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Starhome GmbH v. AT & T Mobility LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

February 24, 2014

STARHOME GMBH, Plaintiff-Appellant,

Page 850

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Delaware in No. 10-CV-0434, Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet.

JOHN M. DIMATTEO, Willkie Farr & Gallagher, LLP, of New York, New York, argued for plaintiff-appellant. With him on the brief was ROBERT G. KOFSKY. Of counsel was JESENIA M. RUIZ DE LA TORRE.

MARK A. PERRY, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, of Washington, DC, argued for defendants-appellees. On the brief were JOSH KREVITT, BENJAMIN HERSHKOWITZ, and R. SCOTT ROE, of New York, New York; and FREDERICK CHUNG, of Palo Alto, California.

Before MOORE, SCHALL, and REYNA, Circuit Judges.


Page 851

Schall, Circuit Judge.

This is a patent infringement case. Starhome GmbH (" Starhome" ) sued AT& T Mobility LLC, Roamware, Inc., and T-Mobile USA, Inc. (" Defendants" ), in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,920,487 (the " '487 patent" ). The '487 patent is titled " System and Methods for Global Access to Services for Mobile Telephone Subscribers." It relates generally to a way of improving the functionality of phone services for users in a roaming telephone network. To allow users in a roaming network to make calls as if in their home network, the '487 patent discloses the use of an " intelligent gateway."

Following a Markman hearing, the district court construed various terms of the '487 patent. Among them was the term " intelligent gateway," which the court construed to mean " a network element that transfers information to and from a mobile network and another network external to the mobile network." Relying upon that construction, Defendants moved for summary judgment of noninfringement. Starhome did not contest the motion, but instead stipulated to a judgment of noninfringement based upon the court's construction of " intelligent gateway." Following the district court's entry of the stipulated judgment on September 12, 2012, Starhome GmbH v. AT& T Mobility LLC, No. 1:10-cv-00434-GMS (D. Del. Sept. 12, 2012), Starhome appealed. We affirm.


I. Starhome and the '487 Patent

Starhome owns the '487 patent. The problem the patent aims to solve arises when mobile phone users are in a network other than their home network (e.g., roaming). In a home network, a mobile phone user might dial a short code, such as " 121," to access voice mail. But while roaming, the visiting network may not recognize the code, resulting in an error message. As another example, a user from Germany visiting the United States may want to call home to Germany, but if the user does not enter the correct international direct-dialing prefix and country code, the call will not connect.

The '487 patent's solution to this problem is the " intelligent gateway." Figure 1 of the '487 patent, shown below, demonstrates a system (10) providing roaming services and employing the intelligent gateway.

Page 852

As shown in Figure 1, the intelligent gateway (V-I/G 32) has a database (DB 31) that contains information about multiple home networks, including short-code translation tables, subscriber profile data, and roaming patterns. '487 patent col. 2 ll. 33-41. The information in the database may be updated via a global packet-switch network (22). Id. col. 2 ll. 33-36, col. 4 ll. 33-36. Figure 2 of the '487 patent, shown below, demonstrates a call flow of a short-coded call or erroneous full-number call in accordance with the system of Figure 1. Id. col. 1 ll. 43-44, col. 3 ll. 24-27. The specification explains that, " [i]n order to simplify the picture, the mobility probe and its Interfaces are not shown." Id. col. 3 ll. 27-29.

Page 853

In Figure 2, the visited mobile network (VPLMN 30) has a switching center (V-MSC 34) supporting a roaming cell phone (39). If the roaming subscriber (39) dials a phone number that the switching center (34) cannot place (e.g., a voice mail short code like " 121" ) (step 1), the call is routed to the intelligent gateway (V-I/G 32) (step 2). The intelligent gateway, which has knowledge of the home-network dialing format and short codes, translates the sequence into one the switch (34) will recognize and sends the corrected dialing sequence back to the switch (step 3). The call is then routed by the switch to the international telephone network (step 4), and the network sends the call to its intended destination (step 5). Id. col. 3 l. 30 - col. 4 l. 5.

Starhome sells its intelligent gateway solution as the IntelliGate[TM] and has installed it in over 130 mobile networks throughout the world.

II. Defendants and the Accused Product

Defendant Roamware sells a network platform that runs Smart Call Assistant and Short Code applications. Those applications allow mobile-network operators to translate numbers dialed by roaming cell-phone users visiting their networks. Defendants AT& T and T-Mobile use the Roamware platforms in their networks. Notably, the Roamware platform does not connect to an external packet-switch network or other external network.

III. The District Court Proceedings

Starhome filed its complaint against Defendants on May 25, 2010, asserting infringement of the '487 patent and U.S. Patent No. 7,231,431 (the " '431 patent" ), which is a continuation of the '487 patent. The parties disputed multiple terms in the patents, one being the term " intelligent gateway." Starhome proposed that the term meant " a network element that uses knowledge implemented in databases or the like and application logic to perform its operations." Defendants argued that the term meant " a network element that ...

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