By Dennis Crouch
Garmin v. Cuozzo, IPR2012–00026, (P.T.A.B. 2013) Download Notice-15
In what appears to be the first Inter Partes Revew petition decided on the merits, the USPTO Patent Trials and Appeal Board (PTAB) has granted Garmin's petition for inter partes review of only claims 10, 14, and 17 of US Patent 6,778,074 owned by Cuozzo Speed Technologies LLC. [See UPDATE BELOW] This is a mixed opinion because Garmin had requested IPR of claims 1–20. Inter Partes Review is a spawn of the America Invents Act (AIA) and serves as a more robust and rapid version of inter partes reexamination. In order to grant an IPR petition, the USPTO must determine that the petition shows "a reasonable likelihood that the petitioner would prevail." Now that the petition has been granted, the PTAB will move forward with the trial to determine whether those three claims are valid. Under the statute, the PTAB's determination as to whether to institute a PGR cannot be appealed. 35 U.S.C. § 314.
Cuozo originally sued Garmin, Tom Tom and several automakers for patent infringement in a New Jersey federal court. That lawsuit is still in the early stages of discovery, but the basic allegation is that Garmin's navigation systems infringe the '074 claims that are directed toward the use of encoded speed limit indicators.
For Garmin, this may be a case of winning-by-losing. In its IPR petition, Garmin suggested that the PTO use the broad claim construction suggested by Couzo's infringement allegations for the claim requirement that a "speedometer" and a "colored display" be "integrally attached".
The Patent Owner has taken a very broad view of the meaning of the claims based upon the allegations set forth in its complaint against the products of the real parties in interest here. The "broadest reasonable construction" of the challenged claims must be consistent with the allegations set forth in Patent Owner's civil complaint. Petitioner submits, for the purposes of the IPR only, that the claim terms are presumed to take on their ordinary and customary meaning that the term would have to one of ordinary skill in the art in view of Patent Owner's civil complaint and the Specification of the '074 Patent.
The PTO rejected the notion that the patent owner's post-patent-issuance civil complaint has any bearing on the claim construction and also found that the claim scope suggested unduly broad.
Petitioner does not make known its construction of "integrally attached." Instead, Petitioner states that the term has to mean, in this proceeding, what the Patent Owner asserts it means in the infringement suits the Patent owner has filed against various parties including Petitioner. That argument is without merit. The meaning of claim terms is not governed by what the Patent Owner says they mean in filing an infringement suit based on the '074 Patent. There is no reason to assume that the Patent Owner's litigation position is correct. Litigation positions taken subsequent to issuance of the patent are unreliable. . . .
On this record, we construe "integrally attached" as applied to the colored display and the speedometer in the context of the disclosure … as meaning that the two elements are discrete parts physically joined together as a unit without each part losing its own separate identity. In the combined unit, the colored display is still the colored display and the speedometer is still the speedometer; each retains its own separate identity.
The PTAB went on to particularly find that a single display screen showing both the speedometer and colored display would not satisfy the integrally attached limitation as construed above.
The single electronic display screen of Aumayer showing both the image of a speedometer and a colored scale mark indicating the current speed limit does not meet the claim recitation "integrally attached" as applied to a speedometer and a colored display. There, the speedometer and the colored display are not discrete and separately recognizable parts that are "integrally attached" to each other. Rather, the liquid crystal display screen is itself a single component which performs the function of both the speedometer and colored display.
In the context of the inter partes review, the result is that the suggested references do not show the claims unpatentable. Garmin's gambit, however, is that the same narrow claim construction will carry-over to the litigation and result in a finding of non-infringement. Although the district court will not be bound by this construction, it is likely to be instructive and at least cognitively limiting to the New Jersey judge – especially since the PTO's interpretation is the 'broadest reasonable construction.'
UPDATE: It turns out that the PTAB has released at least one earlier petition decision – in IPR2012–00026 involving Microsoft’s challenge of ProxyConn’s Patent No. 6,757,717. In that decision, the PTAB granted the IPR for claims 1, 3, 10, and 22–24, but denied the petition to review claims 11, 12, and 14.
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Under 35 U.S.C. § 316, the USPTO has one year from now to make a final determination in the case. The USPTO has scheduled for the trial to be complete in August 2013.