Patent litigation and Patent Office procedures dominate this month’s Photonics IP Update

March 6, 2024
Summaries of intellectual property (IP) cases involving optical communications, image processing, lighting, and others are among the 18 recorded in February.

February’s photonics-related IP activities featured 18 patent litigation and Patent Office procedures concerning various technologies, including optical communications, image processing, lighting, AR/VR, displays/signage, medical/dental imaging, and sensing.

Optical communications

On February 2, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of the U.S. Patent Office agreed to institute an Inter Partes Review (IPR) of U.S. Patent No. 7,198,416, owned by Innoes LLC, a California-based manufacturer and supplier of components and modules for optical communications. The IPR resulted from a petition submitted by South Korean company Opticis Co., Ltd., also a manufacturer of components for optical communications. The PTAB will review the validity of certain claims of the ‘416 patent and deliver its final decision by February 2025. The ‘416 patent covers an optical combiner used for wavelength division multiplexing and is currently the subject of litigation between Inneos and Opticis in Federal Court in the Central District of California.

NextGen Innovations LLC of Las Vegas, NV, filed a patent infringement lawsuit on February 9 in the Eastern District of Texas against Cisco Systems, Inc. for infringement of three patents relating to high-speed communication over fiber-optic networks. The patents are 9,887,795; 10,263,723; and 10,771,181.

Texas-based Applied Optoelectronics, Inc. sued Cambridge Industries USA, Inc. in Federal Court in the Northern District of California on February 20 for infringement of eight patents relating to optical telecommunications, covering the coupling of optical detectors to demultiplexers, optical transmitters, optical receivers, optical transceivers, and optical isolators. The patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 9,170,383; 9,523,826; 10,042,116; 10,175,431; 10,313,024; 10,379,301; 10,466,432; and 10,788,690.

The PTAB instituted an IPR on February 16 following a petition by Nokia of America Corporation. The IPR challenges the validity of U.S. Patent No. 8,238,754, which is owned by two individuals, Alexander and Walter Soto. The patent covers pluggable optical modules for passive optical communications networks and is the subject of litigation between Nokia and NextGen Innovations LLC, the exclusive licensee of the patent. The PTAB will deliver its final decision by February 2025.

Image processing

Motive Technologies Inc. sued Samsara Inc. on February 15 in the Northern District of California for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 11,875,580. Motive supplies artificial intelligence (AI)-powered integrated platforms for fleet telematics, and the patent relates to one particular element of their platform, an AI dash cam. The patent covers a method for initializing a camera for lane detection and distance estimation using single-view geometry.

VDPP LLC sued American Honda Motor Co., Inc. on February 23 in Federal Court in the Central District of California for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 9,426,452. The patent claims cover electronically controlled spectacles used for viewing 3D images and methods of processing images. VDPP has asserted the ‘452 patent against several car manufacturers, including General Motors, Nissan North America, Toyota Motor North America, Ford Motor Company, Volkswagen Group of North America, and BMW of North America.

On the same day, VDPP also sued large-display manufacturer Optoma Technology Inc. in Federal Court in the Northern District of California for infringement of three other patents in the same family as the ‘452 patent, covering image processing prior to displaying the processed image. The patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 9,699,444; 10,021,380; and 10,951,881. This was the 22nd time VDPP had asserted the ‘444 patent against another party, the 15th time for the ‘380 patent, and the 3rd time for the ‘881 patent.

VDPP also sued Funai Corporation in Federal Court in the Central District of California on February 26 on three patents in the same family as the ‘452 patent. These three patents also cover image processing prior to displaying the processed image. The patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 9,699,444; 9,948,922; and 10,021,380. This is the 23rd time VDPP has asserted the ‘444 patent against another party, the 22nd time for the ‘922 patent, and the 15th time for the ‘380 patent.

Lighting

On February 2, Feit Electric Company, Inc., a California-based company that markets various types of lights, including LED filament light bulbs, sued Ledvance LLC in the Eastern District of Kentucky for infringement of its U.S. Patent No. 8,604,678. The patent describes a problem with wavelength-conversion phosphors used with blue LEDs where the phosphor appears yellow when the LED is off. The solution disclosed in the patent uses a combination of a wavelength-converting phosphor layer in contact with a diffusing layer, which results in the phosphor appearing white when the LED is off.

Shangyou Jiayi Lighting Product Co., a Chinese manufacturer of decorative lighting, sued various partnerships and unincorporated associations in Federal Court in the Northern District of Illinois on February 16 for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 10,082,258. The patent covers a string of LED lights, such as might be used for seasonal decoration, that may be used indoors, outdoors, and even underwater.

Texas-based BX LED Inc. sued Current Lighting Solutions LLC, d/b/a GE Current, in Federal Court in the Western District of Texas on February 19 for infringement of six patents relating to LED lighting, covering technology to improve the uniformity and efficiency of LED lighting, improved thermal management, and high-power AlInGaN LEDs. The patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,869,812; 7,901,109; 7,973,465; 8,143,769; 8,567,988; and 10,966,300.

Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR)

On February 7, Valve Corporation, a video game developer, publisher, and hardware manufacturer, filed petitions for two IPRs on two patents held by Immersion Corp. of Aventura, FL. The patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 8,749,507 and 10,665,067, relate to haptic effects in AR systems. Immersion originally filed suit for patent infringement against Valve in Federal Court in Washington state in May 2023. Valve is now seeking to invalidate the two patents in IPR proceedings at the PTAB.

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed decisions from the PTAB on February 20, finding that two patents owned by D3D Technologies are invalid. Microsoft had previously petitioned for IPRs for U.S. Patent Nos. 8,384,771 and 9,349,183. The patents cover a headset and method of VR viewing three-dimensional views of a patient that is generated by, for example, an MRI or CT scanner. The PTAB issued final written decisions that all claims of the patents were invalid because they were either anticipated or obvious.

A Judge in the Court of Federal Claims granted a motion of Summary Judgment of noninfringement to Microsoft on February 29 in a complex lawsuit involving Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and the U.S. Government. The case, which has been going on for six years, started when SAIC sued the U.S. for entering into contracts with its competitors for weapon systems having AR displays to provide additional data about the battlefield environment. Microsoft, as one of the contractors, intervened in the lawsuit to become a defendant alongside the U.S. Summary judgment motions for noninfringement and invalidity had been filed by several of the defendants. The Judge only granted one such motion: that Microsoft does not infringe SAIC’s U.S. Patent No. 9,229,230.

Displays and signage

On February 8, Bishop Display Tech LLC of Plano, TX, filed patent infringement lawsuits against multiple defendants in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas. In the first two lawsuits, the defendants were various LG entities along with New Optics Ltd. The patents relate to liquid crystal display technology. The patents in the first suit are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,525,798; 6,787,829; 6,801,293; 6,816,208; 6,850,303; and 6,906,769. The patents in the second suit are 6,819,377; 6,822,706; 7,414,682; 7,583,347; 7,995,047; and 8,093,830. On the same day, Bishop Display Tech filed two lawsuits on essentially the same patents against Heesung Electronics Ltd. The patents have been the subject of multiple lawsuits against several different parties.

A Federal Judge in the Western District of Michigan on February 23 ruled on post-trial motions following a judgment that Opti-Luxx, Inc. infringed two patents owned by Smartrend Manufacturing Group (SMG), Inc. The patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 11,348,491 and D932,930, are directed to illuminated signs for vehicles and a design for an LED light panel. In the ruling, the Judge dismissed Opti-Luxx’s motion for judgment as a matter of law (essentially requesting that the judge ignore the jury’s verdict) and SMG’s motions for enhanced damages and attorney fees. However, the Judge did grant SMG’s motion for a permanent injunction against Opti-Luxx.

Sensing

The PTAB issued final written decisions on February 20 in two IPRs concerning two Masimo Corp. patents on physiological monitoring. The IPRs had been filed in 2022 by Apple Inc. as part of the ongoing dispute between Apple and Masimo regarding the inclusion of a pulse oximeter function in the Apple Watch. In the first IPR, the PTAB found that the six claims of U.S. Patent No. 10,687,745 challenged by Apple were invalid in view of the prior art. In the second IPR, in which Apple challenged the remaining 19 claims in the ‘745 patent, the PTAB found that all but two of the 19 claims were invalid.

A Judge in the Northern District of California finally dismissed a lawsuit between Viavi Solutions Inc. and Platinum Optics Technology Inc. Viavi had originally filed suit in August 2021 against Platinum for infringement of four patents which cover near-infrared passband filters, described as being useful for gesture recognition systems. The claimed filters use hydrogenated silicon in the high refractive index layers and the center wavelength changes within a limited range over an angle of incidence between 0° and 30°. Previously, the Judge had ruled in a Summary Judgement late in 2023 that Platinum did not infringe the patents indirectly. Despite Viavi filing an amended complaint in November 2023, the Judge ruled on February 23, dismissing the remaining case. The Judge did, however, grant leave to Viavi to amend its complaint and refile it.

Medical/dental imaging

On February 15, 3Shape A/S, a manufacturer of 3D scanners and software for dentistry, filed petitions for IPRs at the PTAB, seeking to invalidate two patents that relate to methods and systems for using intra-oral imaging to model a patient’s mouth. The patents were previously asserted against 3Shape in its patent infringement litigation with Carestream Dental LLC and Dental Imaging Technologies Corp. The patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 10,076,391 and 11,234,798.

About the Author

Iain McIntyre

Iain A. McIntyre, J.D., Ph.D., is a partner at the Minneapolis law firm Carlson Caspers. He gained his doctorate in laser physics from The University of St. Andrews in Scotland. After working as a professional physicist in lasers and electro-optics for 10 years, he switched careers and has worked in patent law for over 25 years. He is experienced in patent prosecution, litigation, counseling, FTO, and due diligence analyses.

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