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Williamson v. Citrix Online, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

November 5, 2014

RICHARD A. WILLIAMSON, Trustee for At Home Bondholders Liquidating Trust, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CITRIX ONLINE, LLC, CITRIX SYSTEMS, INC., MICROSOFT CORPORATION, AND ADOBE SYSTEMS, INC., Defendants-Appellees, AND WEBEX COMMUNICATIONS, INC., CISCO WEBEX, LLC, AND CISCO SYSTEMS, INC., Defendants-Appellees, AND INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee

Page 1372

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California in No. 11-CV-2409, Judge A. Howard Matz.

BRETT J. WILLIAMSON, O'Melveny & Myers LLP, of Newport Beach, California, argued for plaintiff-appellant. With him on the brief was TIMOTHY D. BYRON. Of counsel on the brief were WILLIAM NORVELL, JR., SCOTT D. MARRS and BRIAN THOMAS BAGLEY, Beirne, Maynard & Parsons, L.L.P., of Houston, Texas.

KURT L. GLITZENSTEIN, Fish & Richardson P.C., of Boston, Massachusetts, argued for all defendants-appellees. With him on the brief for defendants-appellees Citrix Online, LLC, et al. were FRANK E. SCHERKENBACH, of Boston, Massachusetts; and INDRANIL MUKERJI, of Washington, DC. Of counsel was Jonathan J. Lamverson, of Redwood City, California. On the brief for defendants-appellees Webex Communications, Inc., et al. were DOUGLAS M. KUBEHL, SAMARA L. KLINE and BRIAN D. JOHNSTON, Baker Botts LLP, of Dallas, Texas. On the brief for defendant-appellee International Business Machines Corporation were MARK J. ABATE and CALVIN E. WINGFIELD, JR., Goodwin Procter LLP, of New York, New York, GREGORY S. BISHOP, of Menlo Park, California, and WILLIAM F. SHEEHAN, of Washington, DC. Of counsel was ISABELLA E. FU, Microsoft Corporation, of Redmond, Washington, for defendant-appellee Microsoft Corporation.

Before MOORE, LINN, and REYNA, Circuit Judges.[1] OPINION filed by Circuit Judge LINN. Dissenting opinion filed by Circuit Judge REYNA.

OPINION

Page 1373

Linn, Circuit Judge.

Richard A. Williamson (" Williamson" ), as trustee for the At Home Corporation Bondholders' Liquidating Trust, owns U.S. Patent No. 6,155,840 (" the '840 patent" ) and appeals from the stipulated final judgment in favor of defendants Citrix Online, LLC; Citrix Systems, Inc.; Microsoft Corporation; Adobe Systems, Inc.; Webex Communications, Inc.; Cisco Webex, LLC; Cisco Systems, Inc.; and International Business Machines Corporation (collectively, " Appellees" ). Because the district court erroneously construed the limitations " graphical display representative of a classroom" and " first graphical display comprising . . . a classroom region," we vacate the judgment of non-infringement of claims 1-7 and 17-24 of the '840 patent. Because the district court erroneously construed the limitation " distributed learning control module," as a means-plus-function expression, we vacate the judgment of invalidity of claims 8-12 of the '840 patent under 35 U.S.C. § 112, para. 2. Accordingly, we remand.

Background

I. The '840 Patent

The '840 patent describes methods and systems for " distributed learning" that utilize industry standard computer hardware and software linked by a network to provide

Page 1374

a classroom or auditorium-like metaphor--i.e., a " virtual classroom" environment. The objective is to connect one or more presenters with geographically remote audience members. '840 patent, col. 2 ll. 10-14. The disclosed inventions purport to provide " the benefits of classroom interaction without the detrimental effects of complicated hardware or software, or the costs and inconvenience of convening in a separate place." Id. at col. 2 ll. 4-7.

There are three main components of the " distributed learning" system set forth in the '840 patent: (1) a presenter computer, (2) audience member computers, and (3) a distributed learning server. The distributed learning server implements a " virtual classroom" over a computer network, such as the Internet, to facilitate communication and interaction among the presenter and audience members. The presenter computer is used by the presenter to communicate with the audience members and control information that appears on the audience member's computer screen. Id. at col. 4 l. 66-col. 5 l. 2. An audience member's computer is used to display the presentation and can be used to communicate with the presenter and other audience members. Id. at col. 5 ll. 11-14.

The '840 patent has three independent claims. These claims recite the following:

1. A method of conducting distributed learning among a plurality of computer systems coupled to a network, the method comprising the steps of:
providing instructions to a first computer system coupled to the network for:
creating a graphical display representative of a classroom ;
creating a graphical display illustrating controls for selecting first and second data streams;
creating a first window for displaying the first selected data stream; and
creating a second window for displaying the second selected data stream, wherein
the first and second windows are displayed simultaneously; and
providing instructions to a second computer system coupled to the network for:
creating a graphical display representative of the classroom ;
creating a third window for displaying the first selected data stream; and
creating a fourth window for displaying the second selected data stream, wherein
the third and fourth windows are displayed simultaneously.
8. A system for conducting distributed learning among a plurality of computer systems coupled to a network, the system comprising:
a presenter computer system of

Page 1375

the plurality of computer systems coupled to the network and comprising:
a content selection control for defining at least one remote streaming data source and for selecting one of the remote streaming data sources for viewing; and
a presenter streaming data viewer for displaying data produced by the selected remote streaming data source;
an audience member computer system of the plurality of computer systems and coupled to the presenter computer system via the network, the audience member computer system comprising:
an audience member streaming data viewer for displaying the data produced by the selected remote streaming data source; and
a distributed learning server remote from the presenter and audience member computer systems of the plurality of computer systems and coupled to the presenter computer system and the audience member computer system via the network and comprising:
a streaming data module for providing the streaming data from the remote streaming data source selected with the content selection control to the presenter and audience member computer systems; and
a distributed learning control module for receiving communications transmitted between the presenter and the audience member computer systems and for relaying the communications to an intended receiving computer system and for coordinating the operation of the streaming data module.
17. A distributed learning server for controlling a presenter computer system and an audience member computer system coupled to the distributed learning server via a ...

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