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Clearplay Inc. v. Dish Network LLC

United States District Court, D. Utah

August 26, 2019

CLEARPLAY, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
DISH NETWORK, LLC; DISH NETWORK CORP.; and ECHOSTAR TECHNOLOGIES, LLC, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER REGARDING CLAIM CONSTRUCTION

          DAVID NUFFER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case involves causes of action for direct and indirect infringement of four patents: U.S. Patent Nos. 7, 577, 970 (“'970 Patent”); 7, 526, 784 (“'784 Patent”); 7, 543, 318 (“'318 Patent”); and 6, 898, 799 (“'799 Patent”) (collectively, the “Asserted Patents”).[1] The parties filed briefing on claim construction, which identified two undisputed claim terms and 10 disputed claim terms in the Asserted Patents.[2] A claim construction hearing was held on August 13, 2019, at which the parties presented argument on the construction of the disputed claim terms.[3] For the reasons set forth below, the Asserted Patents' undisputed and disputed claim terms are construed as follows.

         Contents

         BACKGROUND ............................................................................................................................ 3

         DISCUSSION ................................................................................................................................. 4

         The parties' proposed constructions of the Asserted Patents' undisputed claim terms are adopted. . .................................................................................................................. 5

         The Asserted Patents' disputed claim terms are construed to give ordinary and customary meaning to the terms as understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention. . ............................................................................................. 6

         “Start position [start indicator]” is construed as: Information that identifies the beginning of a portion of multimedia content to be filtered. . ..................... 6

         “Stop position [end indicator]” is construed as: Information that identifies the end of the portion of multimedia content to be filtered. . ................................... 8

         “Filtering action” is construed as: An action that edits or rejects some multimedia content while allowing other multimedia content to be unchanged. . ......... 9

         “Position code” is construed as: Information that defines a location in the multimedia content .................................................................................... 10

         “Output device” is construed as: A device that outputs for purposes of display, or that displays, decoded multimedia content. . ............................................. 11

         “Configuration identifier” is construed as: An identifier of the consumer system (including hardware and software) that is used to determine if the navigation objects apply to the particular consumer system. . .................. 12

         “Displaying a representation including a description of each of the plurality of navigation objects” is construed as: Displaying one or more words, symbols, images, or a combination thereof to depict, denote, or delineate the navigation objects, whether individually or in combination. . ............. 14

         “Portion of the multimedia content defined by the particular navigation object” is construed as: The multimedia content that is defined by the start position and stop position of a navigation object. . ................................................. 16

         “Object store” is construed as: The collection that contains the navigation objects of at least one multimedia presentation. . .................................................. 16

         “Defin[e/ed/es/ing]” is construed as: Assign or specify [a start position, stop position, or filtering action]. . .................................................................... 17

         ORDER ......................................................................................................................................... 18

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's founder, Matt Jarman, developed a method and system that assists consumers in identifying and filtering portions of objectionable multimedia content.[4] The system uses the “start position [start indicator]” and “stop position [end indicator]” of the objectionable content to identify the portion of the multimedia content to be filtered.[5] A “filtering action” (such as a skip or a mute) that will be performed on the objectionable content is assigned.[6] The combination of the “start position [start indicator], ” the “stop position [end indicator], ” and a “filtering action” form a “navigation object.”[7] A “configuration identifier” is assigned to the “navigation object” so that the “navigation object” can be used on varying types of consumer systems depending on hardware and software configuration.[8] When a user decides to filter a multimedia presentation, the consumer system tracks the “position code” and activates the filter when the presentation position is between the “start positon [start indicator]” and “stop position [end indicator].”[9]

         Plaintiff's '970 Patent and '799 Patent describe a mechanism that monitors the current play position in multimedia content, and compares the play position against a data set comprising a “start position [start indicator], ” a “stop position [end indicator], ” and a “filtering action” to be performed.[10] When the content position falls between the “start position [start indicator]” and “stop position [end indicator], ” the consumer system activates the “filtering action” identified in the data set.[11] Plaintiff's '318 Patent and '784 Patent teach the process of retrieving or delivering “navigation objects” from a server system.[12] The Asserted Patents share a common specification and drawings.[13]

         DISCUSSION

         Claim construction is an issue of law for the court to decide.[14] The starting point for construing claim terms is the intrinsic evidence, i.e., the claims, patent specification, and prosecution history.[15] “In most situations, an analysis of the intrinsic evidence alone will resolve any ambiguity in a disputed claim term.”[16]

         The claims of a patent “define the invention to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude.”[17] Claim terms “are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning.”[18] Courts determine “the ordinary and customary meaning of undefined claim terms as understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention . . . .”[19] “Common words, unless the context suggests otherwise, should be interpreted according to their ordinary meaning.”[20]

         “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.”[21] And while claims must be read in light of the specification, limitations from the specification may not be read into the claims.[22] It is well settled that the invention should not be limited to the specific examples or preferred embodiment found in the specification.[23] But the “specification may reveal a special definition given to a claim term by the patentee that differs from the meaning it would otherwise possess.” If that is the case, “the inventor's lexicography governs.”[24] However, the specification must “clearly redefine a claim term so as to put one reasonably skilled in the art on notice that the patentee intended to so redefine the claim.”[25]

         The parties' proposed constructions of the Asserted Patents' undisputed claim terms are adopted.

         The parties identified two claim terms in the Asserted Patents for which they agreed to proposed constructions: “Navigation object;” and “Decod[e/er/ing].”[26] The parties' proposed constructions of these terms are consistent with the ordinary and customary meaning as understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention. Therefore, the proposed constructions are adopted.

         “Navigation object” is construed as: Plain and ordinary meaning (as defined by the terms of the claims themselves).

         “Decod[e/er/ing]” is construed as: [The device or process] for translating multimedia content from the format used to store or transmit it to the format for ultimately presenting it at the output device.

         The Asserted Patents' disputed claim terms are construed to give ordinary and customary meaning to the terms as understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention.

         The parties' identified 10 claim terms in the Asserted Patents for which construction is disputed.[27] These terms are:

• “Start position [start indicator]”;
• “Stop position [end indicator]”;
• “Filtering action”;
• “Position code”;
• “Output device”;
• “Configuration identifier”;
• “Displaying a representation including a description of each of the plurality of navigation objects”;
• “Portion of the multimedia content defined by the particular navigation object”;
• “Object store”; and • “Defin[e/ed/es/ing]”.

         Each disputed claim term is discussed and construed in turn.

         “Start position [start indicator]” is construed as: Information that identifies the beginning of a portion of multimedia content to be filtered.

         The parties propose that “start position [start indicator]” be construed as follows:

Plaintiff's Proposed Construction
Defendants' Proposed Construction
Information that the consumer system employs to identify the beginning of a portion of multimedia content to be filtered.
The point in the multimedia content at which the content to be filtered begins.

         The dispute over the construction of “start positon [start indicator]” is a dispute on concept. Defendants argue that the term denotes a location or point in the multimedia content.[28] Plaintiff argues that the term refers to information about a location or point in the multimedia content.[29] Both arguments find support in the Asserted Patents' claim and specification language.[30] However, Defendants' proposal would make the term a generic concept, rather than the functional designation that was intended. Defendants also improperly read in a limitation, which is not supported by the context in which the term is used in the Asserted Patents' claim and specification language as a whole.

         “Start position [start indicator]” denotes information about a location or point in the multimedia content. The United States Patent and Trademark Appeals Board (“PTAB”) determined the same.[31] And while the PTAB standard for construction is broader than the applicable standard in this proceeding, [32] this does not necessitate a different construction per se. The PTAB's construction of a term may also be the ordinary and customary meaning as understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention.

         Moreover, Defendants' argument at the August 13, 2019 hearing that construing “start position [start indicator]” as information (rather than an actual location or point) creates redundancy is without merit. That a “navigation object” defines a “start position [start indicator]” is not redundant with a “start position [start indicator]” being information about a location or point in the multimedia content.

         However, this is not to say that Plaintiff's proposed construction is appropriate. Plaintiff's proposal includes vague and unnecessary language regarding the consumer system.[33] Inclusion of this language would not assist the jury, and could lead to confusion. And at the August 13, 2019 hearing, Plaintiff agreed to a construction which removed such language.

         The ordinary and customary meaning of “start position [start indicator]” as understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention is: Information that identifies the beginning of a portion of multimedia content to be filtered.

         “Stop position [end indicator]” is construed as: Information that identifies the end of the portion of multimedia content to be filtered.

         The parties propose that “stop position [stop indicator]” be construed as follows:

Plaintiff's Proposed Construction

Defendants' Proposed Construction

Information that the consumer system employs to identify the corresponding end of the portion of multimedia content to be filtered.

The point in the multimedia content at which the content to be filtered ends.

         The dispute over the construction of “stop position [end indicator]” is the same conceptual dispute the parties had with “start position [start indicator].”[34] For the same reasons that lead to the construction of “start position [start indicator], ”[35] the ordinary and customary meaning of “stop position [end indicator]” as understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention is: Information that identifies the end of the portion of multimedia content to be filtered.

         “Filtering action” is construed as: An action that edits or rejects some multimedia content while allowing other multimedia content to be unchanged.

         The parties propose that “filtering action” be construed as follows:

Plaintiff's Proposed Construction

Defendants' Proposed Construction

An action that may be used to edit or reject multimedia content while allowing other multimedia content to pass unchanged.

The structure defining what will be edited out of the media between that navigation object's start and stop positions.

         The dispute over the construction of “filtering action” focuses on how to articulate the editing of the multimedia content between a “start position [start indicator]” and a “stop position [end indicator].” Defendants' proposal identifies “filtering action” as a “structure, ” rather than an “action.”[36] Such a construction is counter to the ordinary and customary meaning of “filtering action, ” as well as the Asserted Patents' claim and specification language.[37]

         Plaintiff's proposed construction properly identifies “filtering action” as an “action, ”[38]and is similar to the construction adopted by the PTAB.[39] But Plaintiff's proposal includes overbroad and vague language that the action “may be used” to filter the multimedia content while allowing other multimedia content to “pass” unchanged.[40] Inclusion of this language is unnecessary, would not assist the jury, and could lead to confusion.

         At the August 13, 2019 hearing, the parties agreed to the following construction of “filtering action:” An action that edits or rejects some multimedia content while allowing other multimedia content to be unchanged. This agreed construction gives ordinary and customary meaning to the term as understood by a ...


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