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Sophos Inc. v. Rpost Holdings, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 8, 2017

SOPHOS INC., Plaintiff,
v.
RPOST HOLDINGS, INC. and RPOST COMMUNICATIONS LIMITED, Defendants. RPOST HOLDINGS, INC. and RPOST COMMUNICATIONS LIMITED, Plaintiffs,
v.
SOPHOS INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Denise J. Casper United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Sophos, Inc. (“Sophos”) seeks summary judgment on two separate grounds of the ongoing dispute between Sophos and RPost Holdings, Inc. (“RPost”) and RPost Communications Limited (“RComm”) (collectively, “the Defendants”). Specifically, Sophos seeks summary judgment on the issues of the validity of the patent, D. 201, RPost's standing to sue and the ability of RComm to recover damages, D. 207, and infringement, D. 251. The Defendants seek summary judgment on the issue of infringement. D. 221. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Sophos' motion for summary judgment with respect to standing, D. 207, ALLOWS Sophos' motion for summary judgment on patent validity, D. 201, finding the ‘628 patent invalid, and DENIES as moot the remaining motions, D. 207 (as to lost profits), D. 221, D. 251.

         II. Procedural History

         The procedural history of this case is accounted in more detail in this Court's prior order, D. 128 at 3. On November 12, 2013, Sophos sued the Defendants seeking a declaratory judgment that Sophos does not infringe certain patents owned by the Defendants and that those patents were invalid. D. 1. The Defendants then sued Sophos bringing a claim of infringement in a separate suit. No. 14-cv-13628-DJC, D. 1. Both cases are before the Court as related cases. On June 3, 2016, this Court issued a decision regarding the construction of certain claims in the patents at issue. D. 128. On January 11, 2017, the parties jointly stipulated to the dismissal of claims related to three of the four patents initially involved in the dispute, leaving only the claims related to U.S. Patent No. 8, 504, 628 (“the ‘628 patent”). D. 138. The Defendants contend that Sophos infringes claims 14, 19, 24, 26, 27 and 30 of the '628 patent. D. 221 at 4. On December 6, 2017, the Court heard argument and took the matter under advisement. D. 280.

         III. Standard of Review

         “A motion for summary judgment is properly granted if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” IMS Tech., Inc. v. Haas Automation, Inc., 206 F.3d 1422, 1429 (Fed. Cir. 2000). The Court views “the evidence in a light most favorable to the non-movant, and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in its favor.” Id. “Essentially, Rule 56[ ] mandates the entry of summary judgment ‘against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'” Coll v. PB Diagnostic Sys., 50 F.3d 1115, 1121 (1st Cir. 1995) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). This standard is not altered when there are cross-motions for summary judgment. Wightman v. Springfield Terminal Ry. Co., 100 F.3d 228, 230 (1st Cir. 1996).

         IV. Factual Background

         A. The ‘628 Patent

         The patent is entitled “System and Method for Verifying Delivery and Integrity of Electronic Messages.” D. 1-2 at 2. The abstract describes the ‘628 patent as “[t]hird party verification of the content and delivery of an electronic message such as an email, ” which provides for using a server that receives an email sent to an addressee and “tags” the email to indicate that it is “registered” with the service provider. D. 1-2 at 2. The server establishes a direct connection with the addressee's Mail User Agent (“MUA”), transmits the tagged email, receives a response from the MUA that the message was received, and creates and forwards a receipt to the message originator. D. 1-2 at 2.

         Claim 14 is described in the ‘628 patent as:

[a] method of transmitting a message from a sender to a recipient, comprising: transmitting the message to a server remote from the recipient; determining by the server if there is a particular indication present in the message that identifies the message as requiring special processing before the message is transmitted to the recipient; transmitting the message from the server to the recipient through a first route if the message lacks the particular indication; and processing the message by the server in accordance with the particular indication.

         D. 1-2 at 34. Claim 19 claims “[t]he method of claim 14, wherein processing the message in a special manner includes encrypting the message to transmit the message in a more private manner.” D. 1-2 at 34. Claim 24 claims “[t]he method of claim 14, wherein determining if the particular indication is present in the message includes filtering the content of the message to determine whether a selected term is present in the message.” Id. Claim 26 claims “[t]he method of claim 24, wherein the selected term is a flag.” Id. Claim 27 claims “[t]he method of claim 26, wherein the flag is use selectable.” Id. Finally, Claim 30 claims:

[a] system for transmitting a message from a sender to a recipient, comprising: a server configured to receive a message from a sender, the server being remote from a recipient of the message, the server also being programmable using software commands to determine if there is a particular indication present in the message that identifies the message as requiring special processing before the message is transmitted to the recipient, to transmit the message from the server to the recipient through a first route if the message lacks the particular indication, and to process the message in accordance with the particular indication if the particular indication is present.

Id. The '628 patent was filed on June 4, 2010 and issued on August 6, 2013. D. 1-2 at 2. The '628 patent is a continuation of U.S. Patent No. 7, 966, 372 (“the '372 patent”). D. 1-2 at 2.[1]The ‘628 patent also relates to two other provisional patents, Provisional Application Number 60/172, 479, filed on December 17, 1999, and Provisional Application Number 60/146, 074, filed on July 28, 1998. D. 1-2 at 2. A personal of ordinary skill in the art regarding this patent, at the relevant time, would be a person with at least an undergraduate degree in computer science or electrical engineer, or the equivalent, and had at least one or two years of work experience implementing or maintaining email programs or computer networks. D. 203 ¶ 3.

         B. Other ...


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