On June 18, 2012, ALJ Thomas B. Pender issued Order No. 16 construing terms of the asserted patent claims in Certain Electronic Devices With Communication Capabilities, Components Thereof, and Related Software (Inv. No. 337-TA-808).

By way of background, this investigation was instituted by the Commission on September 27, 2011 after HTC Corp. (“HTC”) filed a complaint naming Apple Inc. (“Apple”) as Respondent.  See our August 17, 2011 post for more details about the complaint.  The patents that remain at issue in this investigation are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,417,944 (the ‘944 patent), 7,672,219 (the ‘219 patent), and 7,765,414 (the ‘414 patent).  A Markman hearing was held on April 26-27, 2012 regarding the interpretation of the claim terms discussed below.

The ‘944 Patent

The ‘944 patent is directed to orthogonal frequency division multiple access (“OFDMA”) communication systems.  Claim 1 is at issue in the investigation.  The parties disputed the meaning of the term “an orthogonal frequency division multiplexing multipoint-to-point communications system” appearing in the preamble of claim 1.  Apple proposed the construction “a communication system in which multiple remote units simultaneously transmit on different subsets of orthogonal subcarriers to a single host unit, i.e., OFDMA,” arguing that statements made during the prosecution of related patents “unequivocally and unambiguously limit the scope of the ‘944 patent to an OFDMA system.”  The Commission Investigative Staff (“OUII”) agreed with Apple’s construction, except with respect to the requirement that claim 1 is limited to OFDMA systems.  ALJ Pender agreed with Apple’s proposed construction, determining that the ‘944 patent’s prosecution history, along with the patent’s specification, makes clear that the claimed invention is limited to an OFDMA system.

The parties also disputed the meaning of the term “the plurality of remote units communicatively coupled to the host unit in a multipoint-to-point configuration.”  HTC proposed the construction “the plurality of remote units ready to communicate with the host unit over a shared medium,” arguing that this construction is consistent with the plain and ordinary meaning of the term.  OUII agreed with HTC’s proposed construction, arguing that the claim limitation only requires that remote devices be ready to communicate and not also simultaneously transmit in a multipoint-to-point configuration.  ALJ Pender agreed with HTC and OUII’s reasoning and adopted the following construction: “the plurality of remote units ready to communicate with the host unit over a shared medium, the plurality of remote units having synchronization of transmission timing and carrier frequency to enable simultaneous transmission to the host unit.” 

The ‘219 Patent

The ‘219 patent shares the same specification as the ‘944 patent and claims priority to the same parent patent application.  Claims 1-5 are at issue in the investigation.  The parties disputed the meaning of the term “a remote communication device” in claim 1 of the ‘219 patent.  HTC and the OUII both argued that the term should be construed as “a communication device that shares a medium with one or more communication devices to communicate with a host unit in a multipoint-to-point communication system,” because although “the term ‘remote communication device’ is not used in the ‘219 specification, the term ‘remote units’” is used to describe a multipoint-to-point communication system.  Adopting a modified version of HTC and OUII’s proposed construction, ALJ Pender found the term “a remote communication device” to mean “a communication device that shares a medium with one or more communication devices to communicate with a host unit in an orthogonal frequency division multiplexing multipoint-to-point communication system.” 

The parties also disputed the meaning of the term “the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) engine generating a frame of time domain in-phase and quadrature phase data from the symbol data generated by the symbol mapper” in claim 1.  Apple, along with the OUII, proposed the following construction: “the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) engine operating on the frequency domain data produced by the symbol mapper to generate time domain in-phase and quadrature values.”  Because the contested claim language recites a function carried out by an Inverse Fourier Transformation, which was accurately represented in Apple and OUII’s submissions, ALJ Pender adopted Apple and OUII’s proposed construction.

Lastly, the parties disputed the meaning of the term “synchronization of symbol timing and carrier frequency of transmissions from the radio frequency transmitter” of claim 1.  Apple proposed the construction “synchronization of transmission timing and carrier frequency with other remote communication devices to enable simultaneous transmission by remote communication devices,” arguing that any other construction would render the disputed term indefinite.  OUII proposed the construction “synchronization of transmission timing and carrier frequency with other remote communication devices in a multipoint-to-point communication system.”  First, ALJ Pender determined that “synchronization,” as used in the disputed limitation, refers to upstream synchronization and not downstream synchronization.  Because HTC’s proposed construction “was not limited to upstream synchronization or even limited to multipoint-to-point communications,” the ALJ adopted Apple’s proposed construction which, according to the order, is “overwhelmingly” supported by the specification and prosecution history of related applications.

The ‘414 Patent

The ‘414 patent is entitled “Circuit and operating method for integrated interface of PDA and wireless communication system.”  Claims 1, 4-13, and 15-21 are asserted against Apple.  The parties disputed the meaning of the terms “integrated interface” and “integrating,” as used in claims 1, 9, 12, and 16, and “turned on,” as used in claim 12.  With respect to the terms “integrated interface” and “integrating,” HTC proposed the constructions “internal connection” and “internally connecting,” respectively.  Apple, on the other hand, argued that the term “‘integrated interface’ should be construed to mean ‘a connection between two physically separate products that are external to one another’ and the term ‘integrating’ should be construed to mean ‘combining two stand-alone products.’”  ALJ Pender determined that the terms should be given their plain and ordinary meaning.

With respect to the claim term “turned on,” HTC argued that “turned on” is synonymous with “an event for activating” the PDA.  Apple proposed the construction “an event that causes power to be applied to the PDA after it has been completely unpowered.”  ALJ Pender agreed with Apple, whose construction was consistent with the specification of the ‘414 patent, and construed the term to mean “an event that causes power to be applied to the PDA after it has been completely unpowered or turned off.”