This case involved claim construction issues with respect to the grant of summary judgment on non-infringement to Seagate and Compaq on different grounds. 

First, the district court granted summary judgment of non-infringement to Seagate on the ground that its accused device did not meet the “user interface” limitation of the asserted claims because the interactions are between devices, not a person interacting with the device.  The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding that the construction of “user interface” as “the site at which a user actually selects an operating mode,” was proper and therefore excluded “device-to-device” interactions, as such interactions would effectively read “user” out of the claim language. 

Second, the court granted summary judgment to Compaq on the ground that its devices did not meet the “commands” limitation of the claims, because the processor generating the user interface does not itself generate the claimed commands.  With respect to certain asserted claims, the Federal Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment of non-infringement, as the claims do not require that the “commands” be output by any specific processor.  For these claims, there is the recitation that “a processor” executes steps “to generate a user interface,” “to alter settings in the user interface,” and “to output commands to the data storage device.”  The claims refer to “a” processor, and the general rule is that the term “a” is interpreted to mean “one or more than one,” and therefore the claims do not require that the user interface processor generate the command. 

As to other claims, however, there is further reference to “the processor” outputting commands.  Thus, for these claims, it is the same processor that outputs the commands, i.e., “a” means “one” in this claim, and therefore summary judgment of non-infringement was proper.

Third, in the alternative, the district court held that intervening rights precludes any liability for infringement.   The issue is whether the amendment during reexamination to add the word “seek” to the phrase “acoustic noise” changed the scope of the claim.  In considering whether there is a change in claim scope, the court uses the litigation Phillips standard, not the prosecution broadest reasonable interpretation standard.  The Federal Circuit reversed, holding that the addition of the word “seek” did not change the scope of the claims, because the prosecution history made clear that the “acoustic noise” term was already limited to “seek” acoustic noise.

Convolve, Inc. v. Compaq Computer Corp., Case No. 2014-1732 (February 10, 2016); Opinion by: Hughes, joined by Dyk and Taranto; Appealed From: United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Daniels, J.  Read the full opinion here.

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