“The testimony does not show that the delay determination occurring on a given Echo device enables beamforming for a plurality of configurations, as claim 1 requires.” – CAFC
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) on Thursday reversed a district court’s denial of judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) to Amazon of no induced infringement and vacated a jury verdict finding that it had induced infringement of Vocalife LLC’s patent for a method of enhancing acoustics. Judge Hughes authored the opinion.
The asserted patent was U.S. Patent No. RE 47,049, which covers “methods and systems for ‘enhancing acoustics of a target sound signal received from a target sound source, while suppressing ambient noise signals.’” Vocalife filed suit against Amazon, claiming certain Amazon Echo products infringed the ’049 patent–specifically, Claim 1’s reference to “providing a microphone array system comprising an array of sound sensors positioned in a linear, circular, or other configuration” and “determining a delay . . . wherein said determination of said delay enables beamforming for said array of sound sensors in a plurality of configurations.” Beamforming, according to the opinion, “refers to a signal processing technique by which the disclosed microphone array can focus on a sound signal coming from a particular direction instead of sound signals from other directions.”
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas ruled at the summary judgment stage that absolute intervening rights under Section 252 of the U.S. Patent Act, which deals with reissue patents, applied to certain Echo products and Vocalife was not entitled to damages for pre-suit induced infringement. When Amazon move for JMOL of noninfringement, the district court granted JMOL on no direct or contributory infringement and no infringement under the doctrine of equivalents, but denied JMOL of no induced infringement. A jury then returned the verdict finding that Amazon had induced infringement and the district court again denied Amazon’s motion for JMOL on induced infringement. Amazon appealed and Vocalife cross-appealed the summary judgment grants of no infringement.
The Federal Circuit said that Vocalife’s expert testimony about the way delay determination works on Echo devices did not support the conclusion that Echo infringed the patent. “The testimony does not show that the delay determination occurring on a given Echo device enables beamforming for a plurality of configurations, as claim 1 requires,” wrote the court. The testimony instead suggested that the determination enables beamforming “for only the specific microphone array configuration on that specific device.” There was no evidence provided to show “that the coefficients loaded onto a given Echo device enable beamforming for a variety of microphone configurations, as opposed to only the configuration of that particular device.” And Vocalife’s hypothesis at oral argument that there could be multiple configurations on a particular Echo device “in the situations where not all of the microphones are operating or certain microphones aren’t receiving the sound or performing as designed” “came too late,” said the court, as it was not in the briefing and no evidence was provided to demonstrate such configurations exist.
Vocalife’s cross-appeal was thus dismissed as moot, the jury verdict vacated and the district court’s denial of JMOL reversed.
Image Source: Deposit Photos