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Personalized Media Communications, L.L.C. v. International Trade Commission

January 07, 1999

PERSONALIZED MEDIA COMMUNICATIONS, L.L.C., APPELLANT,
v.
INTERNATIONAL TRADE COMMISSION, APPELLEE, AND DIRECTV, INC., UNITED STATES SATELLITE BROADCASTING CO., HUGHES NETWORK SYSTEMS, AND HITACHI HOME ELECTRONICS (AMERICA), INC., INTERVENORS, AND THOMSON CONSUMER ELECTRONICS, INC., TOSHIBA AMERICA CONSUMER PRODUCTS, INC., AND MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC CORPORATION OF AMERICA, INTERVENORS.



Before Rich, Michel, and Lourie, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rich, Circuit Judge.

DECISION

Personalized Media Communications, L.L.C. (PMC) appeals from the Final Determination of the International Trade Commission in Investigation No. 337-TA-392 determining that claim 35 of U.S. Patent No. 5,335,277 (the '277 patent) is invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 102(b) because the invention of claim 35 was described in a printed publication and on sale before the critical date. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

The invention disclosed in the '277 patent involves a signal processing system for use in TV broadcasting. The system performs a wide variety of data processing and data communication functions including: detecting, decrypting, and processing of signals embedded in the programming; combining of user specific information with the conventional broadcast programming; the automation of intermediate transmission stations and subscriber stations; and restricting the use of programming to only authorized subscribers. Many of the functions utilize unique codes which are embedded in the transmission of a television program. For example, the written description teaches a system which scans all of the channels until it identifies a particular unique program-identifying code being broadcast over one of the channels and then automatically tunes the television to the station transmitting the unique program-identifying code.

Claim 35 of the '277 patent, the only claim at issue, is directed to a television subscriber station in which a converter, tuner, television receiver or display device, and a controller are combined to provide an automatic tuning feature. The claim is for a system in which the user can preset a television to automatically tune to a particular television show at a specific time. Claim 35 reads (emphasis added on the single limitation at issue):

"A television subscriber station comprising: a converter for receiving a multichannel television transmission; a tuner operatively connected to said converter for selecting a specific television channel; a television receiver or display device for displaying programming of a channel specified by said tuner; and a controller operatively connected to said tuner for storing information of a selected television program unit and causing said tuner to select a television transmission containing programming of said television unit at a specific time."

The prior art includes a Programmable Color Television Receiver kit with related accessories, called a Heathkit TV, that can store viewing time and channel information inputted by a user. In operation, the Heathkit TV uses the stored time and channel information to automatically tune itself to the specified channel at the specified time and display whatever TV program is being transmitted over the channel at that time. Manuals describing this product were published before the critical date.

PMC petitioned for relief in the International Trade Commission (Commission or ITC) against the Respondents *fn1 alleging that the Respondents imported and sold digital satellite system receivers and components that infringed the '277 patent and constituted unfair import trade practices in violation of 19 U.S.C. § 1337(a)(1)(B) (1994). The Respondents moved for a summary determination that claim 35 of the '277 patent was anticipated by the Heathkit TV and thus invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 102(b). The only issue presented to the ITC was whether the claim limitation "information of a selected television program unit" could include just the time and the channel that a particular television program was to be broadcast or whether the "information" must include a unique program-identifying code. The ALJ concluded that the claim limitation could be satisfied by just channel and viewing time information and entered an Initial Determination that claim 35 of the '277 patent was anticipated by the Heathkit TV and therefore invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 102(b). The Commission denied review of the Initial Determination, upon which the ALJ's Initial Determination became final.

PMC now appeals from the ALJ's summary determination. Essentially, PMC argues that the ALJ improperly construed the claim limitation "information of a selected television program unit." PMC asserts that, properly construed, the limitation requires storage of content information that uniquely identifies a desired unit of television program and that the proper construction of the claim language sustains the validity of Claim 35 over the Heathkit TV. The ITC's jurisdiction over the investigation below was founded on 19 U.S.C. § 1337 (1994). This court's jurisdiction over the appeal is founded on 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(6) (1994).

DISCUSSION

The question of whether a summary determination is proper is a question of law. See 19 C.F.R. § 210.18(b) (summary determination is proper "if the evidence of record show[s] that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to summary determination as a matter of law"). We review summary determinations de novo. See Intellicall, Inc. v. Phonometrics, Inc., 952 F.2d 1384, 1387, 21 USPQ2d 1383, 1386 (Fed. Cir. 1992).

Claim Construction

The first step in any invalidity or infringement analysis is claim construction. Rockwell Int'l Corp. v. United States, 147 F.3d 1358, 1362, 47 USPQ2d 1027, 1029 (Fed. Cir. 1998). PMC argues that in granting summary determination, the ALJ "failed to construe inferences of the meaning of 'information of a selected television programming unit' ...


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