United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Paul J. Robbennolt, Esq., Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A., Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.
Benjamin A. Katzenellenbogen, Esq., Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear, LLP, Irvine, CA; David R. Fairbairn, Esq., Kinney & Lange, P.A., Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ANN D. MONTGOMERY, District Judge.
On September 11, 2014, a supplemental claim construction hearing was held before the undersigned United States District Judge in the patent infringement action brought by Plaintiff Dane Technologies, Inc. ("Dane") against Defendant Gatekeeper Systems, Inc. ("Gatekeeper"). Dane alleges Gatekeeper infringes claims of United States Patent Nos. 6, 220, 379 (the "'379 Patent"), 7, 389, 836 (the "'836 Patent"), and 7, 493, 979 (the "'979 Patent") (collectively, the "Patents-in-Suit").
Dane is a Minnesota corporation, with its principal place of business in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Compl. [Docket No. 1] ¶ 1. Dane owns by assignment the three patents at issue in this case. On April 24, 2001, the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO") issued the '379 Patent, entitled "Cart Retriever Vehicle." Id . ¶ 7. On June 24, 2008, the PTO issued the '836 Patent, entitled "Power-assisted cart retriever with attenuated power output." Id . ¶ 8. On February 24, 2009, the PTO issued the '979 Patent, also entitled "Power-assisted cart retriever with attenuated power output." Id . ¶ 9. In basic terms, these Patents cover "shopping cart retrievers with motor controllers that have features designed to protect the motor." Id . ¶ 11.
The complete procedural background, including descriptions of the technology at issue and excerpted claim language from the Patents-in-Suit, has been fully recited in the July 14, 2014 Memorandum Opinion and Order and is incorporated by reference. See Mem. Op. and Order [Docket No. 210] (the "July Order"). While the first construction hearing was under advisement, Dane moved to amend their infringement contentions. Mot. Am. Infring. Cont. [Docket No. 124]. Magistrate Judge Keyes granted Dane's request on May 27, 2014. Order Grant. Mot. Am. Plead. [Docket No. 190].
The parties have agreed on six additional terms for construction. The terms the parties dispute are "Manual Mode, " "Remote Mode, " and "Mode Selector, " from claims 1, 17, and 27 of the '379 Patent. Decl. Nicholas M. Zovko [Docket No. 215] ("Zovko Decl.") Ex. L at 3; Id. Ex. M at 1-2. Also in dispute from claim 1 of the '836 Patent and claims 1 and 14 of the '979 Patent is "Normal Power Limit, " and from claim 1 of the '836 Patent and claims 1, 4, 14, and 21 of the '979 Patent, "Maximum Power Output." Id . Ex. L at 3; Id . Ex. M at 2. Finally, the term "Controller" is in dispute from claims 1, 6, and 7 of the '836 Patent and claims 1, 8, and 14 of the '979 Patent. Id . Ex. L at 3; Id . Ex. M at 2.
The parties agree in principle but disagree as to the scope of construction for the claim term "Wherein the [second or first] power limit is [selected or set] to provide a power output level that prevents the retriever from being subjected to an overload condition" in claim 3 of the '836 Patent and claims 3 and 16 of the '979 Patent. Id . Ex. L at 4; Id . Ex. M at 3.
Gatekeeper also requests supplemental construction of the means plus function claim term "Controlling Means" in claims 18 and 21 of the '979 Patent, which was construed in the July Order. Gatekeeper's request is premised on new arguments raised after the first claim construction hearing. Id . Ex. L at 3; Supplemental Responsive Claim Construction Br. [Docket No. 214] ("Gatekeeper Responsive Br.") at 25.
A. Standard of Review
Claim construction is a matter of law. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc. , 52 F.3d 967, 979 (Fed. Cir. 1995), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370 (1996). In construing claims, courts should look first to intrinsic evidence, which includes the claims, the specification, and the prosecution history. Vitrionics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc. , 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996). Claim terms are "generally given their 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 v. AWH Corp. , 415 F.3d 1303, 1312-13 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (quotation and citations omitted). However, a patentee can choose to be "his or her own lexicographer by clearly setting forth an explicit definition for a claim term." Johnson Worldwide Assocs., Inc. v. Zebco Corp. , 175 F.3d 985, 989 (Fed. Cir. 1999). Claim terms "should be construed consistently with [their] appearance in other places in the same claim or other claims of the same patent." Rexnord Corp. v. Laitram Corp. , 274 F.3d 1336, 1342 (Fed. Cir. 2001). In addition, the specification is usually "dispositive; it is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term." Vitrionics , 90 F.3d at 1582. Courts are nonetheless cautioned not to import limitations from the specification into the claims. Phillips , 415 F.3d at 1323; Laitram Corp. v. NEC Corp. , 163 F.3d 1342, 1347 (Fed. Cir. 1998).
While courts can consider extrinsic evidence to educate themselves about the patent and technology at issue, it is improper to rely on extrinsic evidence in construing claims unless, after consideration of all the intrinsic evidence, ambiguity remains. Mantech Envtl. Corp. v. Hudson Envtl. Servs., Inc. , 152 F.3d 1368, 1373 (Fed. Cir. 1998); Vitrionics , 90 F.3d at 1584. Extrinsic evidence is "evidence which is external to the patent and file history, such as expert testimony, inventor testimony, dictionaries, and technical treatises and articles." Vitrionics , 90 F.3d at 1584. Dictionaries may be useful to courts in understanding the ordinary and customary meaning of words, and courts may "rely on dictionary definitions when construing claim terms, so long as the dictionary definition does not contradict any definition found in or ascertained by a reading of the patent documents." Phillips , 415 F.3d at 1322-23.
B. Claim Construction
1. "Manual Mode" in Claims 1, 17, and 27 of the '379 Patent
Dane submits that the term "Manual Mode" does not need to be construed. Gatekeeper argues that "Manual Mode" is "a user-selectable state of the vehicle in which the vehicle can only operate in response to manual control signals and cannot operate in response to remote control signals." Gatekeeper Responsive Br. at 12. The dispute of the term "Manual Mode"-and the terms "Remote Mode" and "Mode Selector"-as advanced by Gatekeeper, centers on operational exclusivity; ...