488 F.3d 982 (Fed. Cir. 2007), 05-1112, Honeywell Intern. Inc. v. Universal Avionics Systems Corp.

Docket Nº:05-1112, 05-1151, 05-1152.
Citation:488 F.3d 982, 82 U.S.P.Q.2d 1886
Party Name:HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL INC. and Honeywell Intellectual Properties Inc., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. UNIVERSAL AVIONICS SYSTEMS CORP., Defendant-Cross Appellant, and Sandel Avionics Inc., Defendant-Cross Appellant.
Case Date:May 25, 2007
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
 
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488 F.3d 982 (Fed. Cir. 2007)

82 U.S.P.Q.2d 1886

HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL INC. and Honeywell Intellectual Properties Inc., Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

UNIVERSAL AVIONICS SYSTEMS CORP., Defendant-Cross Appellant,

and

Sandel Avionics Inc., Defendant-Cross Appellant.

Nos. 05-1112, 05-1151, 05-1152.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit.

May 25, 2007

Appealed from: United States District Court for the District of Delaware Magistrate Judge Mary Patricia Thynge

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Steven D. McCormick, Kirkland & Ellis, LLP, of Chicago, Illinois, argued for plaintiffs-appellants. With him on the brief was Christopher Landau, of Washington, DC. Of counsel on the brief was Sarah Sklover, Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw LLP, of New York, New York. Of counsel was John C. O'Quinn.

Scott J. Bornstein, Greenberg Traurig, LLP, of New York, New York, argued for defendant-cross

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appellant Universal Avionics Systems Corp. With him on the brief was William G.Todd.

Howard G. Pollack, Fish & Richardson P.C., of Redwood City, California, argued for defendant-cross appellant Sandel Avionics, Inc. With him on the brief were Frank E. Scherkenbach, of Boston, Massachusetts, Michael R. Headley, of Redwood, California, and John A, Dragseth, of Minneapolis, MN.

Before RADER, GAJARSA, and DYK, Circuit Judges.

RADER, Circuit Judge.

In a series of decisions on summary judgment, the United States District Court for the District of Delaware invalidated certain claims and found no infringement of patents owned by Honeywell International Inc. and Honeywell Intellectual Properties Inc. (Honeywell). Honeywell Int'l, Inc. v. Universal Avionics Sys. Corp., 343 F.Supp.2d 272 (D. Del. 2004) (Final Decision); Honeywell Int'l, Inc. v. Universal Avionics Sys. Corp., 264 F.Supp.2d 135 (D. Del. 2003) (Claim Construction Decision); Honeywell Int'l, Inc., v. Universal Avionics Sys. Corp., 288 F.Supp.2d 638 (D. Del. 2003) (Invalidity Decision); Honeywell Int'l, Inc., v. Universal Avionics Sys. Corp., 289 F.Supp.2d 493 (D. Del. 2003) (Non-infringement Decision). Honeywell contests issues of claim construction, infringement, and subject matter jurisdiction on a few claims withdrawn from the litigation. Universal Avionics Systems Corp. (Universal) and Sandel Avionics Inc. (Sandel) cross-appeal the district court's final decision that other remaining claims were not barred by public uses or premature sales activity. Final Decision, 343 F.Supp.2d at 309. In addition, Sandel appeals the district court's determination that Honeywell did not commit inequitable conduct. Id. at 313. Universal further appeals the district court's denial of its commercial counterclaims. Final Decision, 343 F.Supp.2d at 319. Finding errors, this court vacates the claim construction of a few terms and remands for a new infringement determination. This court affirms the district court's retention of jurisdiction over the withdrawn claims and the district court's decision that § 102(b) does not erect a bar.

I

This patent infringement case involves aviation electronics, specifically terrain warning systems. "Terrain warning systems" warn pilots to prevent them from flying into a mountain or hillside. This type of accident is called a "controlled flight into terrain" (CFIT).

Air travel has benefited from terrain warning technology for approximately thirty years. The prior art technology, known as "ground proximity warning systems" or (GPWS), sharply reduced CFIT accidents beginning in the 1970s and 80s. This GPWS technology, however, featured a number of limitations. GPWS technology used radio waves to measure the distance of the aircraft above the ground. Using the downward looking information from the radio altimeter, GPWS technology tried to predict the threat of CFIT posed by terrain near the aircraft. This system worked well for gradual changes in terrain. The GPWS system, however, provided no reliable warnings in abruptly changing terrain. In sum, the prior art did not provide information regarding the terrain ahead of the aircraft.

Honeywell began research in the 1980s aimed at developing a "look ahead" terrain warning system. Without forward-looking radar or forward-looking sensors aboard civilian aircraft, Honeywell's research focused on a "virtual" look ahead system. This virtual system would not physically

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detect the terrain ahead of the aircraft but instead would compare the aircraft's position with an on-board digitized map of the earth's terrain and man-made obstacles. In 1995, Honeywell received patent protection for its virtual look ahead system, including the five patents-in-suit: U.S. Patent Nos. 5,839,080 (the '080 patent), 6,092,009 (the '009 patent), 6,122,570 (the '570 patent), 6,138,060 (the '060 patent), and 6,219,592 (the '592 patent). These patents fall into two main categories: the "look ahead patents" ('080, '570, and '592) and the "display patents" ('060 and '009).

The patented technology works as a system of algorithms that define a volume of space referred to as an alert envelope. The alert envelope is defined by: (1) the aircraft's flight path, (2) the look ahead distance, and (3) the terrain boundary floor. This alert envelope takes into account the position and speed of the aircraft as well as the flight path. The system then searches the database of digitized maps and warns about any terrain or obstacles within the alert envelope. The system refers to alert distance in front of the aircraft as the "look ahead distance." The distance that the system looks below the aircraft depends on a safe terrain clearance value, referred to as a "terrain floor boundary." This boundary varies as a function of the aircraft's distance from a reference point, such as an airport or runway. The look ahead patents disclose the inputs into the system, the definition of alert inputs, and the output alerts. The display patents disclose and claim various methods for providing representations of the terrain surrounding the aircraft, including the display of the contours of threatening terrain.

Honeywell contacted the FAA in early 1995 seeking certification for its "look ahead" terrain warning system. Honeywell called its system an "Enhanced Grand Proximity Warning System" or "EGPWS." In 1996, stemming from the CFIT accident that claimed the life of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, the United States Congress pressured the FAA to issue regulations raising the requirements for CFIT prevention technology. The FAA now requires that all commercial aircraft of a certain size include a look ahead warning system.

Following the release of FAA's system requirements, Universal and Sandel began to develop competing terrain warning systems. Universal introduced its certified system, which it called TAWS, in 2000. Sandel announced its system, which it called the ST3400 TAWS/RMI in 2000. Both the Universal and Sandel systems are virtual look ahead systems. Sandel asserts, however, that its device lacks at least five limitations in the asserted patent claims. Similarly, Universal argues that the asserted claims as construed by the trial court do not cover its system.

Honeywell brought suit against Universal and Sandel in the District of Delaware in 2002. 1 The district court construed the claims in a Memorandum Opinion dated May 30, 2003. Claim Construction Decision, 264 F.Supp.2d at 135. On October 16, 2003, the district court granted defendants' motions for summary judgment of invalidity of certain claims that had been withdrawn from the litigation. Invalidity Decision, 288 F.Supp.2d at 638. The district court granted defendants' summary judgment motions of non-infringement on October 28 and 29, 2003. Non-infringement Decision, 289 F.Supp.2d at 493. The

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district court denied all of defendants' remaining counterclaims of invalidity during a seven-day bench trial which began on November 2, 2003. Final Decision, 343 F.Supp.2d at 272.

II

Honeywell appeals the district court's construction of five claim terms. This court reviews claim construction without deference. Cybor Corp. v. FAS Techs., Inc., 138 F.3d 1448, 1456 (Fed. Cir. 1998). Claim one of the '080 patent contains four of those five contested claim terms, including the claim terms "signals representative of," "look ahead distance," "alert envelope," and "terrain floor boundary." These terms mean the same thing in each patent. Claim 1 of the '080 patent recites:

An apparatus for alerting a pilot of an aircraft of proximity to terrain, the apparatus comprising:

an input for receiving signals representative of a position of the aircraft, a flight path angle of the aircraft and a speed of the aircraft and coupled to a data base of stored terrain information; an output;

a signal processing device, coupled to said input, and coupled to said output, for:

(a) defining a look ahead distance as a function of the speed of the aircraft;

(b) defining a first alert envelope, indicative of a first severity of terrain threat,

wherein boundaries of said first alert envelope are determined as a first function of the flight path angle, said look ahead distance, and a terrain floor boundary ;

(b) [sic] defining a second alert envelope, indicative of a second severity of terrain threat, wherein boundaries of said second alert envelope are determined as a second function of the flight path angle, said look ahead distance and said terrain floor boundary ; and

(d) outputting an alert signal when a subset of the stored terrain information is located within the boundaries of at least one of the said first and said...

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