This case involved patents directed to a remote speech recognition system.  The district court construed the claims and, based on those constructions, granted Apple’s summary judgment of non-infringement.  The district court further granted Apple summary judgment of no indirect infringement. 

Unwired Planet appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment of no indirect infringement.  The district court granted summary judgment on the grounds that Apple’s non-infringement argument was so strong that no reasonable jury could conclude that Apple acted with actual knowledge that it was inducing or contributing to infringement or that Apple was willfully blind.  The Federal Circuit vacated the district court’s summary judgment of no indirect infringement as to claim 20 of US 6,321,092, because the district court relied solely on its own view of the strength of defendant’s non-infringement arguments.

The Federal Circuit clarified that “the proper focus of indirect infringement analysis is on the subjective knowledge of the accused infringer, and the district court’s conclusion that [Defendant’s] non-infringement defenses were strong at most created a factual question as to [Defendant’s] own subjective beliefs.” The Federal Circuit noted that if the evidence only raised a question of fact regarding the defendant’s “knowledge of the patent but that none of the evidence supports an inference that [Defendant] knew or was willfully blind to any infringing acts,” then that “would be a basis for summary judgment” of no indirect infringement.

In addition, the Federal Circuit vacated the district court’s summary judgment of non-infringement as to US 6,532,446, because it was based on the district court’s erroneous construction of “voice input.” The Federal Circuit noted that a “sentence in the summary of the invention” may not constitute “a disclaimer that limits the scope of every claim. A disclaimer must be clear and unmistakable requiring words or expressions of manifest exclusion or restriction.”  Further, the court held that, even if all of the embodiments use a voice channel, this is insufficient to limit claims beyond their plain meaning.  Accordingly, the court construed “voice input” to have its plain meaning, which does not require the use of any particular type of channel for transmission. 

The Federal Circuit also found that the district court erred in granting the summary judgment of non-infringement as to US 6,647,260, because the district court “essentially required the claimed ‘user information’ to be in a particular format. The Federal Circuit reasoned that a reasonable jury could find that the accused method met the claimed ‘user information’ element. 

The Federal Circuit did affirm, however, the district court’s summary judgment of non-infringement as to US 6,317,831, because under the agreed upon construction, there was no genuine issue of material fact regarding the absence of the claimed “narrowband channel” element in the accused feature.

Unwired Planet, LLC v. Apple Inc., Case No. 2015-1725 (July 22, 2016); Opinion by: Moore, joined by Bryson and Reyna; Appealed From: United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Chhabria, J.  Read the full opinion here.

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