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Federal Circuit Affirms ABC, CBS and NBC Universal Patent Victory

Weil secured a significant appeals court victory for clients ABC Inc., CBS Corporation, and NBC Universal, Inc. on September 13, 2012 in a patent infringement multidistrict litigation brought by Rembrandt Technologies, LP and Rembrandt Technologies, LLC over the scope of an important patent related to the transmission of digital television signals. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s ruling affirmed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of ABC, CBS, NBC, and several other television companies.

The appeal related to U.S. Patent Number 5,243,627 (’627 patent) concerning an improved system for transmitting digital data. Plaintiffs-Appellants Rembrandt originally brought 15 separate patent infringement actions related to a number of patents, including the ’627 patent. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the separate actions in the District of Delaware, and the district court thereafter grouped the centralized action into two actions: one action concerning the ’627 patent, and the other action concerning the remaining patents at issue.

Following a Markman hearing on the ’627 patent, the district court entered a claim construction order adopting the defendants’ proposed construction for each of the key claim terms. Of particular importance to this appeal, the district court determined that a “signal point” was “a point on a 2-dimensional constellation having a pair of coordinates representing two components of a corresponding signal.” This was noteworthy because the Eastern District of Texas had previously given that term a very broad construction at Rembrandt’s behest. After receiving the unfavorable claim construction, Plaintiffs subsequently conceded noninfringement on the ’627 patent on several grounds, and defendants moved for summary judgment. The district court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment based on its construction of “signal point,” and Rembrandt appealed on the grounds that the district court misconstrued the terms “signal point,” “stream of trellis encoded channel symbols,” and “trellis encoded channel symbol . . . comprised of a plurality of signal points.”

On appeal, plaintiffs asserted that construing “signal point” as “a point on a 2-dimensional constellation” is inconsistent with the plain and ordinary meaning of that term, because it is possible to have a one-dimensional signal point. In response, defendants argued that the ’627 patent was clearly an improvement to the ’625 patent, which used only two-dimensional signal point constellations. Moreover, Rembrandt argued that the district court’s interpretation contradicted the language in the specification that “the invention can be used with signaling schemes of any dimensionality.” Finally, plaintiffs argued that the doctrine of claim differentiation required a different construction of “signal point.” The court of appeals rejected plaintiffs’ arguments, finding that in the context of this patent, the term “signal point” could only be construed to mean a two-dimensional signal point, and holding that the doctrine of claims construction did not lead to a different interpretation, as the district court’s construction did not render any claims redundant. The court of appeals did not address Rembrandt’s argument concerning the construction of “stream of trellis encoded channel symbols,” and “trellis encoded channel symbol . . . comprised of a plurality of signal points.”

Weil took a lead position among the joint defense group. Weil Silicon Valley partner Edward R. Reines served as lead counsel.

This news appeared in the following outlets (may require registration/subscription):

  • Law360: How They Won It: Kaye, Weil Stand Fast in TV Patent Row (October 19, 2012)