Magistrate Judge Thynge Rules on Summary Judgment Motions in Dispute Over Liquid Crystal Display Technology

Commissariat a l’Energie Atomique v. Samsung Electronics Co., et al., C.A. No. 03-484-MPT (D. Del. Oct. 31 and Nov. 2, 2007).

On October 31st and November 2nd, Magistrate Judge Thynge issued a series of four opinions in the above case. This case is a patent dispute involving the design and manufacture of liquid crystal displays. In particular, the claims relate to increasing the viewing angle of LCD display panels (like the one on your holiday shopping list). I will address each opinion in turn.

The first opinion denied in part and granted in part Samsung’s motion for summary judgment that claims of the ‘412 patent at issue are anticipated by a European patent publication. Before comparing the claims at issue and the disclosure of the European reference, the Court noted that ‘the fact that the examiner may have considered EP ‘775 [the European publication] during prosecution is not dispositive of Samsung’s motion.’ Op. at 7. The Court then noted that ‘whether a reference ‘teaches away’ from the invention is inapplicable to an anticipation analysis.’ Op. at 9 (citing 150 F.3d 1354, 1361). Thus, the fact that the European reference disparages the invention after disclosing it is not dispositive. Finally, the Court compares the claims at issue to the European reference and concludes that two of the three claims are anticipated.

The second opinion dealt with Samsung’s motion for summary judgment that the ‘028 patent failed to disclose the best mode of performing the invention. Samsung argued that a particular polarizer, a model by Sanritz, was known by the inventors to be the best polarizer to carry out their invention, and the inventors concealed this polarizer by not disclosing it in the patent application such that a person of ordinary skill in the art would not be enabled to practice the invention. After determining that the relevant date of inquiry concerning the inventor’s subjective belief as to the best mode of carrying out the invention is the earliest priority date claimed in the patent, the Court found Samsung had presented clear and convincing evidence that the Sanritz polarizer was the best mode of carrying out part of the claimed means and that the inventors had indeed concealed the best mode by not disclosing it in the application. Interestingly, the Court held that the trade name of the polarizer, Sanritz, ‘was necessary for a skilled artisan to practice the best mode of the claimed invention’ and, therefore, the trade name should have been disclosed. Op. at 8. Thus, the Court invalidated the ‘028 patent.

The third opinion dealt with the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment of infringement and noninfringement of the claims remaining at issue after the decisions discussed above, claims 3-5 and 12. As to claims 3-5 of the ‘412 patent, both parties lost their summary judgment motions on literal infringement. As to infringement under the doctrine of equivalents, however, the Court found that CEA’s conclusory statements were insufficient as a matter of law. Thus, the Court granted Samsung’s motion for summary judgment of noninfringement as to infringement under the DOE. The Court further bolstered this decision in the alternative by holding that applying the DOE to the ‘uniaxial medium’ claim term as requested by CEA would vitiate the term under the all elements rule. Both parties lost their summary judgment motions as to claim 12 of the ‘412 patent. Finally, the Court addressed CEA’s motion for summary judgment of inducement of infringement. As to this motion, the Court held that ‘[a]lthough intent may be proven by circumstantial evidence, when a plaintiff introduces circumstantial evidence that allows for inferences to be drawn, it is ‘up to the jury to decide whether or not to draw any inference and to consider the weight of any such evidence.’ ‘Op. at 18 (citing 471 F.3d 1293, 1306). Since circumstantial evidence was presented as to intent, the Court denied the summary judgment motion, allowing the issue to proceed to the jury.

The fourth and final opinion dealt with Samsung’s summary judgment motion that claims 3-5 of the ‘412 patent were anticipated under 102(b) by a single prior art reference. The Court denied the motion because there were multiple questions of fact as to whether certain claim elements were disclosed in the reference. One practical point was noted by the Court on page 7 of the opinion: make sure to explain how the language you quote in a reference discloses the corresponding claim element in your claim chart. In this case, the Court was unwilling to guess as to how/whether the quoted language disclosed the claim element. Completing the thought for the reader is almost always preferable to leaving the reader to complete the thought for themselves.

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