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P3 International Corp. v. Unique Products Manufacturing Ltd.

May 21, 2009

P3 INTERNATIONAL CORP. AND DANIEL LIU, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
UNIQUE PRODUCTS MANUFACTURING LTD., MANDOLYN INTERNATIONAL LTD., UPM TECHNOLOGY (ASIA) LTD., UPM GLOBAL LTD., ALL D/B/A THE UPM GROUP, UPM MARKETING, INC., UPM TECHNOLOGY (USA), INC., AND SMARTLABS, INC., D/B/A SMARTHOME, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Denise Cote, District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiffs P3 International Corporation and Daniel Liu (collectively, "P3") bring this action against defendants Unique Products Manufacturing Ltd., Mandolyn International Ltd., UPM Technology (Asia) Ltd., UPM Global Ltd., all doing business as the UPM Group; UPM Marketing, Inc.; UPM Technology (USA) Inc. (collectively, "UPM"); and Smartlabs, Inc., doing business as Smarthome ("Smartlabs"). P3 alleges that defendants have infringed on its United States Patent No. 6,095,850 (the "'850 Patent"), which covers an electrical energy meter.*fn1

Pursuant to Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370 (1996), the parties have submitted briefing regarding their proposed constructions of the '850 Patent's claims. The following sets forth the Court's construction of disputed terms, including a rejection of UPM's contention that several claim terms are governed by 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6 and constitute means-plus-function limitations.

BACKGROUND

The parties dispute the construction of the following terms used in the '850 Patent: control circuit (in Claim 1), current detecting circuit (in Claim 7), voltage detecting circuit (in Claim 11), electrical parameters, analog-to-digital converter ("ADC"), voltage amplifier, and central processing unit ("CPU").

Claim 1 of the '850 Patent describes (emphasis supplied):

An electrical adapter configured to be connected between an electric socket and an electric appliance, for indicating a plurality of electrical parameters of the electric appliance, said electric adapter comprising: a housing; a plug arranged on a rear of the housing for insertion into an electric socket; an outlet socket formed on the housing, whereby the electric appliance can be electrically connected to the outlet socket; a control circuit including a central processing unit located within the housing for detecting a plurality of electrical parameters of the electric appliance during operation[;] a display unit arranged on the housing for displaying at least one of the plurality of electrical parameters detected by the control circuit; and, a mode selection switch arranged on the housing and connected to the central processing unit, the mode selection switch being operable from externally [sic] of the housing to select which of the plurality of electrical parameters is displayed by the display unit.

Claim 2 sets forth the electric adapter as claimed in Claim 1, "wherein the plurality of electrical parameters indicated on the display unit comprises present time, voltage value, current value, watt, kilowatt-hour, apparent power value, and power factor."

Claim 4 describes the electric adapter as claimed in Claim 1, wherein the control circuit comprises (emphasis supplied): a voltage detecting circuit for detecting a voltage supplied to the electric appliance and generating a voltage value; a current detecting circuit for detecting a current supplied to the electric appliance and generating a current value; and a time base signal generator for providing a time base signal; whereby the central processing unit receives the voltage value generated by the voltage detecting circuit, the current value generated by the current detecting unit, and time base signal to calculate the plurality of electric parameters.

Claim 7 claims an electric adapter comprising, inter alia, (emphasis supplied): a control circuit arranged in the housing for detecting the plurality of electrical parameters of the electric appliance during operations; and a display unit arranged on the housing for displaying at least one of the plurality of electrical parameters received and processed by the control circuit, wherein the control circuit comprises: a voltage detecting circuit for detecting a voltage supplied to the electric appliance and generating a voltage value; a current detecting circuit for detecting a current supplied to the electric appliance and generating a current value; a time base signal generator for providing a time base signal; and a central processing unit receiving the voltage value generated by the voltage detecting circuit, the current value generated by the current detecting circuit, and the time base signal for calculating the plurality of electrical parameters, wherein the voltage detecting circuit comprises; a voltage amplifier electrically connected to the output outlet of the adapter in parallel connection for generating an analog voltage signal; a voltage zero-crossing detecting circuit for detecting a zero-crossing signal of the analog voltage signal and then sending the zero-crossing signal to the central processing unit; and an analog-to-digital converter for converting the analog voltage signal generated by the voltage amplifier into a digital voltage value, and then sending the digital voltage value to the central processing unit.

Claim 11 claims, inter alia, an electric adapter with a control circuit that comprises (emphasis supplied): a voltage detecting circuit for detecting a voltage supplied to the electric appliance and generating a voltage value; a current detecting circuit for detecting a current supplied to the electric appliance and generating a current value; a time base signal generator for providing a time base signal; and a central processing unit receiving the voltage value generated by the voltage detecting circuit, the current value generated by the current detecting circuit, and the time base signal for calculating the plurality of electrical parameters, wherein the current detecting circuit comprises; a current amplifier for detecting a current flow supplied to the electrical appliance, and then generating an analog current signal; and an analog-to-digital converter for converting the analog current signal generated by the current amplifier into a digital current value, and then sending the digital current value to the central processing unit.

DISCUSSION

"It is a bedrock principle of patent law that the claims of a patent define the invention to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude." Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc) (citation omitted). In construing a patent claim, which is a question of law, a court "should look first to the intrinsic evidence of record, i.e., the patent itself, including the claims, the specification and, if in evidence, the prosecution history." PC Connector Solutions LLC v. SmartDisk Corp., 406 F.3d 1359, 1362 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). A court may consider extrinsic evidence, such as expert and inventor testimony, dictionaries, and treatises, but such extrinsic evidence is "less significant than the intrinsic record in determining the legally operative meaning of claim language." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317 (citation omitted); see also id. at 1322-23 ("Judges are free to consult dictionaries and technical treatises . . . 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." (citation omitted)). If the meaning of the claim is clear from the intrinsic evidence alone, resort to extrinsic evidence is improper. Boss Control, Inc. v. Bombardier Inc., 410 F.3d 1372, 1377 (Fed. Cir. 2005).

Courts should give the words of a claim "their ordinary and customary meaning," Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312 (citation omitted), which is defined as "the meaning that the term would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art in question at the time of the invention." Id. at 1313. "A patentee, however, can act as his own lexicographer to specifically define terms of a claim contrary to their ordinary meaning." Abraxis Bioscience, Inc. v. Mayne Pharma (USA) Inc., 467 F.3d 1370, 1376 (Fed. Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). In addition, "the specification is always highly relevant to the claim construction analysis. Usually, it is dispositive; it is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1315 (citation omitted); see also Kinetic Concepts, Inc. v. Blue Sky Med. Group, Inc., 554 F.3d 1010, 1018-19 (Fed. Cir. 2009). Although courts use the specification "to interpret the meaning of a claim," at the same time courts must "avoid the danger of reading limitations from the specification into the claim" itself. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1323.

A. Means-Plus-Function Limitation

According to 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6, [a]n element in a claim for a combination may be expressed as a means or step for performing a specified function without the recital of structure, material, or acts in support thereof, and such claim shall be construed to cover the ...


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