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One-E-Way, Inc. v. International Trade Commission

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

June 12, 2017

ONE-E-WAY, INC., Appellant
v.
INTERNATIONAL TRADE COMMISSION, Appellee SONY CORPORATION, SONY CORPORATION OF AMERICA, SONY ELECTRONICS, INC., BLUEANT WIRELESS PTY, LTD., BLUEANT WIRELESS, INC., CREATIVE TECHNOLOGY LTD., CREATIVE LABS, INC., GN NETCOM A/S, Intervenors

         Appeal from the United States International Trade Commission in Investigation No. 337-TA-943.

          Douglas Glen Muehlhauser, Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear, LLP, Irvine, CA, argued for appellant. Also represented by Cameron Jahansouz, Alan Grayson Laquer, Payson J. Lemeilleur.

          Megan Michele Valentine, Office of the General Counsel, United States International Trade Commission, Washington, DC, argued for appellee. Also represented by Dominic L. Bianchi, Wayne W. Herrington.

          John Flock, Andrews Kurth Kenyon LLP, New York, NY, argued for all intervenors. Intervenors Sony Corporation, Sony Corporation of America, Sony Electronics, Inc., also represented by Ksenia Takhistova; Paul T. Qualey, Aimee Noelle Soucie, Washington, DC.

          Duane H. Mathiowetz, LeClair Ryan, San Francisco, CA, for intervenors Blueant Wireless Pty, Ltd., Blueant Wireless, Inc. Also represented by Patricia Lynn Peden.

          Jonathan Daniel Baker, Farney Daniels PC, San Mateo, CA, for intervenors Creative Technology Ltd., Creative Labs, Inc. Also represented by Michael D. Saunders, Gurtej Singh.

          William B. Nash, Haynes and Boone LLP, San Antonio, TX, for intervenor GN Netcom A/S. Also represented by Jason Wayne Whitney; Glenn Westreich, San Jose, CA.

          Before Prost, Chief Judge, Wallach, and Stoll, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          STOLL CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         The International Trade Commission found the claim term "virtually free from interference" indefinite and invalidated the asserted claims of One-E-Way's patents. Because we conclude that the term "virtually free from interference, " as properly interpreted in light of the specification and prosecution history, would inform a person of ordinary skill in the art about the scope of the invention with reasonable certainty, we reverse.

         Background

         I.

         One-E-Way filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission accusing, among others, Respondents Sony Corporation; Sony Corporation of America; Sony Electronics, Inc.; BlueAnt Wireless Pty, Ltd.; BlueAnt Wireless, Inc.; Creative Technology Ltd.; Creative Labs, Inc.; and GN Netcom A/S (collectively, "Respondents") of infringing two of its related patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 7, 865, 258 and 8, 131, 391. One-E-Way asserted, inter alia, claim 8 of the '258 patent and claims 1, 3-6, and 10 of the '391 patent.

         II.

         Both patents disclose a wireless digital audio system designed to let people use wireless headphones privately, without interference, even when multiple people are using wireless headphones in the same space. '258 patent, Abstract.[1] The specification explains that previous wireless digital audio systems did not, among other things, provide "private listening without interference where multiple users occupying the same space are operating wireless transmission devices." Id. at col. 1 ll. 15-49. The specification further explains that the prior art "audio systems ma[de] use of electrical wire connections between the audio source and the headphones to accomplish private listening to multiple users." Id. at col. 1 ll. 40-42.

         The patents purport to solve these problems in the prior art by disclosing a digital wireless audio system that ensures private listening. Specifically, the patent specification proposes changing the way prior art systems sent and processed the wireless signal. It suggests sending a digitally encoded signal to ensure each user can independently access his or her transmission. Id. at col. 3 ll. 16-18. It further suggests processing the signal with a fuzzy logic detection subsystem to enhance signal clarity. Id. at col. 3 ll. 40-43, 56-59. These and other improvements enable a user "to listen (privately) to high fidelity audio music, using any of the audio devices listed previously, without the use of wires, and without interference from any other receiver headphone . . . user, even when operated within a shared space." Id. at col. 3 ll. 28-32.

         III.

         At the Commission, the parties disputed whether the claim term "virtually free from interference" was indefinite. While the term is present in all the asserted claims, we reproduce claim 8 of the '258 patent below as illustrative:

8. A portable wireless digital audio system for digital transmission of an original audio signal representation from a portable audio source to a digital audio headphone, said portable wireless digital audio system comprising:
a portable digital audio transmitter configured to couple to said portable audio source and transmitting a unique user code bit sequence with said original audio signal representation in packet format, said digital audio transmitter comprising:
an encoder operative to encode said original audio signal representation to reduce intersymbol interference; and
a digital modulator configured for independent code division multiple access (CDMA) communication operation; and said portable digital audio transmitter configured for direct digital wireless communication with said digital audio headphone, said digital audio headphone comprising:
a direct conversion module configured to capture packets embedded in the received spread spectrum signal, the captured packets corresponding to the unique user code bit sequence;
a digital demodulator configured for independent CDMA communication operation;
a decoder operative to decode the applied reduced intersymbol interference coding of said original audio signal representation;
a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) generating an audio output of said original audio signal representation; and
a module adapted to reproduce said generated audio output, said audio having been wirelessly transmitted from said portable audio source virtually free from interference from device transmitted signals operating in the portable wireless digital audio system spectrum.

Id. at col. 7 l. 62 - col. 8 l. 27 (emphasis added).

         Respondents and the Commission's Office of Unfair Import Investigation ("the Staff") both asserted that "virtually free from interference" was indefinite. One-E-Way, to the contrary, proposed that the term meant "free from interference such that eavesdropping on device transmitted signals operating in the . . . wireless digital audio system spectrum cannot occur." J.A. 11454. As the administrative law judge explained, One-E-Way contended that "the specifications of the asserted patents provide 'abundant guidance' to one of ordinary skill in the art" to understand that "virtually free from interference" requires "that users of the invention do not hear each other's transmissions." J.A. 12927. The ALJ conducted a claim construction hearing and issued a decision finding "virtually free from interference" indefinite under 35 U.S.C. § 112. J.A. 12921-30.

         Respondents filed a motion for summary determination that the term "virtually free from interference" is indefinite, which the ALJ granted. J.A. 6-93. The ALJ concluded that the "term 'virtually free from interference' is not defined in the Asserted Patents or their history" and does not "have an understood meaning in the relevant art." J.A. 87. The ALJ explained that he found "virtually free from interference" to be indefinite because one of ordinary skill in the art had "no guidepost in the intrinsic or extrinsic evidence from which [she] could discern the scope of the limitation." J.A. 88.

         One-E-Way petitioned the Commission to review the ALJ's summary-determination order. J.A. 2. The Commission agreed with the ALJ that "virtually free from interference" was indefinite. Id. The Commission thus affirmed the ALJ's order.

         One-E-Way appealed. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. ...


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