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Homebingo Network, Inc. v. Multimedia Games

December 28, 2006

THE HOMEBINGO NETWORK, INC. PLAINTIFF,
v.
MULTIMEDIA GAMES, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY, Senior United States District Judge

DECISION & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, The HomeBingo Network, Inc. ("HomeBingo"), is the assignee of U.S. Pat. No. 6,186,892 entitled BINGO GAME FOR USE ON THE INTERACTIVE COMMUNICATION NETWORK WHICH RELIES UPON PROBABILITIES FOR WINNING ("the '892 patent").

Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Multimedia Games' Reel Time BingoTM ("RTB" ) game infringes the '892 patent. Claim 5 is the only claim in issue, and both parties have proposed constructions of certain terms of Claim 5. On November 20, 2006, the Court held a Markman Hearing.*fn1

II. DISCUSSION

a. Standard of Review

"Patent infringement proceeds under a two step analysis. First, the court interprets the claims to determine their proper scope and meaning. Next, the court measures the accused product or process against the standard of the properly interpreted claims" to see if the patent has been infringed. SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Apotex Corp., 403 F.3d 1331, 1337 (Fed. Cir. 2005); see Dow Chemical Co. v. Astro-Valcour, Inc., 47 F. Supp.2d 294, 297 (N.D.N.Y. 1999) (McAvoy, C.J.)("A patent infringement analysis involves two steps: first, a court determines the scope and meaning of a patent claim; and second, the construed claim is compared to the allegedly infringing product or process."). "The first step presents a question of law exclusively for the court; the second step a question of fact generally for the jury." Dow Chemical, 47 F. Supp.2d at 297 (citations omitted). The Markman hearing concerned only the issue of construction of certain terms of Claim 5 of the '892 Patent.

Generally, in claim construction, the Court starts with the words of the claim, giving these words "their ordinary and customary meaning . . . that the term[s] 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, 1313 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc); see Dow Chemical Co.., 47 F. Supp.2d at 297 ("In determining the scope of a claim, the starting point is the claim language.") . While this Court has long been of the view that "[t]he claim language should be construed in context, . . . , and the other claims, the patent specification and the prosecution history must be considered in determining what the claim means," Dow Chemical Co.., 47 F. Supp.2d at 297, there exists a line of cases "in which the court has given greater emphasis to dictionary definitions of claim terms and has assigned a less prominent role to the specification and the prosecution history." Phillips 415 F.3d at 1319 (citing Texas Digital Systems, Inc. v. Telegenix, Inc., 308 F.3d 1193 (Fed. Cir .2002)); see also Phillips 415 F.3d at 1311-1312.*fn2

In Phillips, the Federal Circuit sat en banc to address " the principal question [of] the extent to which [a court] should resort to and rely on a patent's specification in seeking ... the proper scope of its claims." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312. Phillipsheld that while " [i]t is a 'bedrock principle' of patent law that 'the claims of a patent define the invention, [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." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312. In this regard, the Phillips Court wrote:

We have frequently stated that the words of a claim are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning. We have made clear, moreover, that the ordinary and customary meaning of a claim term 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.

The inquiry into how a person of ordinary skill in the art understands a claim term provides an objective baseline from which to begin claim interpretation. That starting point is based on the well-settled understanding that inventors are typically persons skilled in the field of the invention and that patents are addressed to and intended to be read by others of skill in the pertinent art.

Importantly, the 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.

In some cases, the ordinary meaning of claim language as understood by a person of skill in the art may be readily apparent even to lay judges, and claim construction in such cases involves little more than the application of the widely accepted meaning of commonly understood words. In such circumstances, general purpose dictionaries may be helpful. In many cases that give rise to litigation, however, determining the ordinary and customary meaning of the claim requires examination of terms that have a particular meaning in a field of art. Because the meaning of a claim term as understood by persons of skill in the art is often not immediately apparent, and because patentees frequently use terms idiosyncratically, the court looks to those sources available to the public that show what a person of skill in the art would have understood disputed claim language to mean. Those sources ...


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