IP Law Daily Facebook did not infringe Rembrandt patents on web-based diary systems; jury verdict stands
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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Facebook did not infringe Rembrandt patents on web-based diary systems; jury verdict stands

By Mark Engstrom, J.D.

Facebook’s “BigPipe” technology, which allowed Facebook pages to display more quickly, did not infringe the asserted claims of two Rembrandt Social Media patents on systems and methods of creating a diary of references to the preferred content of selected websites, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled (Rembrandt Social Media, LP v. Facebook, Inc., February 25, 2016, Prost, S.). The court affirmed the district court’s denial of Rembrandt’s renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL), or for a new trial, and its post-trial judgment of non-infringement.

Rembrandt sued Facebook for the infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,415,316 and 6,289,362. A jury found that the asserted claims of the patents in suit were invalid and not infringed by Facebook. Rembrandt filed a post-trial motion for JMOL, which the district court denied. Rembrandt appealed, but the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment of non-infringement. The circuit court did not address the issue of patent validity.

The patents in suit. The asserted patents described web-based diary systems that allowed non-technical users to identify Internet content such as text, images, videos, and links to other web pages, and to post that content to personal diary pages that appeared as web pages in a web browser.

The representative claims of the ’316 patent disclosed a method of organizing network information for display. The claims recited several steps, including the “assembling” of a “cohesive diary page” by “dynamically combining the content data and the page design in accordance with the configuration information.” The ’362 patent described the display and update of diary pages, but it focused on the use of an “annotated universal address” (AUA) to transfer and display content.

Rembrandt’s appeal challenged Facebook’s “BigPipe” technology. BigPipe accomplished its optimization goals by dividing a Facebook page into smaller chunks, called “pagelets,” that could be loaded in parallel. While the pagelets were being retrieved by a user’s computer, a client-side code inserted HTML markup for each pagelet into a single HTML document. If the HTML text contained references to images, JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheets, or other resources that the pagelet needed, the browser would download them. Once all of the HTML markup and supporting resources were retrieved, the browser displayed the Facebook page.

The ’316 patent. Rembrandt argued that BigPipe assembled the cohesive diary page, within the meaning of the ’316 patent, because the HTML markup that BigPipe supplied to the web browser fully integrated the content and the page design for display. According to Rembrandt, at the moment of hand-off between BigPipe and the browser, the web page was completely specified. No design or content choices remained to be made. For that reason, Rembrandt argued, a legally sufficient evidentiary basis for the jury’s verdict was lacking.

The Federal Circuit disagreed. Although BigPipe reserved no content or design choice to the browser, the district court’s claim constructions—which Rembrandt did not challenge—overrode those considerations. The district court, for example, construed “[a]ssembling the cohesive diary page by dynamically combining the content data and the page design in accordance with the configuration information” to mean “[f]orming the cohesive diary page to be displayed by combining, at the time of display, the content data with the page design, to generate a definition that is in compliance with the configuration information.”

In addition, the parties had agreed that “content data” meant “[i]nformation that may be displayed to a user that is independent of the page design.” When a user viewed a website, for example, images—not URLs to images—were displayed to the user. Consequently, the patent requirement of “dynamically combining content data and the page design” had to be done where the actual image file was made available. Because the web browser downloaded those bits and displayed them on a page, that step was complete only after the handoff from BigPipe to the browser. According to the court, BigPipe could not satisfy that limitation.

The Federal Circuit concluded that the jury could have reasonably found that BigPipe did not “dynamically combin[e] the content data and the page design.” Ultimately, the circuit court could not conclude that the jury’s only reasonable action was to render an infringement verdict in favor of Rembrandt.

The ’362 patent. Rembrandt argued that BigPipe “dynamically” generated a page definition within the meaning of the ’362 patent because the HTML markup that BigPipe supplied to the browser “completely define[d] the appearance of a page.” According to Rembrandt, the browser’s subsequent downloading activities were irrelevant because “page definition” only required a specification for building a page, which BigPipe supplied. Rembrandt further argued that the district court had erred because no one disputed that Facebook practiced the “AUA database” limitation under the doctrine of equivalents.

The circuit court disagreed that the jury could not have reasonably concluded that Facebook did not practice an “AUA database” under the doctrine of equivalents. Significantly, Rembrandt’s expert had testified that the identifiers that were stored by Facebook and the URLs that were stored in AUAs “operate[d] in different universes.” URLs could be used anywhere on the Internet, the expert explained, but Facebook’s identifiers were used inside the closed Facebook system. Viewing that testimony in the light most favorable to Facebook, the jury could have reasonably concluded that the differences between those approaches were “not insubstantial.”

On that basis alone, the circuit court was obliged to affirm the district court’s judgment of non-infringement. The Federal Circuit thus concluded that the district court did not err in denying Rembrandt’s renewed motion for JMOL regarding patent infringement.

The case is No. 2014-1812.

Attorneys: John A. Dragseth, Robert E. Hillman, Lawrence K. Kolodney, Thomas M. Melsheimer, John Stephen Goetz, and Ahmed Jamal Davis (Fish & Richardson P.C.) for Rembrandt Social Media, LP. Thomas G. Hungar, Blair A. Silver, and Lucas C. Townsend (Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP) and Heidi Lyn Keefe, Mark R. Weinstein, and Michael Graham Rhodes (Cooley LLP) for Facebook, Inc.

Companies: Rembrandt Social Media, LP.; Facebook, Inc.

MainStory: TopStory Patent FedCirNews

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