IP Law Daily Apple must face infringement claims related to Siri speech technology and iTunes purchasing technology
Friday, July 22, 2016

Apple must face infringement claims related to Siri speech technology and iTunes purchasing technology

By Jody Coultas, J.D.

Apple Inc. was improperly granted summary judgment on patent infringement claims filed by Unwired Planet, LLC, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The court took issue with claim construction undertaken by the district court concerning one of the patents at issue, and its finding of no infringement of two of the patents at issue. The district court did not err in dismissing claims related to a fourth patent, however. (Unwired Planet, LLC v. Apple Inc., July 22, 2016, Moore, K.).

Technology companies have been working to equip mobile devices with speech recognition technology, which generally requires adding costly software and hardware resources to the mobile devices. Unwired Planet holds U.S. Patent Nos. 6,532,446 (the ‘446 patent), 6,647,260 (the ‘260 patent), 6,317,831 (the ‘831 patent), and 6,321,092 (the ‘092 patent), which claim an invention related to extending speech recognition capabilities to mobile devices with limited resources by relying on network-based resources.

In a suit asserting those patents against Apple, a California district court granted Apple summary judgment of noninfringement after concluding that no reasonable jury could find that Apple’s Siri app transmitted voice input over a "voice channel." The district court noted that a voice channel must transmit voice without delays, and Siri transmits speech using Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), which neither distinguishes between voice and non-voice data nor includes any of the properties needed to ensure real-time transmission. Unwired appealed.

The ‘446 patent. The district court erred in its claim construction, according to the court. Unwired challenged the district court’s construction of the term "voice input," found in claims 15 and 35 of the ‘446 patent. The district court concluded that the voice input limitation should be construed as requiring that the voice input signal be conveyed over a voice channel, and required that "[a] voice channel must be an actual, identifiable type of channel, not some ambiguous channel that can be labeled a voice channel merely because it transports voice." Based on its plain language, however, the term "voice input" did not dictate the manner in which a voice is to be transmitted from a mobile device to a server. The district court’s construction could only be proper if there was a disclaimer in the specification or the prosecution history, but none was present. If the patentee intended to restrict the claims to require a voice input to travel over a particular type of channel, it could have included that same limitation. The court declined to read in such a limitation.

The ‘260 patent. The appellate court vacated the summary judgment order as to claims 1 and 16 of the ’260 patent. The ’260 patent discloses an invention for providing new or updated features and services to a mobile phone through a process referred to as "provisioning." The accused Apple services are Apple’s App Store and iTunes Store. When an iOS device user with an iTunes account wants to purchase an app or a song, the iOS device sends a "buyProduct request," which includes an X-token and the user’s selection of content. X-tokens contain a hashed version of the user’s password and a timestamp generated by the servers. The district court essentially required the claimed "user information" to be in a particular format, which was an erroneous reading of the term. A reasonable jury could find that a hashed password in the X-token contains the same information as in the user’s unmodified password, albeit in a different form. That issue was best left for a jury to decide, making summary judgment inappropriate.

The ‘831 patent. Apple did not infringe claims 17, 23, and 25 of the ’831 patent, according to the court. The ’831 patent is related to secure data transmissions over wireless networks. Claims 17, 23, and 25, all require a wideband channel to first exchange security information and a narrowband channel to then transmit encrypted data. Unwired Planet alleged that Apple’s Push Notification Service (APNS), which is a service that allows app providers to send push notifications to iOS devices via APNS servers, infringed the claims at issue. The stipulated construction of the narrowband channel term required "a meaningfully lower data transfer rate or bandwidth than the wideband channel." The characteristics of the data being transmitted by APNS cannot transform the wideband channel based on TCP/IP into a narrowband channel. Therefore, the district court’s noninfringement judgment was affirmed.

The ‘092 patent. The court vacated the district court’s summary judgment of no indirect infringement as to claim 20 of the ’092 patent.The ’092 patent discloses an improved technology for identifying the location of a wireless station, such as a cell phone or pager. Unwired alleged that the location-finding technology of iOS devices infringed claim 20, a method claim that comprises "receiving a plurality of device dependent location inputs provided by said location finding equipment." The district court denied Apple’s motion for summary judgment of no direct infringement, but dismissed the induced and contributory infringement claims. The district court’s reliance on the objective strength of Apple’s non-infringement arguments as precluding a finding of induced or contributory infringement was erroneous. Summary judgment was inappropriate on the basis the district court decided.

The case is No. 2015-1725.

Attorneys: John Bruce Campbell (McKool Smith, PC) for Unwired Planet, LLC. Mark Andrew Perry (Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP) for Apple Inc.

Companies: Unwired Planet, LLC; Apple Inc.

MainStory: TopStory Patent FedCirNews

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