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Williamson v. Verizon Communications Inc.

United States District Court, Second Circuit

August 12, 2013

RICHARD A. WILLIAMSON, on behalf of and as trustee for At Home Bondholders' Liquidating Trust, Plaintiff,
v.
VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS INC., et al., Defendants. RICHARD A. WILLIAMSON, on behalf of and as trustee for At Home Bondholders' Liquidating Trust, Plaintiff,
v.
AT&T OPERATIONS, INC., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM ORDER

LAURA TAYLOR SWAIN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Richard A. Williamson ("Plaintiff" or "Williamson") brings this patent infringement action against Verizon Communications, Inc., Verizon Services Corp., Verizon Corporate Resources Group LLC, Verizon Data Services LLC, Verizon New York Inc. (collectively, the "Verizon Defendants"), AT&T Operations, Inc., and AT&T Services, Inc. (collectively, the AT&T Defendants) (together with the Verizon Defendants, "Defendants")[1]. On December 10, 2012, the Court held a Markman hearing regarding the construction of certain terms in the claims of the 571 Patent, the 275 Patent, the 856 Patent, and the 749 Patent (collectively, the "Patents-in-Suit"). The Court has considered thoroughly all of the parties' written submissions and their arguments at the hearing. For the following reasons, the Court construes the disputed claim terms as set forth below.

BACKGROUND

The technology described by the Patents-in-Suit generally relates to the delivery of online multimedia services via a system and method that combine a scalable, hierarchical, distributed network architecture and processes for replicating and caching frequently-accessed multimedia content within the network, and multicasting content customized per region or locality. (See, e.g., 57 Patent at 2: 17-25.)[2] In their joint claim construction statement, the parties identified the following seven claim terms or phrases as in dispute: 1) provid[ing/e] a first level of caching [of the/for/of/of general] content; 2) provid[ing/e] a second level of caching [of the/for/for the general] content; 3) multicast[ing]; 4) destination address; 5) content is replicated amongst the regional servers; 6) group of [the] end[-]user systems; and 7) content. The parties' familiarity with the record is presumed.

DISCUSSION

Claim construction is an issue of law to be determined by the court. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc. , 517 U.S. 370, 385 (1996). In interpreting the meaning of claim terms, "words of a claim are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning" as understood by "a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of invention, i.e., as of the effective filing date of the patent application." Phillips v. AWH Corp. , 415 F.3d 1303, 1312-13 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The court reads a 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." Id . at 1313.

When interpreting claim terms, courts must give priority to intrinsic evidence - i.e., the words of the claim themselves, the written description in the patent's specification, and the history of the patent application's prosecution before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (the "PTO"). Id . at 1314-17. The patent specification "acts as a dictionary when it expressly defines terms used in the claims or when it defines terms by implication... [I]t is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term." Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc. , 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996). The specification's written description of the invention is relevant to construction of claims, as it is a "statutory requirement that the specification describe the claimed invention in full, clear, concise, and exact terms.'" Phillips, 416 F.3d at 1316 (quoting 35 U.S.C. ยง 112). Therefore, claim terms must be interpreted in a manner consistent with the specification of which they are a part. Phillips , 415 F.3d at 1316 (citation omitted).

However, preferred embodiments and written descriptions in the specification should not be used to limit the scope of claims. See Phillips, 416 F.3d at 1320 ("reading a limitation from the written description into the claims" is "one of the cardinal sins of patent law") (quoting SciMed Life Sys., Inc. v. Advanced Cardiovascular Sys., Inc. , 242 F.3d 1337, 1340 (Fed. Cir. 2001)). "[I]t is important to keep in mind that the purposes of the specification are to teach and enable those of skill in the art to make and use the invention, " and not to define the limits of a claim term. Id . at 1323.

The court may also use the prosecution history of a patent as an aid to the construction of claim terms. The prosecution history "can often inform the meaning of the claim language by demonstrating how the inventor understood the invention and whether the inventor limited the invention in the course of prosecution, making the claim scope narrower than it would otherwise be." Phillips, 416 F.3d at 1317 (citations omitted). However, "because the prosecution history represents an ongoing negotiation between the PTO and the applicant, rather than the final product of that negotiation, it often lacks the clarity of the specification and thus is less useful for claim construction purposes." Id.

Finally, courts may resort to "extrinsic" evidence such as dictionaries, treatises, and expert testimony, which may serve as a source of "accepted meanings of terms used in various fields of science and technology" or provide "background on the technology at issue." Id . at 1317-18. However, such extrinsic evidence is "less significant than the intrinsic record in determining the legally operative meaning of claim language, " and must be considered in the context of the intrinsic evidence. Id . at 1317-19 (citations and quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, where analysis of the intrinsic evidence alone resolves the ambiguity in a disputed claim term, it is improper to rely on extrinsic evidence to construe the meaning of the term. Vitronics , 90 F.3d at 1583.

The parties' arguments are summarized, and the Court's constructions of the disputed claim terms are set forth, below.

A. "Provid[ing/e] a first level of caching [of the/for/of/of general] content"[3]

Plaintiff's proposed construction of this claim term is "providing a first storage location for content located between the second storage location and the end-user system." Defendants' proposed construction of the claim term is "providing a storage location for content associated with a sub-region or local area and handling requests for content not stored in that location." The parties' proposed constructions reflect their disagreement as to the fundamental issue of whether caching encompasses more than mere storage.

Plaintiff argues that a cache is merely a storage location for information. Defendants argue persuasively, however, that a cache is not simply a passive storage location for files. Rather, a cache server must be capable of responding to requests for the files that it stores. In particular, a cache server must be capable of handling a "cache miss, " which occurs when a requested file is not stored in the cache server's memory. In the case of a cache miss, the cache server must retrieve the requested file from the nearest regional server (or, if the file is not stored at the regional server, from the remote source), ...


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