Patent Case Summaries December 7, 2022

Patent Case Summaries | Week Ending December 2, 2022

A weekly summary of the precedential patent-related opinions issued by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the opinions designated precedential or informative by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.

Treehouse Avatar LLC v. Valve Corp., No. 2022-1171 (Fed. Cir. (W.D. Wash.) Nov. 30, 2022). Opinion by Reyna, joined by Lourie and Stoll.

Treehouse owns a patent directed to a “method of collecting data from an information network in response to user choices of a plurality of users navigating character-enabled network sites on the network.” Treehouse filed an infringement suit against Valve, a video game developer, asserting that two of Valve’s games infringe.

Prior to the lawsuit, during an IPR proceeding involving the patent, the parties disputed the meaning of the claim term “character-enabled network sites” (the CE limitation). The parties offered competing constructions, with neither arguing that the plain and ordinary meaning should apply. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board construed the term, but its construction differed from the parties’ proposals.

In the district court litigation, the parties asked the court to adopt the Board’s construction, and the court did so. Later, Treehouse’s infringement expert submitted a report that applied the plain and ordinary meaning for the CE limitation rather than the agreed construction. The expert then filed a supplemental report stating that the court’s construction for the CE limitation “is the ordinary meaning, and thus my opinions applied this meaning and are unchanged.”

Valve filed a motion to strike the portions of Treehouse’s expert report that relied on the plain and ordinary meaning of the CE limitation, arguing that the expert’s construction was overbroad and inconsistent with the court’s construction. Valve also filed a motion for summary judgment of noninfringement asserting that Valve’s accused video games did not satisfy the CE limitation. The district court granted both motions. Treehouse appealed.

The Federal Circuit affirmed. First, the court ruled that “the grant of a motion to strike expert testimony is not improper when such testimony is based on a claim construction that is materially different from the construction adopted by the parties and the court.” Applying that framework, the Federal Circuit determined that Treehouse failed to demonstrate an abuse of discretion in the district court’s grant of the motion to strike.

The Federal Circuit also affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment of noninfringement in favor of Valve, stating: “As a result of the district court properly striking portions of [the expert’s] testimony, Treehouse did not provide admissible evidence to support that the accused video games satisfy the CE limitation.” Valve, on the other hand, “provided significant evidence that Valve’s servers do not satisfy the CE limitation.”

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