ContentGuard Holdings, Inc. v. Apple Inc.

Docket No. 2016-1916, -2007

July 12, 2017


Brief summary: DC construction of “usage rights” and denial of CG’s Motion for a New Trial regrading to multiple patents relating to digital rights management for computers and other devices affirmed.

Summary: ContentGuard (CG) appealed DC construction of “usage rights” and its denial of its Motion for a New Trial regarding CG’s multiple patents relating to digital rights management for computers and other devices. The jury determined Apple did not infringe the Asserted Claims but that Apple had not shown the claims are invalid as patent ineligible. Apple argued the FC lacked jurisdiction “‘[b]ecause claims and counterclaims remained unresolved’ when ContentGuard filed its notice of appeal” (“patents and claims that neither [party] pursued at trial”), “such that ‘there was no final and appealable judgment at that point.’” The FC disagreed, however, finding the DC “evince[ed] a clear intent to resolve or dispose of all claims and end the case” and therefore rendered a “final judgment” (Pandrol, FC 2003; 28 USC § 1295(a)(1)[2012]). Under Fifth Circuit rules which this decision was reviewed, the denial of a motion for a new trial is reviewed for abuse of discretion which is found when there is a “complete absence of evidence to support the verdict”. On claim construction, CG argued the DC’s findings were “inconsistent with the claims, the specification, the prosecution history, and the commercial embodiment [CG] built.” The FC panel began its review with the claims, explaining that neither party contended “that a ‘usage right’ has a plain and ordinary meaning to” one of ordinary skill in the art, finding the claim language not to be dispositive as to its meaning. It therefore “turn[ed] to the specification” ((Marine Polymer, FC 2012 (“the signle best guide to the meaning of a disputed term”)), finding it “removes all doubt that the usage right must be ‘attached to’ the digital content” and accordingly finding no error to the DC on this point. CG also argued the DC erred in its “evidentiary ruling that prevented [CG’s] expert from arguing that the ‘mere association between the content and the usage rights is enough to meet the requirement that the usage rights be ‘attached’ to the content”. The FC panel reviewed this decision for abuse of discretion (Ericsson, FC 2014) and found none (“the [DC’s] decision ‘avoided possible jury confusion’ stemming from the parties’ introduction of terms outside the [DC’s] claim construction” (TiVo, FC 2008)). The FC panel also found CG’s arguments that the DC committed other evidentiary rulings “that ‘had a substantial effect on the outcome of the trial’ sufficient to constitute an abuse of discretion” unconvincing since it did not “identify the [DC] rulings purportedly requiring reversal or to apply the appropriate legal framework in its analysis”.

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