Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Fiber, LLC v. Ciena Corp.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 6, 2017

FIBER, LLC, a Wyoming limited liability company, Plaintiff,
v.
CIENA CORPORATION, a Delaware corporation, CIENA COMMUNICATIONS, INC., a Delaware corporation, and FINISAR CORPORATION, a Delaware Corporation, Defendants, FIBER, LLC, a Wyoming limited liability company, Plaintiff,
v.
VIAVI SOLUTIONS, INC., f/k/a JDS Uniphase Corporation, LUMENTUM HOLDINGS, INC., LUMENTUM INC., and LUMENTUM OPERATIONS, LLC, Defendants, FIBER, LLC, a Wyoming limited liability company, Plaintiff,
v.
ALCATEL LUCENT USA, INC., a Delaware corporation, and FINISAR CORPORATION, a Delaware corporation, Defendants.

          ORDER

          PHILIP A. BRIMMER, United States District Judge

         On December 2, 2016, the Court held a claim construction hearing on the terms identified in the parties' Joint Disputed Claim Terms Chart [Docket No. 139]. Both sides filed briefs in support of the respective interpretations of the disputed terms. Docket Nos. 147, 162, 165.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On April 2, 2013, Fiber, LLC (“Fiber”) filed suit against Ciena Communications, Inc. and Ciena Corporation alleging patent infringement. Docket No. 1. Subsequently, Fiber filed suit against additional defendants asserting identical infringement claims.[1]See Docket Nos. 55, 119 (consolidating cases). Fiber claims that defendants have infringed U.S. Patent No. 6, 430, 332 (the “'332 Patent”) [Docket No. 147-1] and U.S. Patent No. 7, 095, 917 (the “'917 Patent”) [Docket No. 147-2] (collectively, the “patents”). The '332 Patent was issued on August 6, 2002, while the '917 Patent was issued on August 22, 2006. Docket No. 147-1 at 2; Docket No. 147-2 at 2.

         A. The Inventions

         The '917 patent is a continuation of the '332 Patent and they therefore share the same specification. The inventions described in both patents involve fiber optics and “relate[] generally to optical switching and more particularly to non-electrical switching of laser communication signals.” '332 Patent col. 1 ll. 9-11.

         The patents describe that, in the field of fiber optic transmissions, “optical signals are transmitted along such fibers and are switched from one fiber to another by means of an optical switch.” Id. at col. 1 ll. 15-17. The prior art used an “alignment signal emitter” to switch optical signals “to selectively point the end of a given fiber in one fiber group toward the end of a given fiber in another fiber group.” Id. col. 1 ll. 20-22. The invention is meant to reduce complexity and costs, while increasing the speed and reliability, of optical switching. Id. col. 1 ll. 30-35.

         B. The Claims at Issue

         The independent claims of the '332 Patent and '917 Patent contain the relevant terms for which the parties request construction.

         Claim 123 of the '332 Patent provides:

An optical beam switching system for transmitting an optical beam from any one of a complete set of sources of said switching system to any one of a complete set of optical receptors of said switching system comprising:
a plurality of first movable mirrors mounted across a first area of free space from the sources and across a second area of free space from the optical receptors, for directing said optical beam from at least one source to a selected one of the optical receptors, said plurality of first movable mirrors mounted across a first area of free space from the sources such that a plurality of first optical pathways are defined between the sources and the first movable mirrors, said first movable mirrors comprising substantially a complete set of movable mirrors included in said switching system for directly interfacing with said sources free from any intervening movable mirrors and said first optical pathways comprising substantially a complete set of pathways included in said switching system between said sources and said first movable mirrors, said plurality of first movable mirrors further mounted across a second area of free space from the receptors such that a plurality of second optical pathways are defined between the first movable mirrors and the receptors, the second optical pathways comprising substantially a complete set of pathways included in said switching system between the first movable mirrors and the receptors; said sources, first movable mirrors and receptors being configured such that there is a first three dimensional region that is traversed by at least most of said second pathways and at least most of said first pathways are located wholly outside said first region; a control for transmission of the optical beam from the source to a selected optical receptor by means of controlling a controlled mirror, by causing one of the first movable mirrors to direct the optical beam to a selected optical receptor; and a data gathering and transmitting element for use in providing a feedback signal regarding the current orientation of the controlled mirror or the current location of the optical beam to the control, in either case for the purpose of adjusting the position of the relevant controlled mirror to minimize transmission loss of the optical beam to the optical receptor by fine tuning said orientation of said relevant controlled mirror based on said feedback signal.

'332 Patent col. 22-23 ll. 54-68, 1-32.

         Claim 27 of the '917 Patent describes the following:

An optical beam switching system for transmitting an optical beam from at least one source to at least one of a plurality of optical receptors comprising:
at least one source of an optical beam; at least one first beam directing device mounted across a first area of free space from the source; at least one additional beam directing device; at least one second beam directing device mounted across a second area of free space from the first beam directing device; a plurality of optical receptors; a control operative for at least one of 1) positioning a first beam directing device to direct the optical beam from at least one source to at least one additional beam directing device, 2) positioning at least one additional beam directing device to direct the optical beam from said additional beam directing device to a second beam directing device, and 3) positioning a second beam directing device to direct the optical beam from said second beam directing device to a selected one of said plurality of optical receptors; and at least one data gathering and transmission element to provide an indication regarding the current orientation of the controlled beam directing device or the current location of the optical beam to the control for adjusting at least one of the beam directing devices.

'917 Patent col. 10 ll. 31-57.

         Claim 53 of the '917 Patent describes:

An optical beam switching system for transmitting an optical beam from at least one source to at least one of a plurality of optical receptors comprising:
at least one source of an optical beam;
at least one first beam directing device mounted across a first area of free space from the source;
a plurality of optical receptors mounted across a second area of free space from the first beam directing device; a control so that a first beam directing device will be positioned to direct the optical beam from at least one source to a selected one of said plurality of optical receptors; and
at least one data gathering and transmission element to provide an indication regarding the current orientation of the controlled beam directing device or the current location of the optical beam to the control for adjusting at least one of the beam directing devices.

'917 Patent col. 12 ll. 19-37.

         One embodiment of the invention described in the specification utilizes a microelectromechanical (“MEM”) movable mirror to switch beams from one fiber to another. By contrast, defendants' allegedly infringing devices utilize liquid crystal on silicon (“LCOS”), a more recently developed switching technology, to perform such switching. A MEM mirror employs a reflective surface to redirect light. Docket No. 166 at 9-10, ¶ 21. The parties dispute the exact parameters of a MEM mirror, compare id. with Docket No. 163 at 13, ¶¶ 30-32, but both parties agree that some embodiments of a MEM mirror feature a reflective surface that is physically rotated to redirect light. See Docket No. 166 at 9-10, ¶ 21; Docket No. 163 at 13, ¶ 31.

         An LCOS device uses changes in electric voltage to refract light inside a layer of liquid crystal material. Id. at 13-14, ¶ 34. The voltage changes the index of refraction and thereby changes the speed at which a light beam travels through the liquid crystal. Id. After passing through the crystal layer, the light beam reflects off a layer of aluminum, passes through the liquid crystal layer again, doubling the delay, and exits the LCOS device in the intended direction. Id. An LCOS device redirects a beam of light without the device or the reflective aluminum being repositioned in any way. The only change to the device is a change to the voltage applied to the liquid crystal. Id. An advantage of an LCOS device is that it has no moving parts and is therefore not subject to mechanical failures. Id. at 14, ¶ 35.

         Another technological issue involved in the parties' dispute is the use of wavelength-selective switches (“WSS”). A beam of light transmitted through a fiber can be made up of a single wavelength or multiple wavelengths. Id. at 10, ¶ 23. A WSS, like other optical switches, is a device that is capable of reflecting an optical beam to control the direction an optical beam moves in. Docket No. 148 at 18, ¶ 46. However, unlike other devices that can reflect a beam, a WSS is generally used as part of an optical switch that uses wavelength-division-multiplexing (“WDM”) to reconfigure the constituent components of a beam of light. Docket No. 163 at 12, ¶ 28. A WSS functions by first splitting an optical beam into wavelength-specific light beams, a process referred to as demultiplexing. Id., ¶ 29. After the beam is demultiplexed, the wavelength-specific beams are redirected to their desired destination, where the beam can be combined into one or more WDM light beams, referred to as multiplexing. Id. A critical question underlying the parties' proposed constructions is whether the scope of the claims at issue encompass a device that allows for WDM or uses WSS.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS FOR PATENT CLAIM CONSTRUCTION

         Claim construction is a question of law for the court, Teva Pharm. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 831, 837 (2015), guided by Federal Circuit precedent. See SunTiger, Inc. v. Scientific Research Funding Group, 189 F.3d 1327, 1333 (Fed. Cir. 1999). The Federal Circuit has made clear that “there is no magic formula or catechism for conducting claim construction.” Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1324 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc). Nevertheless, there are several key sources and doctrines that should be consulted and applied, but “[t]he sequence of steps used by the judge in consulting various sources is not important; what matters is for the court to attach the appropriate weight to be assigned to those sources in light of the statutes and policies that inform patent law.” Id.

         The starting point is the “bedrock principle” that “‘the claims of a patent define the invention to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude.'” Id. at 1312 (quoting Innova/Pure Water, Inc. v. Safari Water Filtration Systems, Inc., 381 F.3d 1111, 1115 (Fed. Cir. 2004)). The words of the claims “‘are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning, '” id. (quoting Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996)), which is “the meaning that the term would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art in question at the time of the invention, ” id. at 1313; see CCS Fitness, Inc. v. Brunswick Corp., 288 F.3d 1359, 1366 (Fed. Cir. 2002) (“Generally speaking, [courts] indulge a ‘heavy presumption' that a claim term carries its ordinary and customary meaning.”). In those instances when the claim language “involves little more than the application of the widely accepted meaning of commonly understood words, ” construction is relatively straightforward and “the ordinary meaning . . . may be readily apparent even to lay judges.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1314. When the claim terms have a particular meaning in the field, however, courts “look[ ] to ‘those sources available to the public that show what a person of skill in the art would have understood disputed claim language to mean.'” Id. (quoting Innova, 381 F.3d at 1116). These sources include “‘the words of the claims themselves, the remainder of the specification, the prosecution history, and extrinsic evidence concerning relevant scientific principles, the meaning of technical terms, and the state of the art.'” Id.

         The context in which a term is used, both in the asserted claim as well as in other claims of the patent, can be valuable and instructive. Id. at 1314. In addition, the patent specification - the text and figures of the patent that precede the claims - “‘is always highly relevant to the claim construction analysis. Usually, it is dispositive; it is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term.'” Id. at 1315 (quoting Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582). With that said, “the claim requirement presupposes that a patent applicant defines his invention in the claims, not in the specification.” Johnson & Johnston Associates Inc. v. R.E. Service Co., Inc., 285 F.3d 1046, 1052 (Fed. Cir. 2002); see PSC Computer Products, Inc. v. Foxconn Int'l, Inc., 355 F.3d 1353, 1359 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (“‘[T]he claims of a patent limit the invention, and specifications cannot be utilized to expand the patent monopoly'”) (quoting United States v. Adams, 383 U.S. 39, 48-49 (1966)).

         If necessary, courts may also consider the patent's prosecution history - the official record of the patent application and subsequent process before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which “provides evidence of how the PTO and the inventor understood the patent.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. Nevertheless, “because the prosecution history represents an ongoing negotiation between the PTO and the applicant, . . . it often lacks the clarity of the specification and thus is less useful for claim construction purposes.” Id. And, although courts may consult extrinsic evidence such as “expert and inventor testimony, dictionaries, and learned treatises, ” such evidence is “‘less significant than the intrinsic record, '” i.e., the specification and prosecution history, and courts must be wary not to use extrinsic evidence to override the meaning of the claim terms demonstrated by the intrinsic evidence. Id. at 1317-19 (quoting C.R. Bard, Inc. v. U.S. Surgical Corp., 388 F.3d 858, 862 (Fed. Cir. 2004)). That is, “extrinsic evidence may be useful to the court, but it is unlikely to result in a reliable interpretation of patent claim scope unless considered in the context of the intrinsic evidence.” Id. at 1319.

         In short, a court must construe the claim terms as they would be viewed by “the ordinary artisan after reading the entire patent.” Id. at 1321. This is important in order to respect the public notice function of patents:

The patent system is based on the proposition that claims cover only the invented subject matter. As the Supreme Court has stated, “[i]t seems to us that nothing can be more just and fair, both to the patentee and the public, than that the former should understand, and correctly describe, just what he has invented, and for what he claims a patent.” Id. at 1321 (quoting Merrill v. Yeomans, 94 U.S. 568, 573-74 (1876)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Person of Ordinary Skill in the Art

         Patent claims are to be construed through the eyes of a person of ordinary skill in the art (“POSITA”) at the time of the invention. According to Dr. David Smith, plaintiff's expert, a POSITA “would be a degreed professional in Physics, Electrical Engineering or an allied technical field, with three or more years of work or research experience in fiber optic technology including familiarity with optical switching technology in the mid-to-late 1990s time frame.” Docket No. 148 at 8, ¶ 22. Similarly, James Walker, the defendants' expert, states that a POSITA would be “someone with either (a) a post-graduate degree in mechanical or electrical engineering or a relevant science such as physics or optics, and at least three years of relevant post-graduate experience in optical systems and optical MEMS technology; or (b) an undergraduate degree in mechanical or electrical engineering . . . and at least five years of relevant experience.” Docket No. 163 at 8-9, ¶ 18.

         The Court finds that Dr. Smith's definition of a POSITA is apt. A POSITA with respect to the patents at issue is an individual with a relevant technical degree, at least 3 years of experience working with fiber optic technology and a familiarity with optical switching technology, including optical MEMS technology.

         B. Optical Beam

         The '332 and '917 patents involve the switching of optical signals transmitted through optical fibers. Claim 123 of the '332 patent discusses an “optical beam switching system for transmitting an optical beam from any one of a complete set of sources of said switching system to any one of a complete set of optical receptors of said switching system.” '332 Patent col. 22 ll. 54-57. Claims 27 and 53 of the '917 patent similarly refer to “an optical beam switching system.” '917 Patent col. 10 ll. 17-19; col. 12 ll. 51-54. Plaintiff contends that “optical beam” means “a light signal used in fiber optic communication.” Docket No. 147 at 11. Plaintiff's expert offers a slightly different construction: “a light signal carried by an optical fiber.” Docket No. 148 at 27, ¶ 70. Defendants argue that “optical beam” is limited to “all light transmitted from a single source.” Docket No. 162 at 16.

         Defendants acknowledge that “optical beam” as used in the patents is not limited to light of a single wavelength. Docket No. 162 at 18. The intent of defendants' proposed construction is to narrow the definition of “optical beam” to exclude devices like WSS that multiplex or demultiplex a beam in the switch. Id. at 17. To support their construction, defendants argue that claim 123 refers to “[a]n optical beam, ” and each subsequent reference to an optical beam refers to that original beam, suggesting that the optical beam has a single source and is not demultiplexed or multiplexed as part of the switching process. Id. at 16. Defendants highlight the repeated singular usages of “beam” throughout the specification. Id. Defendants also point out that the patents “do not claim or disclose separating multiplexed beams or recombining those separated beams.” Id. at 17.

         Defendants' proposed construction too narrowly defines the term “optical beam.” Defendants concede that a POSITA would understand the claim term “to include multiplexed signals” under either of the proposed constructions. Id. at 18. Defendants do not explain why the term “optical beam” should carry so much weight.

         Another issue is whether the term “optical beam” should be defined as a “signal” or as “light.” The invention at issue relates to “optical switching and more particularly to non-electrical switching of laser communication signals.” '332 Patent col. 1 ll. 9-11. The objective of the invention is to more efficiently switch “signals, ” not simply light. While Mr. Walker might be right that “optical cross-connects also have utility in applications other than fiber optic telecommunications, ” Docket No. 163 at 17, ¶ 46, the term optical beam, read in the context of the patent, refers to communication signals.

         The Court finds that Dr. Smith's proposed construction of “optical beam” is supported by the intrinsic and extrinsic evidence. Docket No. 148 at 27, ¶ 70. Accordingly, optical beam will be defined as a light signal carried by an optical fiber.

         C. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.