Apple Wins Two Patent Appeals in One Day

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on August 03, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It was a good Monday for Apple. The tech giant won two appeals in the Federal Circuit this week, as that appellate court upheld two decisions rejecting claims by patent licensing companies that Apple had infringed on others' patents.

In one case, a licensing company accused Apple of infringing on its patents for data communications -- in pagers. Apple had accused the company of being a patent troll and described the lawsuit as extortion.

Is Your iPhone a Pager?

The most far-fetched of the accusations against Apple were brought by GPNE, a patent licensing company based out of Hawaii. GPNE holds the patent for paging technology that allows you page 07734 to your friend's beeper, without having to go through a telephone. Those patents are part of the technology behind, as the court describes it, "a two-way paging system, where paging devices are capable of not only receiving messages but also sending messages back in response." Think of it as text messaging, for the mid-90s.

During trial, there were frequent disputes about what constituted a "node" for transmission of information in the patent -- a phrase that appeared only in the abstract. The district court had construed a "node" as a "pager with two-way data communications capability that transmits wireless data communications on a paging system that operates independently from a telephone network."

After losing in district court GPNE appealed, claiming objecting to the use of "pager" and "telephone network" in that definition. The Federal Circuit rejected those claims, as well as GPNE's argument that the court had failed to define "pager" itself, impermissibly leaving the task of claim construction up to the jury. The court did not error in its construction of "node," nor was it required to define every word used to construe a claim term, the Federal Circuit found.

No Win for Wi-LAN

Apple's second win played out somewhat similarly. Wi-LAN accused Apple of violating two patents related to network architecture for wireless communications, specifically the efficient use of bandwidth in wireless communication networks.

After construing the claims, the district court ruled for Apple in summary judgment, agreeing with the company that the iPhone's technology did not align with the process Wi-LAN's patents described.

Like GPNE, Wi-LAN appealed and, like GPNE, Wi-LAN lost. The district court did not error in its claim construction, the Federal Circuit ruled, and did not abuse its discretion in declining Wi-LAN's motion to reconsider.

That gives Apple two victories for the day, an appropriate number for the company. Apple faced the second most patent-infringement lawsuits in recent years, according to Lex Machina, trailing only Amazon.

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