United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Gainesville Division
The University of Florida Research Foundation, Inc., Plaintiff,
General Electric Company, GE Medical Systems Information Technologies, Inc., and GE Medical Systems, Inc. Defendants.
E. Walker United States District Judge
a patent case. The University of Florida Research Foundation,
Inc. (“UFRF”) sues the General Electric Company,
GE Medical Systems Information Technologies, Inc., and GE
Medical Systems, Inc. (collectively “GE”) for
direct and indirect patent infringement under 35 U.S.C.
§ 271(a)-(b). GE moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6),
arguing that UFRF's patent is ineligible under 35 U.S.C.
§ 101 because it claims an abstract idea. ECF No. 17.
This Court, following a hearing on November 8, 2017,
GRANTS GE's motion to dismiss.
a direct support organization to the University of Florida, a
nonprofit public university located in Gainesville, Florida.
UFRF holds more than 2, 400 active patents. ECF No. 1, at
¶ 4. Among them is the patent at issue, U.S. Patent No.
7, 062, 251 (the “'251 patent”), officially
entitled “Managing Critical Care Physiologic Data Using
Data Synthesis Technology.” Id. at
¶¶ 4, 12; see also ECF No. 1-1 (attaching
the ‘251 patent as exhibit). UFRF licensed the patent
to ICU DataSystems, which developed a product known under its
tradename, “iCuro.” ECF No. 1, at ¶¶
63-65. ICU DataSystems “faced capital concerns, ”
and various entities acquired its assets, including the
license to the ‘251 patent. Id. at ¶ 86.
As of 2016, the license to the patent “became
nonexclusive so that UFRF could recoup from market
free-riders.” Id. at ¶ 90.
asserts that GE is directly infringing on the ‘251
patent with a product known as the CARESCAPE Network that
uses a “Unity Network Interface Device, ” or
UNITY NETWORK Id. Id. at ¶¶
96-104. GE is also charged with indirect infringement of the
‘251 patent by distributing marketing, training, and
instructional materials related to CARESCAPE and the UNITY
NETWORK Id. Id. at ¶ 106.
honest and thorough description of the ‘251 patent is
helpful and necessary in determining whether it is patent
eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Patent ‘251, in
short, “utilizes data synthesis technology . . . to
integrate physiologic data from at least one bedside machine
with data from other data sources” in medical
facilities. ECF No. 1-1, at 11. The patent permits medical
personnel to quickly access critical, complex, and organized
data. ECF No. 1, at ¶¶ 30-33. In the pre-computer
and early-computer eras, medical personnel “were faced
with a large amount of available data but had no reliable
means to collect or consolidate that data in
real-time.” Id. at ¶ 19; see also
id. at ¶ 37. In response to this need, the
patent's inventors worked to perfect technology that
permitted medical personnel to obtain data from multiple
bedside devices, organize that data, create translation
tables, and present that data in a “singular
display.” Id. at ¶ 28. The iCuro
technology is grounded on the patent's concepts.
technology uses “drivers, ” which UFRF describes
as “sets of rules.” Id. at ¶ 53.
These drivers serve to, among other things, translate or
interpret data that has been inputted into a “data
stream” from a bedside machine. See id. at
¶¶ 47-49; see also ECF No. 1-1, at 13
(describing drivers in similar terms). Drivers are able to
identify different data streams from various bedside
machines; in turn, each bedside machine's drivers can
“correctly interpret the segment data stream for the
machine.” ECF No. 1, at ¶ 51. Drivers also can
help to cross-reference multiple data sets from databases or
machines to create standardized data. Id. at ¶
54. This process allows data to be “combined, compared,
and analyzed” in formats independent from the specific
bedside machine. ECF No. 1-3, at ¶ 35. In other words,
the ‘251 patent converts data from bedside
machine-dependent to machine-independent format. ECF No. 1,
at ¶¶ 54-56; see also ECF No. 1-3, at
¶ 37 (“[T]he ‘251 patent details how data
from multiple monitors can be read into a common data
store.”). Overall, drivers “improve the
existing technological process by allowing the automation of
. . . tasks.” Id. at ¶ 53. They assist
the ‘251 patent to use medical computer technology to
present solutions that have synthesized “vast amounts
of synthesized data in a manner that can help save
lives.” Id. at ¶ 57.
based on the '251 patent performs tasks that allow for
“true clinical decision support, including
multi-variate graphs collected from different machines,
review of trends over time, and multiple-variable alerts to
detect true clinical issues.” Id. at ¶
59. In doing so, the technology “collect[s],
manipulate[s], interpret[s], and display[s] information in a
manner that could not be and was not performed by
humans.” Id. at ¶ 60.
diving into the muddy waters of patent eligibility, this
Court must first dip its toes into threshold issues that
impact the substantive analysis.
No Claim-Construction Hearing is Necessary
identifies terms that it argues GE has erroneously construed
as “mere generic.” ECF No. 25, at 42. These terms
are “bedside, ” “bedside machine, ”
“bedside device, ” “central data
repository, ” “machine-independent, ”
“machine-dependent, ” “convert, ” and
“graphical user interface.” Id.
courts are tasked with the responsibilities for claim
construction as a matter of law. Vitronics Corp. v.
Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996).
“It is a ‘bedrock principle' of patent law
that ‘the claims of a patent define the invention to
which the patentee is entitled the right to
exclude.'” Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d
1303, 1313 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc) (quoting
Innova/Pure Water, Inc. v. Safari Water Filtration Sys.,
Inc., 381 F.3d 1111, 1115 (Fed. Cir. 2004)). Words in
patents' claims “are generally given their ordinary
and customary meaning” known to “a person of
ordinary skill in the art in question at the time of the
invention.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1313. Claims
are only shed of their ordinary and customary meanings
“if the patentee acted as his own lexicographer and
clearly set forth a definition of the disputed claim
term.” CCS Fitness, Inc. v. Brunswick Corp.,
288 F.3d 1359, 1366 (Fed. Cir. 2002).
Court acknowledges a split among the Federal Circuit's
judges on claim construction. Some judges construe
patents' claims to capture an invention's scope.
See, e.g., Retractable Techs., Inc. v. Becton,
Dickinson & Co., 653 F.3d 1296, 1305 (Fed. Cir.
2011) (“[W]e strive to capture the scope of the actual
invention, rather than strictly limit the scope of the claim
to disclosed embodiments or allow claim language to become
divorced from what the specification conveys is the
invention.”). Other judges-Judge Moore in
particular-emphasize that the claims themselves define an
invention's boundaries and that specifications cannot
narrow claim terms by themselves unless the patentee has
offered his own definitions. See generally Retractable
Techs., Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson & Co., 659 F.3d
1369, 1370-76 (Fed. Cir. 2011) (Moore, J., dissenting from en
banc denial). With this split in mind, this Court follows
Phillips as articulated in the Retractable
Techs. majority and in Judge Moore's
dissent from the court's denial of an en banc petition in
that case. See Retractable Techs., 653 F.3d at 1303
(“To ascertain the scope and meaning of the asserted
claims, we look to the words of the claims themselves, the
specification, the prosecution history, and any relevant
extrinsic evidence”) (citing Phillips, 415
F.3d at 1315-17); see also Retractable Techs., 659
F.3d at 1371 (Moore, J., dissenting from denial of en banc
petition) (stating that “claim terms are to be given
their plain and ordinary meaning to one of skill in the
art” and “claims are to be construed in the
context of the entire patent”).
construction hearing is not necessary here. This Court can
construe the terms using their plain and ordinary meaning
and-when the patent so directs-using “the
inventor's lexicography.” Phillips, 415
F.3d at 1316. For example, the patent defines the term
“bedside” as meaning “an environment in
close proximately [sic] to a patient being treated”
that does not necessarily need to include a bed. ECF No. 1-1,
at 11. The terms that are not explicitly defined in the
‘251 patent have plain and ordinary meanings.
courts may need to hold a claim construction hearing even if
the terms' plain meanings are clear. “A
determination that a claim term ‘needs no
construction' or has the ‘plain and ordinary
meaning' may be inadequate when a term has more than one
‘ordinary' meaning or when reliance on a term's
‘ordinary' meaning does not resolve the
parties' dispute.” O2 Micro Intern. Ltd. v.
Beyond Innovation Tech. Co., 521 F.3d 1351, 1361 (Fed.
Cir. 2008) (citations omitted in original). Neither exception
applies here. None of the terms UFRF identifies has more than
one ordinary meaning in the context of the ‘251 patent
nor does reliance on the terms' ordinary meaning fail to
resolve the dispute.
any claim-construction-related disputes are over how broad or
narrow these terms should be construed. Based on the
procedural posture of a motion to dismiss, this Court
construes these terms narrowly and within their ordinary
meaning to a skilled individual familiar with the art. For
example, the term “convert”-likely the broadest
term that UFRF flags as potentially problematic-refers to its
plain and ordinary meaning “to change or turn into
another substance or form.” Webster's Dictionary
400 (2d. ed. 1983). The act of converting in this context,
however, narrowly refers to converting data from bedside
machine-dependent to machine-independent formatting-not the
conversion of just any object to something else.
this Court finds Claim 1 representative of the other
claims. See, e.g., Content
Extraction & Transmission LLC v. Wells Fargo Bank,
Nat'l Ass'n., 776 F.3d 1343, 1348 (Fed. Cir.
2014) (finding more than one patent claims as representative
because they were “substantially similar in that they
recite little more than the same abstract idea”). The
remaining seventeen dependent claims do not add anything to
this Court's analysis. They simply explain what is
already set out in the specifications. And this Court
analyzes Claim 1 in light of those specifications. Even if,
however, this Court construed the dependent claims separate
and apart from Claim 1, the following analysis and its
conclusions over the ‘251 patent's eligibility
would not change.
Expert Declarations Attached to the Complaint May Be
attaches two declarations to the complaint, both attesting to
the benefits of the ‘251 patent, particularly in the
application of patent-based technology in the declarants'
practices. GE objects, arguing generally that this Court need
not consider anything ...