Sound View Innovations, LLC v. Hulu, LLC
Docket No. 2021-1998 (https://cafc.uscourts.gov/opinions-orders/21-1998.OPINION.5-11-2022_1950301.pdf)
PROST, MAYER, TARANTO
May 11, 2022
Brief Summary: DC claim construction affirmed but SJ grant of noninfringement vacated and remanded; exclusion of certain damages testimony affirmed.
Summary: Sound View appealed DC claim construction of claim 16 of US 6,708,213 relating to multimedia streaming technologies, the DC’s grant of summary judgment (SJ) of noninfringement to Hulu, and the damages rulings. The disputed “downloading/retrieving limitation” “requires ‘allocating a buffer’ at a helper server ‘to cache’ at least a portion of the [streaming multimedia] SM object”, which the DC held “to require that the same buffer in the helper server—the one allocated in the preceding step—host both the portion sent to the client and a remaining portion retrieved concurrently from the content server or other helper server”. The DC granted SJ because “it was undisputed that, in the edge servers of its content delivery networks, no single buffer hosts both the video portion downloaded to the client and the retrieved additional portion” (“a ‘cache’ could not be the ‘buffer’”). Hulu successfully argued to the DC “that the applicants’ statements accompanying the amendment [during prosecution] disclaimed the full scope of the downloading / retrieving limitation, and that the claim required the concurrent downloading from and filling of a single buffer” (e.g., “the terms ‘buffer’ and ‘cache’ to refer to distinct physical components”). Sound View argued the term “should be construed according to the ordinary meaning of its words” and that there was a factual dispute such that SJ was inappropriate. The FC panel reviewed the claim construction ruling de novo as it was based only on intrinsic evidence (Intel, FC 2021) and explained that it “generally give[s] words of a claim their ordinary meaning in the context of the claim and the whole patent document” and that “even if the meaning is plain on the face of the claim language, the patentee can, by acting with sufficient clarity, disclaim such a plain meaning or prescribe a special definition” (World Class Techs., FC 2014; Phillips, FC 2005; Thorner, FC 2012; Personalized Media, FC 2020; Pause Tech., FC 2005 (“interpretation of the entire claim in context, not a single element in isolation”); Speedtrack, FC 2021; Tech. Props., FC 2017 (“what a person of ordinary skill would understand the patentee to have disclaimed during prosecution”)). The FC panel agreed with the DC’s claim construction based on the prosecution history (e.g., “applicants in this case must be understood to have been distinguishing their invention (as newly narrowed by the added limitation) on the basis of the distinction between serial and concurrent use of a single buffer”). It vacated and remanded the DC’s decision, however, because “‘buffer’ and ‘cache’ do not appear to be mutually exclusive, but instead seem to have at least some overlap in their coverage” (e.g., DC “did not decide, and the record does not establish, that ‘cache’ is a term of…uniform meaning in the art”; “It appears that ‘buffer’ should be given the ordinary meaning proposed by Sound View here and in the district court based on a dictionary definition….”) The FC also affirmed the DC’s exclusion of certain damages-related testimony.