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Simpleair sued Google for infringement of its patent relating to data communications connecting on-line networks with on-line and off-line computers.  The jury found that Google infringed and awarded Simpleair $85 million in damages.  Google appealed on the grounds that the court erred in construing the claim terms “a data channel” and “whether said devices are online or offline from a data channel associated with each device.” 

The district court construed “data channel” as “one or more communication channels or paths for accessing or viewing a category or subcategory of information that is provided by an information source over a communications network.”  The district court construed the larger phrase—“whether said devices are online or offline from a data channel associated with each device”—to mean “whether the remote computing devices are or are not connected via the Internet or another online service to a data channel associated with each computing device at the time the preprocessed data is received by the receivers.”  The district court expressed concern that “constru[ing] the data channel to merely be the device’s connection to the Internet” would “render the additional language [i.e., ‘from a data channel associated with each device’] redundant.” 

The Federal Circuit held that the district court’s constructions were incorrect, stating that “[t]he preference for giving meaning to all terms, however, is not an inflexible rule that supersedes all other principles of claim construction.”  Therefore, based on the person of ordinary skill in the art’s understanding of the claims in light of the specification, the claim phrase “whether said devices are online or offline from a data channel associated with each device” is properly construed to mean “whether said devices are or are not connected to the Internet (or some other online service) via a data channel associated with each device” and “data channel” is properly construed to mean “any path between the remote computing device and the Internet (or some other online service) that does not include the attached receiver.”  Google contends that, under these proper constructions, it does not infringe, because its “accused system sends messages over the same communication path as other Internet data—it does not use a separate path.”  Because Simpleair did not contest Google’s non-infringement assertion on appeal, the Federal Circuit could conclude that no reasonable jury could find infringement and therefore the court remanded to the district court with instructions to enter judgment of no infringement. 

Simpleair, Inc. v. Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB, Case No. 2015-1251 (April 1, 2016); Opinion by: Wallach, joined by Lourie and Stoll; Appealed From: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Gilstrap, J. Read the full opinion here.

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