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Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. v. LG Electronics, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

January 25, 2018

CORE WIRELESS LICENSING S.A.R.L., Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
LG ELECTRONICS, INC., LG ELECTRONICS MOBILECOMM U.S.A., INC., Defendants-Appellants

         Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in Nos. 2:14-cv-00911-JRG-RSP, 2:14-cv-00912-JRG-SP, Judge J. Rodney Gilstrap.

          Benjamin T. Wang, Russ August & Kabat, Los Angeles, CA, argued for plaintiff-appellee. Also represented by Marc Aaron Fenster, Adam S. Hoffman, Reza Mirzaie; Kayvan B. Noroozi, Noroozi PC, Santa Monica, CA.

          Carter Glasgow Phillips, Sidley Austin LLP, Washington, DC, argued for defendants-appellants. Also represented by Daniel Hay, Ryan C. Morris, Anna Mayergoyz Weinberg; Peter H. Kang, Palo Alto, CA; James Suh, LG Electronics Inc., Seoul, Korea.

          Before Moore, O'Malley, and Wallach, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          Moore Circuit Judge.

         LG Electronics, Inc. ("LG") appeals the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas' decisions (1) denying summary judgment that claims 8 and 9 of U.S. Patent No. 8, 713, 476 ("'476 patent") and claims 11 and 13 of U.S. Patent No. 8, 434, 020 ("'020 patent") are directed to patent ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101; (2) denying judgment as matter of law that U.S. Patent No. 6, 415, 164 ("Blanchard") anticipates the asserted claims under 35 U.S.C. § 102; and (3) denying judgment as a matter of law that the claims are not infringed. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.

         Background

         The '476 and '020 patents disclose improved display interfaces, particularly for electronic devices with small screens like mobile telephones. '020 patent[1] at 1:14-24. The improved interfaces allow a user to more quickly access desired data stored in, and functions of applications included in, the electronic devices. Id. at 2:20-44. An application summary window displays "a limited list of common functions and commonly accessed stored data which itself can be reached directly from the main menu listing some or all applications." Id. at 2:55-59. The application summary window can be reached in two steps: "first, launch a main view which shows various applica- tions; then, launch the appropriate summary window for the application of interest." Id. at 2:61-64. The patents explain that the disclosed application summary window "is far faster and easier than conventional navigation approaches, " particularly for devices with small screens. Id. at 2:64-65.

         Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. ("Core Wireless") sued LG, alleging LG infringed dependent claims 8 and 9 of the '476 patent and dependent claims 11 and 13 of the '020 patent. Claims 8 and 9 of the '476 patent depend from claim 1, which recites (emphases added):

1. A computing device comprising a display screen, the computing device being configured to display on the screen a menu listing one or more applications, and additionally being configured to display on the screen an application summary that can be reached directly from the menu, wherein the application summary displays a limited list of data offered within the one or more applications, each of the data in the list being selectable to launch the respective application and enable the selected data to be seen within the respective application, and wherein the application summary is displayed while the one or more applications are in an un-launched state.

         Claims 11 and 13 of the '020 patent depend from claim 1, which recites (emphases added):

1. A computing device comprising a display screen, the computing device being configured to display on the screen a main menu listing at least a first application, and additionally being configured to display on the screen an application summary window that can be reached directly from the main menu, wherein the application summary window displays a limited list of at least one function offered within the first application, each func- tion in the list being selectable to launch the first application and initiate the selected function, and wherein the application summary window is displayed while the application is in an un-launched state.

         LG moved for summary judgment of invalidity of the asserted claims under 35 U.S.C. § 101, which the court denied. The district court found claim 1 of the '476 patent representative for the purposes of evaluating patent eligibility. It held that the claims are not directed to an abstract idea because, even crediting LG's characterization of the claims as directed to "displaying an application summary window while the application is in an un-launched state, " the concepts of "application, " "summary window, " and "unlaunched state" are specific to devices like computers and cell phones. J.A. 9561. The court explained "LG identifie[d] no analog to these concepts outside the context of such devices." Id. It further noted even "if claim 1 were directed to an abstract idea, it would still be patent eligible at least because it passes the machine-or-transformation test." J.A. 9562.

         The case proceeded to trial, and the district court, after hearing initial testimony, determined "an O2 Micro situation" existed with respect to the claim terms "un-launched state" and "reached directly, " and afforded both sides an opportunity to argue constructions of these terms. J.A. 10277-78; see O2 Micro Int'l Ltd. v. Beyond Innovation Tech. Co., 521 F.3d 1351, 1362 (Fed. Cir. 2008) ("When the parties present a fundamental dispute regarding the scope of a claim term, it is the court's duty to resolve it."). The district court ruled that "un-launched state" means "not displayed" and "reached directly" means "reached without an intervening step."

         The jury found all asserted claims infringed and not invalid. LG moved for judgment as matter of law of noninfringement, arguing in part that a correct construc- tion of "un-launched state" means "not running" and that under this construction, no reasonable jury could have found infringement. LG also argued that the "reached directly" limitation required user interaction with the main menu, and no reasonable jury could have found infringement under such a construction. The district court declined to revisit claim construction, noting LG did not preserve its claim construction arguments in a Rule 50(a) motion. The district court further denied LG's motion for judgment as a matter of law of noninfringe-ment based on the court's adopted constructions because evidence was presented at trial from which the jury reasonably could have found that the application summary window in the accused devices could be reached directly from the main menu.

         The district court also denied LG's motion for judgment of a matter of law of anticipation by Blanchard. Although Core Wireless elected not to call an expert to testify in rebuttal to LG's validity expert, the district court noted that the jury was not required to credit LG's expert testimony and concluded "LG failed to overcome the presumption of validity accorded to the '476 and '020 Patents by clear and convincing evidence." J.A. 18. LG timely appeals. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(1).[2]

         Discussion

         For patent appeals, we apply the law of the regional circuit, here the Fifth Circuit, to issues not specific to patent law. LaserDynamics, Inc. v. Quanta Comput., Inc., 694 F.3d 51, 66 (Fed. Cir. 2012). The Fifth Circuit reviews motions for summary judgment and motions for judgment as matter of law de novo. Id. The Fifth Circuit views all evidence in a light most favorable to the verdict and will reverse a jury's verdict only if the evidence points so overwhelmingly in favor of one party that reasonable jurors could not arrive at any contrary conclusion. Bagby Elevator Co. v. Schindler Elevator Corp., 609 F.3d 768, 773 (5th Cir. 2010). The ultimate determination of patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 is an issue of law we review de novo. Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. Capital One Fin. Corp., 850 F.3d 1332, 1338 (Fed. Cir. 2017). Anticipation and infringement are both questions of fact reviewed for substantial evidence when tried to a jury. Wi-Lan, Inc. v. Apple Inc., 811 F.3d 455, 461 (Fed. Cir. 2016).

         I. Patent Eligibility

         Anyone who "invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof" may obtain a patent. 35 U.S.C. § 101. Because patent protection does not extend to claims that monopolize the "building blocks of human ingenuity, " claims directed to laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patent eligible. Alice Corp. Pty. v. CLS Bank Int'l, 134 S.Ct. 2347, 2354 (2014). The Supreme Court instructs courts to distinguish between claims that claim patent ineligible subject matter and those that "integrate the building blocks into something more." Id. First, we "determine whether the claims at issue are directed to a patent-ineligible concept." Id. at 2355. If so, we "examine the elements of the claim to determine whether it contains an 'inventive concept' sufficient to 'transform' the claimed abstract idea into a patent-eligible application." Id. at 2357 (quoting Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc., 566 U.S. 66, 72, 79 (2012)). If the claims are directed to a patent-eligible concept, the claims satisfy § 101 and we need not proceed to the second step. Visual Memory LLC v. NVIDIA Corp., 867 F.3d 1253, 1262 (Fed. Cir. 2017).

         At step one, we must "articulate what the claims are directed to with enough specificity to ensure the step one inquiry is meaningful." Thales Visionix Inc. v. United States, 850 F.3d 1343, 1347 (Fed. Cir. 2017). Although there is "difficulty inherent in delineating the contours of an abstract idea, " Visual Memory, 867 F.3d at 1259, we must be mindful that "all inventions at some level embody, use, reflect, rest upon, or apply laws of nature, natural phenomena, or abstract ideas." Mayo, 566 U.S. at 71. We also ask whether the claims are directed to a specific improvement in the capabilities of computing devices, or, instead, "a process that qualifies as an 'abstract idea' for which computers are invoked merely as a tool." Enfish, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., 822 F.3d 1327, 1336 (Fed. Cir. 2016).

         We previously have held claims focused on various improvements of systems directed to patent eligible subject matter under § 101. For example, in Enfish, we held claims reciting a self-referential table for a computer database eligible under step one because the claims were directed to a particular improvement in the computer's functionality. 822 F.3d at 1336. That the invention ran on a general-purpose computer did not doom the claims because unlike claims that merely "add[] conventional computer components to well-known business practices, " the claimed self-referential table was "a specific type of data structure designed to improve the way a computer stores and retrieves data in memory." Id. at 1338-39. In Thales, we held claims reciting an improved method of utilizing inertial sensors to determine position and orientation of an object on a moving platform not directed to an abstract idea or law of nature. 850 F.3d at 1349. We noted that even though the system used conventional sensors and a mathematical equation, the claims specified a particular configuration of the sensors and a particular method of utilizing the raw data that eliminated many of the complications inherent in conventional methods. Id. at 1348-49. In Visual Memory, we held claims directed to an improved computer memory system with programmable operational characteristics defined by the processor directed to patent-eligible subject matter. 867 F.3d at 1259. The claimed invention provided flexibility that prior art processors did not possess, and obviated the need to design a separate memory system for each type of processor. Id. And most recently, in Finjan, Inc. v. Blue Coat Systems, Inc., we held claims directed to a behavior-based virus scanning method directed to patent eligible subject matter because they "employ[] a new kind of file that enables a computer security system to do things it could not do before, " including "accumulat[ing] and uti-liz[ing] newly available, behavior-based information about potential threats." 2018 WL 341882 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 10, 2018). The claimed behavior-based scans, in contrast to prior art systems which searched for matching code, enabled more "nuanced virus filtering" in analyzing whether "a downloadable's code . . . performs potentially dangerous or unwanted operations." Id. at 6-7. We held the claims "therefore directed to a non-abstract improvement in functionality, rather than the abstract idea of computer security writ large." Id. at 8.

         The asserted claims in this case are directed to an improved user interface for computing devices, not to the abstract idea of an index, as argued by LG on appeal.[3]Although the generic idea of summarizing information certainly existed prior to the invention, these claims are directed to a particular manner of summarizing and presenting information in electronic devices. Claim 1 of the '476 patent requires "an application summary that can be reached directly from the menu, " specifying a particular manner by which the summary window must be accessed. The claim further requires the application summary window list a limited set of data, "each of the data in the list being selectable to launch the respective application and enable the selected data to be seen within the respective application." This claim limitation restrains the type of data that can be displayed in the summary window. Finally, the claim recites that the summary window "is displayed while the one or more applications are in an un-launched state, " a requirement that the device applications exist in a particular state. These limitations disclose a specific manner of displaying a limited set of information to the user, rather than using conventional user interface methods to display a generic index on a computer. Like the improved systems claimed in Enfish, Thales, Visual Memory, and Finjan, these claims recite a specific improvement over prior systems, resulting in an improved user interface for electronic devices.

         The specification confirms that these claims disclose an improved user interface for electronic devices, particu- larly those with small screens. It teaches that the prior art interfaces had many deficits relating to the efficient functioning of the computer, requiring a user "to scroll around and switch views many times to find the right data/functionality." '020 patent at 1:47-49. Because small screens "tend to need data and functionality divided into many layers or views, " id. at 1:29-30, prior art interfaces required users to drill down through many layers to get to desired data or ...


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