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Koh on Claim Construction

Koh on Claim Construction

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Published by: jeff_roberts881 on Jul 29, 2012
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11/07/2012

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Case No.: 11-CV-01846-LHK ORDER REGARDING DESIGN PATENT CLAIM CONSTRUCTION
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 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIASAN JOSE DIVISIONAPPLE, INC., a California corporation, Plaintiff,v.SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS CO., LTD., AKorean corporation; SAMSUNGELECTRONICS AMERICA, INC., a New York corporation; SAMSUNGTELECOMMUNICATIONS AMERICA, LLC,a Delaware limited liability company,Defendants.)))))))))))))))CaseNo.:11-CV-01846-LHK  ORDER REGARDING DESIGNPATENT CLAIM CONSTRUCTIONSamsung has asked the Court to construe Apple’s Design Patent No. D618,677 (“the D’677Patent”), D593,087 (“the D’087 Patent”), D504,889 (“the D’889 Patent”), and D604,305 (“theD’305 Patent”) prior to the July 30, 2012 trial. The parties filed opening briefs on the design patentclaim construction on June 12, 2012. Response briefs were filed on June 26, 2012. A hearing washeld on July 24, 2012.The parties’ approaches to design patent claim construction can be summarized as follows.Samsung asks the Court to provide a detailed written description of the scope of each of the design patents-in-suit. Samsung’s position is that a design patent claim construction is analogous to utility patent claim construction. In contrast, Apple would have the Court provide minimal instructions tothe jury, and allow the drawings in the design patents to speak for themselves.
Case5:11-cv-01846-LHK Document1425 Filed07/27/12 Page1 of 14
 
 
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Case No.: 11-CV-01846-LHK ORDER REGARDING DESIGN PATENT CLAIM CONSTRUCTION
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The Court has reviewed the briefs and the relevant case law and concludes that Apple’s position is supported by the Federal Circuit’s approach to design patents. In contrast, Samsung’s position invites the jury to commit error by viewing the designs element-by-element, instead of bythe overall visual impression. In Part I, the Court reviews the Federal Circuit precedent regardingdesign patent claim constructions. In Part II, although the Court declines to follow Samsung’s proposal of providing a detailed written claim construction of each patent, the Court providesguidance regarding the scope of each specific design patent-in-suit with respect to the draftingconventions and prosecution histories of each of the design patents. Additionally, the Court defersruling on any limitations to the scope of the design patent that may arise from functional elements.The Court will provide a supplemental claim construction at the close of evidence addressing any potential functional limitations to the scope of the design patents-in-suit.
I. Design Patent Claim Construction
A patent may be obtained for the ornamental design of an article of manufacture: “Whoever invents any new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture may obtain a patenttherefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.” 35 U.S.C. § 171 (2006). TheFederal Circuit, relying on Supreme Court precedent, has established the familiar “ordinaryobserver” test for design patent infringement. Under the ordinary observer test, an accused deviceinfringes upon a design patent if “‘in the eye of an ordinary observer, giving such attention as a purchaser usually gives,’” the design of the accused device and the patented design are“‘substantially the same.’” The designs are “‘substantially the same, if the resemblance [betweenthe accused device’s design and the patented design] is such as to deceive [an ordinary] observer,inducing him to purchase one supposing it to be the other.’”
 Egyptian Goddess, Inc. v. Swisa, Inc.
,543 F.3d 665, 670 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (quoting
Gorham Co. v. White
, 81 U.S. 511, 528 (1871)). Inapplying the ordinary observer test, the focus should be on “the overall design” of the patent.
See
 
 Int’l Seaway Trading Corp. v. Walgreens Corp.
, 589 F.3d 1233, 1239-41 (Fed. Cir. 2009).As an initial matter, the Federal Circuit has noted that a trial court is not to approach adesign patent claim construction in the same manner as a utility patent claim construction.
See Egyptian Goddess
, 543 F.3d at 680 (“[A]s a general matter, [trial] courts should not treat the
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Case No.: 11-CV-01846-LHK ORDER REGARDING DESIGN PATENT CLAIM CONSTRUCTION
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 process of claim construction as requiring a detailed verbal description of the claimed design, aswould typically be true in the case of utility patents.”). Indeed, the Federal Circuit has not“prescribed any particular form that the [design patent] claim construction must take,” but rather has left the design patent claim construction process up to the discretion of the trial court.
 Id 
. at679-80.The Federal Circuit has cautioned against attempts to “construe” design patent claims by providing a detailed verbal description of the claimed design.
 Egyptian Goddess
, 543 F.3d at 679.Indeed, the Federal Circuit has approved of a district court’s construction of the asserted design patent claim as meaning “a tray of a certain design . . . as shown in Figures 1-3,” and has reversedan infringement determination based on a written claim construction that impermissibly focused on particular features of the design patent-in-suit.
Contessa Food Prods., Inc. v. Conagra
, 282 F.3d1377, 1377 (Fed. Cir. 2002),
abrogated on other grounds by Egyptian Goddess
, 543 F.3d 665;
Crocs, Inc. v. Int’l Trade Comm’n
, 598 F.3d 1294, 1303-04 (Fed. Cir. 2010)
 
(finding that the“Commission placed undue emphasis on particular details of its written description of the patenteddesign” and that “the concentration on small differences in isolation distracted from the overallimpression of the claimed ornamental features”).There are sound reasons for this approach. For one, “a design is better represented by anillustration than it could be by any description.”
 Egyptian Goddess
, 543 F.3d at 679 (citing
 Dobson v. Dornan
, 118 U.S. 10, 14 (1886)) (internal quotation marks omitted);
see also 180s, Inc.v. Gordini U.S.A., Inc.
, 699 F. Supp. 2d 714, 728-29 (D. Md. 2010) (declining to issue a detailedverbal description construing design patent claims because the “illustrative figures speak for themselves”). Additionally, there are risks “entailed in such a [detailed verbal] description, such asthe risk of placing undue emphasis on particular features of the design and the risk that a finder of fact will focus on each individual described feature in the verbal description rather than on thedesign as a whole.”
 Egyptian Goddess
, 543 F.3d at 680.In light of this discussion, this Court is generally persuaded that the ordinary observer testmust be applied based upon the overall visual impression of the claimed designs and will avoid adetailed written claim construction describing various elements of the claimed designs. Therefore,
Case5:11-cv-01846-LHK Document1425 Filed07/27/12 Page3 of 14

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