d 1351, 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2008). The Court has an obligation to assign “a fixed, unambiguous, legally operative meaning to the claim” in order to “ensure that questions of the scope of the patent claims are not left to the jury.” Every Penny Counts, Inc. v. Am. Express Co., 563 F.3d 1378, 1383 (Fed. Cir. 2009) (quotation omitted).

         Claim terms are generally given “their ordinary and customary meaning”-i.e., “the meaning that the terms would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312-13. There are only two exception to this rule: (1) “when a patentee sets out a definition and acts as his own lexicographer, ” and (2) “when the patentee disavows the full scope of a claim term either in the specification or during prosecution.” Thorner v. Sony Computer Entm't Am. LLC, 669 F.3d 1362, 1365 (Fed. Cir. 2012).

         In determining the ordinary and customary meaning, the claim language “provide[s] substantial guidance as to the meaning of particular claim terms.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1314. Additionally, “the context in which a claim term is used in the asserted claim can be highly instructive.” Id. However, a person of ordinary skill in the art is “deemed to read the 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.” Id. at 1313. The specification “is always highly relevant to the claim construction analysis” and is usually “dispositive.” Id. at 1315. The scope of the claims must be “determined and confirmed with a full understanding of what the inventors actually invented and intended to envelop with the claim.” Id. at 1316 (quoting Renishaw PLC v. Marposs Soceta' per Azioni, 158 F.3d 1243, 1250 (Fed. Cir. 1998)). 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.” Id.

         In addition to the claims and the specification, the prosecution history may be used “to provide[] evidence of how the PTO and the inventor understood the patent.” Id. at 1317. The prosecution history can demonstrate “how the inventor understood the invention and whether the inventor limited the invention in the course of prosecution.” Id. “[A]ny explanation, elaboration, or qualification presented by the inventor during patent examination is relevant, for the role of claim construction is to ‘capture the scope of the actual invention' that is disclosed, described and patented.” Fenner Inv., Ltd. v. Cellco P'ship, 778 F.3d 1320, 1323 (Fed. Cir. 2015). The claims, specification, and prosecution history together constitute the “intrinsic evidence” that forms the primary basis for claim construction. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312-17 (citation omitted). Courts may also consider extrinsic evidence if it is “helpful in determining the ‘true meaning of language used in the patent claims'” and is not contradicted by the intrinsic evidence. Id. at 1318 (quoting Markman, 52 F.3d at 980).

         B.U.S. PATENT NO. 6, 356, 841

         1.central location” (claims 12 and 23)

Facebook's Proposed Construction

BlackBerry's Proposed Construction

Final Construction

No construction necessary at this time. Alternatively, if construction is needed, “location that communicates with the remote unit and is different from the remote unit.”

a single location that receives, stores, and analyzes GPS and other data from one or more remote unit

an integrated set of components that receives, stores, and analyzes G.P.S and other data from one or more remote unit

         The term “central location” appears in asserted claims 12 and 23, as well as unasserted claims 1, 17, 29, and 36 of the '841 Patent. The '841 Patent describes a “central location” or “central office” that monitors remote units (such as vehicles) using G.P.S. and optionally compares the received information to predetermined values (such as an allowed time for the vehicle to remain in one place). ('841 Patent, Abstract, 1:34-48.) The parties dispute (1) whether the term “central location” requires construction, (2) the functions performed by the central location, and (3) whether a “central location” can encompass a distributed solution, in which multiple locations scattered around the world together constitute the “central location.”

         As an initial matter, the term “central location” requires construction. Although the term “location” has an ordinary lay meaning-a physical place-that lay meaning fails to resolve the parties' dispute. Specifically, the term “location” invites the parties to debate whether components located at different “points in space” are sufficiently far apart to constitute different “locations.”[1]The '841 Patent provides no guidance in this regard as it is silent about the spatial configuration of the “central location.” Moreover, there is evidence that the '841 Patent does not use the lay meaning of “location.” The prosecution history reveals that the term “central location” was added to replace “central office” in order to avoid confusion with a specialized meaning of “central office.” (Dkt. 49-1 (“June 26, 2001 Amendment”) at 15.) Figure 19 shows the “central office” as a set of components without any reference to the spatial “location” of those components. ('841 Patent, Fig. 19.) The claims also recite that the “central location” performs functions related to communication and data analysis-which are far afield from the ordinary behavior of physical places. (E.g., id., claims 1, 23.) The term “central location” therefore requires construction.

         “Central location” is hereby construed as “an integrated set of components that receives, stores, and analyzes G.P.S and other data from one or more remote unit.” This meaning is clear from the claims, specification, and prosecution history of the '841 Patent. First, the claims require the “central location” to communicate with remote units, receive G.P.S. data from those units, and (in most claims) compare the received data “to a predetermined parameter having a range of acceptable values” and note an exception if the predetermined parameter is “outside the range of acceptable values.” (Id., claims 1-50.) The claims thus make clear that the “central location” is or has a computer system capable of communication and data processing functions.

         The specification confirms this understanding. Figure 19 shows a preferred embodiment of the “central office” that “includes provisions to receive and process information sent to it by the other components.” (Id., 7:51-55.) The “central office” comprises a set of components, including: two wireless communication devices, a processor, a storage device, and a set of applications. (Id., 7:56-8:24.) The components work together to perform communication and data analysis. The processor receives data from the remote units through the communication devices and “prepares the information for storage in storage device.” (Id., 8:12-18.) The storage device stores the data for further operation. (Id., 8:16-19.) The applications “prepare reports and perform other functions” with the stored data. (Id., 8:19-24.) Figures 7 through 18 show the reports generated by the central office, which include information about the “average engine run time, ” “average mileage, ” and “daily route history” for each vehicle. (Id., 8:23-24, Figs. 7-18.) The specification thus confirms that the “central location” is primarily a functional system-a set of components that work together to perform communication and data processing-rather than a particular physical place.

         Finally, the prosecution history further confirms that the “central location” is defined by its centralized data processing and communication abilities. During prosecution, the patentee replaced “central office” (the term used in the specification) with “central location” in all claims. (June 26, 2001 Amendment at 15.) The patentee explained that the amendment “was not done for any purpose related to patentability, but rather to clarify the meaning of the claims” and “avoid the possible confusion” with a specialized meaning of “central office” in the field of telecommunications networks. (Id.) Contemporaneous technical dictionaries define “central office” in communications as “the switching center where interconnections between customers' communications lines are made.” (Dkt. No. 51-6 (“Microsoft Computer Dictionary”) at 3.) Thus, the prosecution history demonstrates that “central location” in the '841 Patent is similar to-but broader than-a place that centrally receives and processes (interconnects) communication lines. Accordingly, a “central location” is “an integrated set of components that receives, stores, and analyzes G.P.S and other data from one or more remote unit.”

         Facebook argues in its brief that a broader meaning should apply. First, Facebook argues that the patentee defined a broader meaning of “central location” during prosecution. While amending the claims to replace “central office” with “central location, ” the applicant stated that “[w]hile the ‘central location' used in these claims could refer to or coincide with a ‘central office,' as the term is understood in the field of telecommunications networks, ” the '841 Patent claims are not so limited, and “the central location could be any location that communicates with the remote unit and is different from the remote unit.” (June 26, 2001 Amendment at 15.) Facebook does not contend that the applicant acted as a lexicographer in making this statement, and the Court finds that it did not.

         Although the prosecution history statement is probative of a broad meaning for “central location, ” it is at odds with the claims and specification of the '841 Patent. The claims themselves require that the “central location” receive data transmitted from the remote units and perform data processing, such comparing data to predetermined values. ('841 Patent, claims 1-11, 16-50.) A construction that allowed “any location” to satisfy this limitation would conflict with the other requirements of the claims. Furthermore, the specification states that the purported invention of the '841 Patent is to centrally track and monitor remote units. (Id., 1:6-9, 1:34-35, 2:55-57.) The '841 Patent describes prior art “[c]onventional G.P.S. systems” that “do not allow centralized storage and processing of information” and “cannot track multiple G.P.S. users.” (Id., 1:11-27; see also id., 1:28-31 (describing problems in the prior art “because the G.P.S. information is not collected and analyzed”).) The '841 Patent improves over the prior art because “the present invention includes provisions for collecting, remotely storing, transmitting, centrally storing and analyzing G.P.S. data and other data, from a central location.” (Id., 1:35-38.) A construction that allowed “any location” to be the central location would fail to capture this feature of “the present invention” or achieve any improvement over the prior art. Accordingly, the “central location” must receive, store, and analyze data from the G.P.S. units in order to centrally track multiple remote units-not just communicate with those units.

         Second, Facebook argues in its brief that the term “location” should have its plain and ordinary meaning-which the Court understands to mean a physical place. In response to the Court's tentative constructions, however, Facebook agreed that the “central location” can be an integrated set of components, while BlackBerry argued that the “central location” must be a physical location-such as a building or facility-that merely houses the components performing communication and data processing. (See Dkt. No. 80 (“Joint Statement”) at 2.) BlackBerry argues that by using the term “central location, ” the patentee excluded noncentralized solutions where geographically distributed components perform the role of the central office.

         The Court broadly agrees that a “central location” may be a physical place that houses the integrated set of components that performs the required functions. However, there is no indication that the '841 Patent considers physical location important and it may simply refer to a logical “place.” Specifically, the '841 Patent does not appear to be concerned with spatial or geographic centrality. For example, it does not describe a place or distance that the “central location” must occupy relative to the remote units. Instead, the '841 Patent is primarily concerned with functional centrality-centralized data processing and communication. ('841 Patent, 1:11-30, 1:33-48.) The '841 Patent improves conventional G.P.S. systems that cannot determine “location history” or “track multiple users” because the G.P.S. information is stored locally with the users. (Id., 1:17-27.) The '841 Patent provides an improvement by storing G.P.S. information in one logical “place” (i.e., in a single system) that can then track multiple users and analyze location history. (Id., 1:33-48.) While centralized communication and data processing require a single integrated system to act as the “central location, ” it does not require a single physical location for that system.

         The intrinsic evidence confirms this interpretation. The specification describes several “locations” where the physical place is important, but the “central location” is not one of them. For instance, the specification describes a “service center” for vehicles that can be geographically designated by selecting a point on a map and an “alert call center” that is shown as a physical building in Figure 3. (Id., 3:50-53, 8:50-51, Fig. 3.) By contrast, the “central office” is never described in geographic terms, and Figure 19 shows a set of components without any surrounding building. (Id., Fig. 19.) The prosecution history also supports broadening “central location” beyond a physical place. During prosecution, the applicant replaced “central office”-defined as a “switching center where interconnections between customers' communications lines are made”- with “central location.” (June 26, 2001 Amendment at 15.) While a “central office” must presumably be a single physical location to receive and interconnect physical communication lines, the claimed “central location” communicates using wireless methods (such as “satellite, cellular, and/or wireless”) and thus does not need to be a physical location to receive ...

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