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Mondis Technology Ltd. v. LG Electronics, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 28, 2017

MONDIS TECHNOLOGY LTD, Plaintiff,
v.
LG ELECTRONICS, INC. et al., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          STANLEY R. CHESLER, U.S.D.J.

         This matter comes before the Court on the application for claim construction by Plaintiff Mondis Technology Ltd (“Mondis”) and Defendants LG Electronics, Inc. and LG Electronics U.S.A., Inc. (collectively, “LG”). In this patent infringement suit involving a display device patent, the parties seek construction of claims in U.S. Patent No. 7, 475, 180 (“the '180 patent”).

         ANALYSIS

         I. The law of claim construction

         A court's determination “of patent infringement requires a two-step process: first, the court determines the meaning of the disputed claim terms, then the accused device is compared to the claims as construed to determine infringement.” Acumed LLC v. Stryker Corp., 483 F.3d 800, 804 (Fed. Cir. 2007). “[W]hen the district court reviews only evidence intrinsic to the patent (the patent claims and specifications, along with the patent's prosecution history), the judge's determination will amount solely to a determination of law.” Teva Pharms. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 831, 841 (2015).

         The focus of claim construction is the claim language itself:

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. Attending this principle, a claim construction analysis must begin and remain centered on the claim language itself, for that is the language the patentee has chosen to ‘particularly point[] out and distinctly claim[] the subject matter which the patentee regards as his invention.'

Innova/Pure Water, Inc. v. Safari Water Filtration Sys., 381 F.3d 1111, 1115-1116 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (citations omitted).

         The Federal Circuit has established this framework for the construction of claim language:

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. . .
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 include the words of the claims themselves, the remainder of the specification, the prosecution history, and extrinsic evidence concerning relevant scientific principles, the meaning of technical terms, and the state of the art.

Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312-1314 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).

         II. Claim construction of the disputed terms

         The parties dispute the meaning of claim terms in claims 14 and 16. Claim 14 states:

A display unit for displaying an image based on video signals inputted from an externally connected video source, comprising:
a video circuit adapted to display an image based on the video signals sent by the externally connected video source;
a memory in which at least display unit information is stored, said display unit information including an identification number for identifying at least a type of said display unit and characteristic information of said display unit;
and a communication controller capable of bi-directionally communicating with said video source; wherein said communication controller is capable of communicating said display unit information other than said characteristic information to said video source.

         A. Is the preamble of claim 14 limiting?

         Mondis contends that the preamble to claim 14 should be construed as a claim limitation. This argument is questionable from the start because Mondis fails to articulate what limitation this would add to the claim, if the Court agreed.

         “A preamble is generally construed to be limiting if it recites essential structure or steps, or if it is necessary to give life, meaning, and vitality to the claim.” Proveris Sci. Corp. v. Innovasystems, Inc., 739 F.3d 1367, 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2014). “Conversely, where a patentee defines a structurally complete invention in the claim body and uses the preamble only to state a purpose or intended use for the invention, the preamble is not a claim limitation.” Rowe v. Dror, 112 F.3d 473, 478 (Fed. Cir. 1997). “If the preamble adds no limitations to those in the body of the claim, the preamble is not itself a claim limitation and is irrelevant to proper construction of the claim.” IMS Tech., Inc. v. Haas Automation, Inc., 206 F.3d 1422, 1434 (Fed. Cir. 2000).

         Mondis makes two arguments in support. First, it argues that the preamble language that identifies the invention as a “display unit” is an “essential feature.” This fails because “display unit” is merely a name for the invention, not an essential feature. The first listed element of claim 14 is: “a video circuit adapted to display an image based on the video signals sent by the externally connected video source.”[1] Mondis does not even posit that this element would be misunderstood in the absence of the preamble, nor explain how the preamble provides “essential structure.” Similarly, in IMS, the Federal Circuit held: “The phrase ‘control apparatus' in the preamble merely gives a descriptive name to the set of limitations in the body of the claim that completely set forth the invention.” 206 F.3d at 1434.

         “[A] preamble generally is not limiting when the claim body describes a structurally complete invention such that deletion of the preamble phrase does not affect the structure or steps of the claimed invention.” Catalina Mktg. Int'l v. Coolsavings.com, Inc., 289 F.3d 801, 809 (Fed. Cir. 2002). Here, deletion of the preamble does not affect the structure or steps of the claimed invention. One could substitute “a device comprising” for the preamble and still understand the claim. Mondis has not demonstrated that this is not the case.

         Second, Mondis argues that the preamble provides an antecedent basis for the claim terms, “display unit, ” “video signals, ” and “externally connected video source.” Mondis has misunderstood the Federal Circuit's view on antecedents. The mere fact that certain words appear both in the preamble and the claim body does not automatically make the preamble limiting; rather, there must be “dependence on a particular disputed preamble phrase for antecedent basis [which] may limit claim scope because it indicates a reliance on both the preamble and claim body to define the claimed invention.” Catalina, 289 F.3d at 808 (emphasis added). There is no dependence or reliance for meaning here. This is not a case like Pitney Bowes, Inc. v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 182 F.3d 1298, 1306 (Fed. Cir. 1999), where the Federal Circuit found that a claim term could not be understood without reference to the preamble. Mondis has not shown that these claim terms cannot be understood without reference to the preamble.

         LG argues that the preamble is not limiting because it merely repeats information contained within the body of the claim. LG observes that the preamble phrase, “a display unit for displaying an image based on video signals inputted from an externally connected video source, ” repeats the information contained in the phrase, “a video circuit adapted to display an image based on the video signals sent by the externally connected video source.” While the two phrases are not identical, Mondis has not demonstrated that the preamble adds any unique content to the information contained in the body of the claim.

         It is worth noting that, in a re-examination of claim 17, which contains identical preamble language, the examiner found that the preamble was not limiting. (Walsh Dec. Ex. 3 at 14.)

         The preamble to claim 14 is not a claim limitation.

         B. “Display unit information”

         The phrase “display unit information” appears in claim 14 in two different elements: 1) the memory stores display unit information; and 2) the communication controller communicates display unit information. Mondis proposes that this phrase has its ordinary meaning (“information pertaining to a display unit”), while LG proposes a ...


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