CAFC vacates Summary Judgment entered against Intellectual Ventures

By Steve Brachmann & Gene Quinn
September 11, 2018

On Tuesday, September 4th, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a precedential decision in Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. T-Mobile USA, Inc., et. al., vacating and remanding a grant of summary judgment entered by the district court finding the defendants in the case didn’t infringe a patent asserted by Intellectual Ventures. The Federal Circuit panel of Chief Judge Sharon Prost and Circuit Judges Kimberly Moore and Jimmie Reyna found that the district court had erred in its claim construction leading up to the grant of summary judgment in the case.

The patent at issue in this appeal is U.S. Patent No. 6640248, titled Application-Aware, Quality of Service (QoS) Sensitive, Media Access Control Layer. Issued in October 2003, it covers a layer as described by the patent’s title that comprises an application-aware resource layer at the media access control (MAC) layer that allocates bandwidth resource to an Internet protocol (IP) flow associated with a software application of a user based on IP QoS requirements of the application. The resulting invention achieves acceptable end user QoS for software applications through an IP-centric wireless broadband access system that grants sufficient priority to QoS as a guiding principle in architecting wireless systems.

This case originates from the District of Delaware where Intellectual Ventures filed suit against T-Mobile asserting the ‘248 patent in October 2013, alleging that T-Mobile infringed upon claims of the ‘248 patent through the company’s 4G LTE network services. In May 2017, U.S. District Judge Leonard Stark signed an order granting summary judgment on behalf of T-Mobile finding that there was no infringement of the ‘248 patent.

In discussing the background of the case, the Federal Circuit’s panel opinion noted that the district court had adopted T-Mobile’s construction of two terms which were contested by either side in the case. These terms include claim 1’s “application-aware resource allocator” and claim 20’s “allocating means for allocating resources to said IP flow . . . so as to optimize end user application IP QoS requirements of said software application.” For the claim 1 term, the Delaware court found that the allocator must take into account information from the application layer found at layer 7 of the networking protocol stack standard described in the patent. The district court also agreed with T-Mobile that the function for the “allocating means” described in claim 20 was indefinite. After claim construction, Intellectual Ventures submitted new infringement contentions which the district court struck down after T-Mobile moved for summary judgment against the contentions because those allegations omitted the court’s construction that included the “layer 7” language.

On appeal, Intellectual Ventures argued that the district court had erred in its construction by focusing on layer 7 of the stack, arguing that the resource allocator can also discern application type from network layer 3 and transport layer 4. The Federal Circuit agreed, finding that the combination of the plain language of the claims, the specification and the patent’s prosecution history all supported Intellectual Ventures’ argument. 

The Federal Circuit construed “application-aware resource allocator” in claim 1 and “application-aware media access control (MAC) layer” in claim 20 to have their plain meaning, permitting the resource allocator to allocate resources based on application type. Because the district court granted summary judgment of non-infringement based on a contrary construction, the Federal Circuit vacated and remanded.

The Federal Circuit did not, however, find in favor of Intellectual Ventures’ argument on appeal relative to the definiteness of claim 20. The Court found that the QoS requirements described in claim 20 were entirely subjective and user-defined, noting that the patent’s specification described QoS as “a relative term, finding different meanings for different users.” This relation to the end user’s experience fails to provide a person with ordinary skill in the art with a way to determine that QoS has been optimized.

Thus, the ruling was not a complete victory for Intellectual Ventures, but the case does go back to the district court where they will have the opportunity to attempt to prove infringement based on the proper claim construct reached by the Federal Circuit.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a writer located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He has become a regular contributor to IPWatchdog.com, writing about technology, innovation and is the primary author of the Companies We Follow series. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients.

Steve Brachmann

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and founder of IPWatchdog.com. Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and an attorney with Widerman Malek. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently No Comments comments. Join the discussion.

Post a Comment

Respectfully add to the discussion.

Name *
Email *
Website

Our website uses cookies to provide you with a better experience. Read our privacy policy for more information.Accept and Close