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Unwired Planet, LLC v. Apple Inc.

July 22, 2016

Federal Circuit No. 2015-1725
Author: Jeong-Hyun Ju

Unwired Planet, LLC (“Unwired”) sued Apple for infringement of several patents directed to wireless communications, including US Pat. Nos. 6,532,446; 6,647,260; and 6,317,831.

For the ‘446 patent, the parties disputed the construction of the term “voice input.”  The accused feature is Apple's Siri service.  Apple argued that the term “voice input” should be construed to mean “speech provided over a voice channel.”  The District Court agreed with Apple’s construction and concluded that the voice input limitation should be construed as requiring that the voice input signal be conveyed over a voice channel.  In adopting Apple’s proposed construction, the District Court relied on the summary of the invention in ‘446 specification.

The Federal Circuit concluded that the District Court erred in its claim construction of “voice input,” reasoning that the claims require a voice input, not a voice channel, and a “voice input signal” could be transmitted over either a voice channel or a data channel, as Apple does, over TCP/IP.  The Federal Circuit construed the claim term “voice input” to have its plain meaning, which does not require the use of any particular type of channel for its transmission.  The Federal Circuit stated that by its plain language, “voice input” does not dictate the manner in which voice is to be transmitted from a mobile device to a server, and also stated that the first sentence, which recites “the present invention relates to a wireless communication system,” does not even mention a voice communication channel.

For the ‘260 patent, the parties disputed the construction of terms “user information” and “provisioning” in claim 1.  The accused Apple services are Apple's App Store and iTunes Store.

The District Court disagreed with Unwired, noting that claim 1 requires "the user information” in the provisioning request to be the same “user information required to establish a user account,” and held that a hash of the password in the buyProduct cannot be "theuser information,” because a hashed password is different from the password itself, which corresponds to the claimed “user information required to establish a user account. 

The Federal Circuit agreed with Unwired’s argument that a hashed password is merely a mathematical function applied to the user’s P/W, and the X-token contains the same substantive content, only in a different, hashed, format. 

For the ‘831 patent,  the accused feature is Apple's Push Notification Service (APNS), which is a service that allows app providers to send push notifications to iOS devices via APNS servers.  Apple argued that APNS does not meet the “narrowband channel,” because it uses a single channel rather than two different channels as required by the claims, and the District Court agreed with Apple.

The Federal Circuit agreed with Apple, and affirmed the District Court’s summary judgment of non-infringement, reasoning that APNS uses the same TCP/IP connection, with the bits traveling at the same speed, for both the exchange of security information and the transmission of the push message.