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Judge Robinson Issues Claim Construction, Denies Summary Judgment of Collateral Estoppel Due to Different Claim Scope

In September 2012, plaintiff Joao Bock Transaction Systems filed suit against Jack Henry & Associates for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,096,003, which relates to security for financial transactions and wireless communication device authorization. Following briefing and oral argument, Judge Robinson issued her construction of several disputed claim terms:
– “At least one of . . . and”
– “Communication device”
– “Processes”
– “Processing”
– “Receiver”
– “Signal”
– “Transmitter”
– “Banking Transaction”
– “Central Transaction Processing Computer”
– “Electronic mail message”
– “Limitation”
– “Restriction”
– “Network computer”
– “Processing device”
– “Real time”
– “Transaction”
– “Transaction security apparatus”
– “Transmit(s)”
– “Transmitted”
– “Communication device associated with an individual account holder”
– “Containing information for authorizing or disallowing the transaction”
– “Determines whether the banking transaction is allowed or disallowed”
– “Information regarding a banking transaction”
– “Internet transaction”
– “Automated teller machine account”
– “[A] transmitter, wherein the transmitter transmits a second signal to the communication device or to a second communication device associated with the individual account holder, wherein the second signal contains information regarding the banking transaction”
– “[A] transmitter, wherein the transmitter transmits a periodic transaction record to the communication device or to a second communication device associated with the individual account holder, wherein the periodic transaction record shows a transaction or transactions on the checking account for a time period, wherein the periodic transaction record is transmitted to the communication device or to the second communication device at least one of automatically and in response to a request for the periodic transaction record”
– “[A] transmitter, wherein the transmitter transmits a second signal to the communication device or to a second communication device associated with the individual account holder, wherein the second signal contains information regarding the transaction”
Joao Bock Transaction Systems, LLC v. Jack Henry & Associates, Inc., C.A. No. 12-1138-SLR, Memo. Order at 5-20 (D. Del. June 30, 2014).

Important to her construction of these terms, Judge Robinson explained that the patentees “assert that the ‘003 patent should be recognized as having a priority date of August 8, 1996, the earliest filing date of its related patents, thus also establishing the temporal perspective for those of skill in the art. Without addressing in this order the question of whether the definitions constitute new matter and, therefore, support a later priority date, the court will address the extent to which, if at all, the court is bound by the multiple definitions the patentees choose to give certain claim language during the claim amendment process that took place in the PTO from October 2004 to September 2005. The definitions were not included in the specification, were not the subject of any commentary by the examiner, were made years after the earliest priority date, and were added for litigation purposes, that is, to differentiate the ‘003 patent from a related patent. Most significantly, the definitions added through the auspices of 37 C.F.R. 1.115 are worded in the disjunctive and, rather than narrowing the scope of the claim language or adding clarity to such, instead obscure the scope of the claims, thus confounding the public notice requirement of§ 112, ¶ 2. Given that the definitions are not ‘clearly stated,’ see Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582, the court rejects plaintiff’s argument that the court is obligated to embrace them for purposes of the claim construction exercise.” Id. at 4-5.

Because Judge Robinson’s constructions resulted in a narrower claim scope of the patent-in-suit than the scope of a related patent that had been the subject of a separate suit, she found that “the issue of invalidity common to each action [was not] substantially identical” and denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment of invalidity based on collateral estoppel. Id. at 20 n.34.

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