Intellectual Property > IP Newsflash > Federal Circuit Affirms Claim Construction in Favor of Apple
05 Aug '16

On Monday, the Federal Circuit affirmed a Northern District of California jury verdict that Apple did not infringe two patents owned by GPNE Corp. GPNE had sued Apple for infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,570,954 and 7,792,432, which are directed to a two-way paging system that operates independently from a telephone system.

On Monday, the Federal Circuit affirmed a Northern District of California jury verdict that Apple did not infringe two patents owned by GPNE Corp. GPNE had sued Apple for infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,570,954 and 7,792,432, which are directed to a two-way paging system that operates independently from a telephone system.

The claim language of the asserted patents refers to devices on the network as “nodes.” The common specification, however, does not use the term “node,” but instead refers to devices on the network as “pagers” or “paging units.” The district court adopted a construction of “node” as “pager with two-way data communications capability that transmits wireless data communications on a paging system that operates independently from a telephone network,” rejecting GPNE’s argument that such a construction would be ambiguous because “pager” is not defined. At trial, both parties presented evidence regarding the definition of “pager.” The district court instructed the jury to apply plain and ordinary meaning for terms not otherwise construed.

On appeal, GPNE argued that the non-infringement judgment was based on an erroneous construction of “node.” GPNE argued that (1) construing “node” to be a “pager” was erroneous because the claims do not require a node to be a pager and (2) construing “node” to operate “independently from a telephone network” was erroneous because this limitation is a “single summation sentence” that appears in only one sentence of the Detailed Description. The Federal Circuit held that the use of “pager” in the district court’s construction was not erroneous because the devices in the claimed network are referred to as “pager” or “paging unit” exclusively and repeatedly in the specification. The court also denied GPNE’s argument regarding the “independently from a telephone network” limitation, reasoning that this limitation was from a summation sentence that describes the invention as a whole.

GPNE also argued on appeal that the district court violated O2 Micro Int’l Ltd. v. Beyond Innovation Tech. Co., 521 F.3d 1351 (Fed. Cir. 2008), by allowing the jury to decide the meaning of “pager.” O2 Micro held that “[w]hen the parties present a fundamental dispute regarding the scope of a claim term, it is the court’s duty to construe it.” O2 Micro at 1362. The Federal Circuit denied GPNE’s argument, stating that the district court is under no obligation to settle every ambiguity stemming from a claim construction. The court held that the district court’s construction of “node” sufficiently clarified the scope of “pager.” The court further held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in not ordering a new trial based on Apple’s presentation of evidence of whether iPhones and iPads could be pagers, noting that both parties presented ample evidence on their respective positions on this issue.

GPNE Corp. v. Apple Inc., 2016 WL 4073323 (Fed. Cir. August 1, 2016).