The opinion of the court was delivered by: Swain, District Judge
Plaintiff's Dynacore Holding Corporation and Dynacore Patent Litigation Trust (collectively "Dynacore" or "Plaintiffs") have brought two separate actions, 01 Civ. 5912 and 01 Civ. 10798, alleging infringement of a patent for technology relating to networks that interconnect computers and related devices (each a "node") in "local area networks" or "LANs."*fn1 The patent has been assigned United States Patent No. 5,077,732 (hereinafter the "`732 Patent"). The claims of the `732 Patent are "directed generally to a method of communication between nodes within a network, wherein nodes have both enhanced and common [communication speed] capabilities." (First Amended Complaint for Patent Infringement and Jury Demand, Dynacore Holdings Corp. v. U.S. Philips Corporation et al., dated July 5, 2001 ("Philips Complaint") at ¶ 22; see also Amended Complaint for Patent Infringement and Jury Demand, Dynacore Holdings Corp. v. Sony Corporation of America, Inc. et al., dated January 22, 2003 ("Sony Complaint"), ¶ 19.) The Defendants in 01 Civ. 5012 and 01 Civ. 10798 include manufacturers of a variety of products, including semiconductors, printers and computers, which incorporate or utilize a certain digital interface known as the IEEE 1394 Standard for a High Performance Serial Bus ("IEEE 1394 Standard"). The IEEE 1394 Standard permits users to interconnect a variety of electronic devices. Plaintiffs allege generally that "[p]roducts incorporating the IEEE 1394 standard fall within the scope of the claimed subject matter of the `732 patent" and that "[t]he IEEE 1394 standard utilizes technology which falls within the scope of the claimed subject matter of the `732 patent." (Philips Complaint at ¶¶ 3, 25; Sony Complaint at ¶¶ 3, 24.) The complaints do not specify the patent claims allegedly infringed by implementation of the IEEE 1394 Standard.
Certain claim limitations of the `732 Patent were recently construed in litigation originally commenced by Plaintiffs' predecessor in interest. The claim construction in that case was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Datapoint v. Standard Microsystems Corp., 31 Fed. Appx. 685 (Fed. Cir. 2002) ("Datapoint"). Defendants here have moved for summary judgment of noninfringement, arguing that networks of devices compliant with the IEEE 1394 Standard ("IEEE 1394 Networks")*fn2 do not read on a key limitation common to all of the independent claims of the `732 Patent, as that limitation is construed in Datapoint.
The parties have provided written submissions and presented oral argument, all of which the Court has considered carefully, in connection with the pending motion. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motions for summary judgment in each of 01 Civ. 5012 and 01 Civ. 10798 are granted.
Plaintiff Dynacore Holdings Corporation is the successor to Datapoint Corporation ("Datapoint"), which filed a petition for relief under the Bankruptcy Code in May 2000. In 1996, Datapoint filed actions in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York against certain defendants, alleging that the defendants had infringed the `732 Patent and a related patent (No. 5,088,879, hereinafter the "`879 patent") by the manufacture, use and/or sale of products conforming to an industry standard called "IEEE 802.3u" (also known as "Fast Ethernet.") The district court appointed a Special Master, who was authorized, among other duties, to conduct a Markman hearing for claim construction purposes.*fn3
The Special Master issued a report construing certain claims in the `732 the `879 patents (the "Master's Report"). The district court subsequently adopted the Master's Report. Datapoint appealed the district court's judgment to the Federal Circuit. In Datapoint, the Federal Circuit affirmed the Special Master's claim construction.
The `732 Patent, titled "LAN with Dynamically Selectable Multiple Operational Capabilities," relates to certain networks that connect nodes that communicate at a common speed, as well as nodes capable of communicating both at the common speed and at an enhanced speed, enabling the nodes to communicate with each other on a single network. Master's Report at 7; (United States Patent No. 5,077,732, Ex. C to Declaration of George A. Riley in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment "Riley Decl." at 1.) The `732 Patent applies to such nodes that are connected in bus-type networks, i.e., ones in which the nodes are interconnected through a single logical point such that communications from one device to another are generally delivered to all other devices on the network. Master's Report at 8. When a device communicates with another device in a bus-type network of the type to which the `732 Patent applies, the communication includes the address of the device to which the communication is directed. Id. In communications on such networks the transmitting devices ("source nodes") communicate with other nodes by including in their transmitted messages "address" information for the intended recipient node(s); nodes other than the addressee(s) ignore the transmission. Id. at 8. The devices that are connected to send and receive data communications over a LAN are referred to as "nodes." See Datapoint, 31 Fed. Appx. at 687.
Defendants here contend, and Plaintiffs do not dispute, that the `732 Patent includes but five independent claims, each of which incorporates the limitation "[i]nterconnecting all of the nodes as equal peers in a single network configuration." (Defendants' Mem. at 11.) Claim 31 of the `732 Patent ("Claim 31"), which was construed in the Datapoint litigation, includes this limitation and is the focal point of the instant motion practice. Claim 31 reads in its entirety as follows:
A method of communicating information frames between
at least three nodes in a local area network or LAN,
interconnecting all of the nodes as equal peers in a
single network configuration;
communicating frames containing data between all of
the nodes at a common communication capability and in
accordance with a predetermined logical connectivity
communicating frames containing data between at least
two nodes at an enhanced communication capability and
in accordance with a predetermined logical
connectivity pattern, the nodes between which frames
are communicated at the enhanced capability each being
an enhanced node; and
achieving a substantially different form of data frame
communication over the medium between enhanced nodes
than the data frame communication over the medium
achieved between nodes at the common operation
(`732 Patent, Ex. C to Riley Decl., at col. 25.)
In the instant motions, Defendants argue that the limitation "equal peers in a single network configuration," as construed by the Special Master in the claim construction that was ultimately affirmed by the Federal Circuit in Datapoint, excludes IEEE 1394 Networks from the scope of all of the independent claims of the `732 Patent. (Defendants' Mem. at 12-13). Plaintiffs agree that meeting the "equal peers" limitation is a requirement of the claims at issue in this case. (Plaintiffs' Mem. at 11.) Defendants rely on Datapoint's construction of the relevant Claim 31 limitations for purposes of the instant motions and argue that Plaintiffs are, in any event, estopped from challenging the claim construction affirmed by the Federal Circuit in Datapoint.
For the following reasons, the Court concludes that Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the infringement issue and the instant motions are granted.
Summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In deciding a summary judgment motion, a court should not resolve disputed issues of fact; rather, it simply must decide whether there is any genuine issue to be tried. Gallo v. Prudential ...