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Sprint Spectrum L.P. v. Gen. Access Sols., Ltd.

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

May 13, 2020, Decided

2019-1855

Opinion

Stoll, Circuit Judge.

Sprint Spectrum L.P. appeals the final written decision of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board declining to hold certain claims of U.S. Patent No. 7,230,931 unpatentable on anticipation and obviousness grounds. Sprint specifically challenges the Board's construction of a claim term that appears in most of the challenged claims. Sprint also challenges the Board's determinations relating to the scope of Sprint's reply and the scope and content of the asserted prior art. Because we agree that the Board erred in construing the claim term at issue, we vacate the Board's decision as to the applicable claims and remand for consideration of certain grounds under the proper claim construction. We affirm the Board's decision in all other [*2]  respects.

Background

The '931 patent is directed to a wireless data communication system that selectively and dynamically directs bandwidth to specific subscribers within a service area. The disclosed system applies a known technique called time division duplexing (TDD), which uses a single frequency for bidirectional communication by designating separate and distinct periods of time for the transmittal and receipt of data. TDD systems may employ "frames" to structure the transmittal of downlink data and receipt of uplink data over a short period of time (e.g., 2 milliseconds).

The improvement disclosed in the '931 patent relates to these TDD frames. Specifically, the '931 patent discloses sending a broadcast signal to all subscribers within a service area at the start of each frame, followed by a series of directed signals or "beams" sent to and received from selected subscribers over the remainder of each frame. The broadcast signal at the start of each frame includes instructions that assign the forthcoming beams to the selected subscribers. Through this approach, the downlink and uplink bandwidth of each frame can be dynamically allocated to various subscribers in a nonuniform fashion, thereby improving performance [*3]  as compared to other ways of allocating bandwidth, such as "equal duration round robin polling" or "dynamic weighted polling . . . based on the throughput per cell." '931 patent col. 28 ll. 44-50.

Claims 2, 11, and 20 and the claims that depend from them are at issue on appeal. Claim 2, which depends from claim 1, is illustrative:

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2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 15367 *; 2020 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 10528

SPRINT SPECTRUM L.P., Appellant v. GENERAL ACCESS SOLUTIONS, LTD., Appellee

Notice: THIS DECISION WAS ISSUED AS UNPUBLISHED OR NONPRECEDENTIAL AND MAY NOT BE CITED AS PRECEDENT. PLEASE REFER TO FEDERAL RULES OF APPELLATE PROCEDURE RULE 32.1 GOVERNING THE CITATION TO UNPUBLISHED OPINIONS.

Prior History:  [*1] Appeal from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patent Trial and Appeal Board in No. IPR2017-01889.

Disposition: AFFIRMED-IN-PART, VACATED-IN-PART, AND REMANDED.

CORE TERMS

scanning beam, frame, beam, embodiment, signals, wireless, detect, specification, broadest, downlink, recited, reasonable interpretation, usable, reply, combine, map, prior art, unpatentability, substantial evidence, subscribers, challenges, comprising, broadcast, discloses, transmits, spatial, correction, modulation, invention, plurality

Business & Corporate Compliance, US Patent & Trademark Office Proceedings, Patent Law, US Patent & Trademark Office Proceedings, Patent Law, Jurisdiction & Review, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Substantial Evidence, Infringement Actions, Claim Interpretation, Claims, Claim Language, Dependent Claims, Claim Interpretation, Scope of Claim, Nonobviousness, Elements & Tests, Elements & Tests, Prior Art