IP Law Daily Patent on display of geographical data invalid; jury verdict exonerating Google affirmed
Friday, October 20, 2017

Patent on display of geographical data invalid; jury verdict exonerating Google affirmed

By Mark Engstrom, J.D.

Art+Com was not entitled to a post-verdict judgment of patent infringement in its claims against Google for infringing a method and device patent for the display of geographic data, such as satellite images, to users with a "selectable viewpoint," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled. Because substantial evidence supported the jury’s finding that each of the asserted patent claims was invalid as anticipated, the judgment of the district court was affirmed (Art+Com Innovationpool GmbH v. Google LLC, October 20, 2017, O’Malley, K.).

Art+Com owned U.S. Patent No. RE44,550, titled "Method and Device for Pictorial Representation of Space-Related Data." Broadly speaking, the patent described methods for displaying topographic or meteorological data, such as satellite images, to users with a "selectable viewpoint," taking into account the user’s location and direction of view.

Art+Com sued Google for patent infringement. According to Art+Com, "Google Earth, Version 7" and related software products infringed multiple claims of the ’550 patent. At trial, Google argued that the patent was invalid as anticipated. The critical date for the purpose of anticipation was December 17, 1995.

A jury found that Google did not infringe the asserted claims of the patent in suit, and further found that each of those claims was invalid as anticipated and/or obvious. More specifically, the jury found that Google had proved by clear and convincing evidence that: (1) SRI’s TerraVision system was publicly used before December 17, 1995, and (2) the TerraVision system anticipated each of the asserted claims. Because the district court concluded that the jury verdict was supported by substantial evidence, it denied Art+Com’s renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, and it entered a judgment that was consistent with the verdict.

On appeal, Art+Com argued that Google did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that the TerraVision system had placed the invention into public use. First, Art+Com argued that Google failed to present any evidence to corroborate a witness’s "vague" testimony about the features and operation of SRI’s TerraVision, and for that reason, Google’s expert should not have been allowed to rely on that testimony to "cherry-pick selected excerpts to stitch together the claimed invention." Second, Art+Com argued that, even if Google had provided an adequate foundation for the witness’s testimony, the expert’s opinions did not show that the TerraVision system disclosed each claim limitation. Third, Art+Com argued that Google did not show that: (1) TerraVision was "ready for patenting" under the Supreme Court’s decision in Pfaff v. Wells Electronics, Inc., 525 U.S. 55 (1998), or (2) the public could actually discern the patented invention in SRI’s TerraVision, as required under the court’s precedents.

The court rejected all three arguments. First, the court found that the witness’s testimony was sufficiently corroborated by both documentary and videographic evidence. Second, the court noted that the dispositive question regarding anticipation was whether a skilled artisan would reasonably understand, or would infer from the prior art’s teaching, that every claim element was disclosed in that single reference. In this case, the court found that Google had submitted sufficient evidence from which a jury could reasonably conclude that the TerraVision system provided a basis for that understanding.

Finally, the court rejected Art+Com’s contention that Google did not show that: (1) the TerraVision system was "ready for patenting" and (2) the invention was "discernable" in TerraVision. According to the court, the witness’s testimony about his TerraVision demonstration at multiple conferences—and his provision of the TerraVision source code to individuals at Art+Com—constituted "substantial evidence" that the TerraVision system was "ready for patenting."

Art+Com argued that neither the witness nor Google’s expert had said anything about "the development goals or performance criteria targeted by SRI, about metrics evaluated through testing of the system, or about when the system was considered complete." The court noted, however, that an invention could be reduced to practice, for the purpose of the public use bar, even though it might later be refined or improved.

Ultimately, the jury had heard testimony that SRI’s TerraVision system had been publicly demonstrated at two technical conferences, to attendees who had knowledge of the art, without any restrictions or efforts to maintain confidentiality. In light of testimony from Google’s expert that the source code "essentially defines what the computer does," the court concluded that the jury was entitled to find that the claimed inventions were discernable in SRI’s TerraVision.

According to the Federal Circuit, substantial evidence supported the jury’s verdict that the asserted claims of the patent in suit were anticipated by TerraVision. The district court’s judgment of invalidity was therefore affirmed.

The case is No. 2017-1016.

Attorneys: Scott F. Partridge (Baker Botts, LLP) for Art+Com Innovationpool GmbH. Daryl Joseffer (King & Spalding LLP) for Google LLC.

Companies: Art+Com Innovationpool GmbH; Google LLC

MainStory: TopStory Patent TechnologyInternet FedCirNews

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