DC claim construction and finding of noninfringement by Amazon et al. affirmed

SpeedTrack, Inc. v. Amazon, et al. (multiple retailers)

Docket No. 2020-1573, -1660 (http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions-orders/20-1573.OPINION.6-3-2021_1785939.pdf)

PROST, BRYSON, REYNA

June 3, 2021

Brief Summary:  DC finding that Amazon et al. do not infringe SpeedTrack’s patent to computer file access systems affirmed (no claim construction error). Summary:  SpeedTrack appealed DC finding of noninfringement based on construction of the claims of US 5,544,360 directed to improved computer file access systems.  The FC panel reviewed the system, that there were prior art solutions that “presented…drawbacks” (e.g., mistyping search terms, search restrictions of relational databases), and the alleged improvements described in the ‘360 patent (e.g., “‘hybrid’ folders…that ‘allow[] total freedom from the restrictions imposed by hierarchical and other present day computer filing systems’”).  The FC panel explained that “‘[t]he words of a claim ‘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’” and that “the prosecution history can often inform the meaning of the claim language” (Phillips, FC 2005; Vita-Mix, FC 2009 (“[a] patentee may, through a clear and unmistakable disavowal in the prosecution history, surrender certain claim scope”); Teva, US 2015 (“claim construction based on intrinsic evidence de novo and review any findings of fact regarding extrinsic evidence for clear error”)).  “SpeedTrack acknowledge[d] that the ’360 patent applicants added the hierarchical limitation during prosecution ‘[t]o overcome’” prior art rejections, but “disagree[d] regarding the effect of this history on the claim scope—in particular, whether the claims cover predefined hierarchical field-and-value relationships.”  The FC panel agreed with the DC that “the claims exclude predefined field-and-value relationships” as “[t]hey are disclaimed” (e.g., “[t]he ’360 patent applicants repeatedly highlighted predefined hierarchical field-and-value relationships as a difference between Schwartz and the ’360 patent”, “[a]n applicant’s argument that a prior art reference is distinguishable on a particular ground can serve as a disclaimer of claim scope even if the applicant distinguishes the reference on other grounds as well” (Andersen, FC 2007); “SpeedTrack’s position contradicts its other litigation statements”; “the doctrine of prosecution disclaimer ensures that claims are not ‘construed one way in order to obtain their allowance and in a different way against accused infringers’” (Aylus Networks, FC 2017); “We also disagree that there was no clear and unmistakable disclaimer merely because the Wal-Mart court and the patent office did not expressly find one.”)  The cross-appellants patent eligibility and indefiniteness arguments were voluntarily dismissed since the DC noninfringement decision was affirmed.

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