Friday, May 16, 2014

Arbitrating control of a robot?

The InTouch v. VGO decision begins

The world has come a long way; this is a patent case
about robots. InTouch Technologies, Inc. d/b/a InTouch
Health (“InTouch”) and VGo Communications, Inc.
(“VGo”) both manufacture remote telepresence robot
systems. In 2012, InTouch filed a First Amended Complaint
in the Central District of California alleging that
VGo’s remote telepresence robot system infringed several
of its patents, including U.S. Patent Nos. 6,346,962 (“the
’962 patent”), 6,925,357 (“the ’357 patent”), and 7,593,030
(“the ’030 patent”) (collectively, “the asserted patents”).
The asserted patents generally relate to remote
telepresence technology regarding camera movement,
arbitrating control of a robot, and a call back mechanism
to notify a previously denied user that the robot is now
available. VGo counterclaimed for declaratory judgment
of non-infringement and invalidity.


InTouch is the owner of the asserted patents. In
2001, InTouch developed a remote telepresence robot
system for the health care industry that allows physicians
and family members to visit a patient through a remote
terminal without travelling to the physical location of the
patient. This system permits a user to operate a robot
from a remote terminal, e.g., computer or tablet. The
InTouch robot contains several features, including a video
display, two-way audio, and a camera. Based on the
user’s instructions, the robot travels throughout a hospital,
and a user appears through live video on the video
display as a remote presence. For example, a doctor can
conduct “in-person” patient consultations from his office
in another location through a computer.

IBM was indirectly involved:

InTouch acquired the ’962 patent in November 2009
from IBM. The ’962 patent is titled “Control of Video
Conferencing System with Pointing Device.” ’962 Patent,
at [54] (filed Feb. 27, 1998). The technology relates to
controlling the movement of a remote video camera in real
time directly responsive to movement of a remote mouse

The dispute

The parties only dispute the construction of three
claim terms. InTouch challenges the district court’s
construction of the ’030 patent claim term “arbitrating to
control” and the ’357 patent claim terms “arbitrator” and
“call back mechanism.”3 We address the terms “arbitrating
to control” and the “arbitrator” together.

As to obviousness:

A party seeking to invalidate a patent on obviousness
grounds must “demonstrate ‘by clear and convincing
evidence that a skilled artisan would have been motivated
to combine the teachings of the prior art references to
achieve the claimed invention, and that the skilled artisan
would have had a reasonable expectation of success in
doing so.’” Procter & Gamble Co. v. Teva Pharm. USA,
Inc., 566 F.3d 989, 994 (Fed. Cir. 2009) (quoting Pfizer,
Inc. v. Apotex, Inc., 480 F.3d 1348, 1361 (Fed. Cir. 2007)).
While an analysis of any teaching, suggestion, or motivation
to combine elements from different prior art references
is useful in an obviousness analysis, the overall
inquiry must be expansive and flexible. KSR Int’l Co. v.
Teleflex, Inc., 550 U.S. 398, 415, 419 (2007). “Often, it will
be necessary for a court to look to interrelated teachings
of multiple patents; the effects of demands known to the
design community or present in the marketplace; and the
background knowledge possessed by a person having
ordinary skill in the art, all in order to determine whether
there was an apparent reason to combine the known
elements in the fashion claimed by the patent at issue. To
facilitate review, this analysis should be made explicit.”
Id. at 418 (citing In re Kahn, 441 F.3d 977, 988


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