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Egenera, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 5, 2018

EGENERA, INC.
v.
CISCO SYSTEMS, INC. Source Abstract Definition Circuitry Definition Claim Term Function Structure

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON CLAIM CONSTRUCTION

          RICHARD G. STEARNS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Egenera, Inc., accuses defendant Cisco Systems, Inc., of infringing United States Patent No. 7, 231, 430 (the '430 patent).[1] Before the court are the parties' briefs on claim construction. The court received technical tutorials and heard argument, pursuant to Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370 (1996), on January 30, 2018.

         THE '430 PATENT

         The '430 patent is entitled “Reconfigurable, Virtual Processing System, Cluster, Network, and Method, ” and was issued on June 12, 2007, from an application filed on January 4, 2002. It lists as the inventors Vern Brownell, Pete Manca, Ben Sprachman, Paul Curtis, Ewan Milne, Max Smith, Alan Greenspan, Scott Geng, Dan Busby, Edward Duffy, and Peter Schulter. The '430 patent sets out 8 claims, including 4 system claims and 4 method claims.

         The '430 patent, directed to solving problems in manually configuring, deploying, and maintaining enterprise and application servers, see id., col. 1, ll. 21-58, discloses “a processing platform from which virtual systems may be deployed through configuration commands, ” id. col. 2, ll. 45-47.

The platform provides a large pool of processors from which a subset may be selected and configured through software commands to form a virtualized network of computers (“processing area network” or “processor clusters”) that may be deployed to serve a given set of applications or customer. The virtualized processing area network (PAN) may then be used to execute customer specific applications, such as web-based server applications. The virtualization may include virtualization of local area networks (LANs) or the virtualization of I/O storage. By providing such a platform, processing resources may be deployed rapidly and easily through software via configuration commands, e.g., from an administrator, rather than through physically providing servers, cabling network and storage connections, providing power to each server and so forth.

Id. col. 2, ll. 47-62.[2]

         Claim 1 of the '430 patent is representative.

         1. A platform for automatically deploying at least one virtual processing area network, in response to software commands, said platform comprising:

a plurality of computer processors connected to an internal communication network; at least one control node in communication with an external communication network and in communication with an external storage network having an external storage address space, wherein the
at least one control node is connected to the internal communication network and thereby in communication with the plurality of computer processors, said at least one control node including logic to receive messages from the plurality of computer processors, wherein said received messages are addressed to the external communication network and to the external storage network and said at least one control node including logic to modify said received messages to transmit said modified messages to the external communication network and to the external storage network;
configuration logic for receiving and responding to said software commands, said software commands specifying (i) a number of processors for a virtual processing area network (ii) a virtual local area network topology defining interconnectivity and switching functionality among the specified processors of the virtual processing area network, and (iii) a virtual storage space for the virtual processing area network, said configuration logic including logic to select, under programmatic control, a corresponding set of computer processors from the plurality of computer processors, to program said corresponding set of computer processors and the internal communication network to establish the specified virtual local area network topology, and to program the at least one control node to define a virtual storage space for the virtual processing area network, said virtual storage space having a defined correspondence to a subset of the external storage address space of the external storage network; and
wherein the plurality of computer processors and the at least one control node include network emulation logic to emulate Ethernet functionality over the internal communication network.

         The parties agree that the preambles of the claims are limiting, and that that a “virtual processing area network” is “a software simulated network of computer processors.” See Cisco Br., Dkt # 65 at 3. The construction of the following claim terms are disputed:

• “computer processor”/“processor”
• “logic to modify said received messages to transmit said modified messages to the external communication network and to the external storage network”
• “logic to select, under programmatic control, a corresponding set of computer processors from the plurality of computer processors”
• “logic to . . . program said corresponding set of computer processors and the internal communication network to establish the specified virtual local area network topology”
• “logic to . . . program the at least one control node to define a virtual storage space for the virtual processing area network”
• “emulate Ethernet functionality over the internal communication network”

         DISCUSSION

         Claim construction is a matter of law. See Markman, 517 U.S. at 388-389. Claim terms are generally given the ordinary and customary meaning that would be ascribed by a person of ordinary skill in the art in question at the time of the invention.[3] Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312-1313 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc) (citations omitted). In determining how a person of ordinary skill in the art would have understood the claim terms, the court looks to the specification of the patent, its prosecution history, and in limited instances where appropriate, extrinsic evidence such as dictionaries, treatises, or expert testimony. Id. at 1315-1317. Ultimately, “[t]he construction that stays true to the claim language and most naturally aligns with the patent's description of the invention will be, in the end, the correct construction.” Id. at 1316 (citation omitted).

         “computer processor”/“processor”

         The parties agree that when the word “processor” appears alone in the claims, it is a shorthand reference to “computer processor.” See Egenera Br. at 8; Cisco Br. at 6. The two terms will therefore be construed identically.

         Cisco argues that a “computer processor” is commonly understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art to refer to a CPU (Central Processing Unit - the circuitry within a computer that receives input, executes software instructions, and produces output).[4] See Katz Decl. ¶¶ 22, 26. Egenera does not dispute this ordinary meaning, see Jones Decl., Dkt # 68 ¶¶ 23-26, Jones Suppl. Decl., Dkt # 72 ¶ 6, but contends that in the context of the '430 patent, “computer processor” refers to the “processing node” described in the specification.

         In support of its position, Egenera notes that in the claims, “computer processors” are identified as the members of the PAN that perform certain actions. Claim 1, for example, states that “a plurality of computer processors [are] connected to an internal communication network, ” and that “at least one control node is connected to the internal communications network and thereby in communication with the plurality of computer processors . . . [and] receive[s] messages from the plurality of computer processors.” According to Egenera, a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand that a CPU is not independently capable of connecting to a network, nor can it communicate with a control node or send messages. See Jones Decl. ¶ 26. Instead, the networking and messaging functions performed by the claimed “computer processors” are attributed in the specification to “processing nodes.” “Under certain embodiments, about 24 processing nodes 105a-n, two control nodes 120, and two switch fabrics 115a, ...


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