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MasterMine Software, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

October 30, 2017

MASTERMINE SOFTWARE, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
MICROSOFT CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota in No. 0:13-cv-00971-PJS-TNL, Judge Patrick J. Schiltz.

          Adam Roger Steinert, Fredrikson & Byron, PA, Minneapolis, MN, argued for plaintiff-appellant. Also represented by Kurt John Niederluecke, Nikola Datzov, Grant David Fairbairn, Lora Mitchell Friedemann.

          Erica D. Wilson, Walters Wilson LLP, Redwood City, CA, argued for defendant-appellee. Also represented by Eric Stephen Walters.

          Before Newman, O'Malley, and Stoll, Circuit Judges.

          STOLL, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         MasterMine Software, Inc. appeals from a stipulated judgment of noninfringement and invalidity following adverse claim construction and indefiniteness rulings from the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. Because the district court's construction is supported by the intrinsic evidence, and the claims do not improperly claim both an apparatus and a method of using the apparatus, we affirm the court's claim construction, reverse the court's indefiniteness determination, and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Background

         MasterMine sued Microsoft Corporation for infringement of its two related patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 7, 945, 850 and 8, 429, 518. MasterMine asserted claims 1, 8, 10, and 12 of the '850 patent and claims 1, 2, and 3 of the '518 patent.

         Both patents disclose methods and systems "that allow[] a user to easily mine and report data maintained by a customer relationship management (CRM) application." '850 patent, Abstract.[1] CRM applications "are used to manage all aspects of customer relations by integrating a company's sales force, processes, sales channels and customers into one environment." Id. at col. 1 ll. 11-14.

         The patents describe a process by which an electronic worksheet is automatically created. Within this electronic worksheet, a multi-dimensional analysis table, known as a pivot table, "allows the user to quickly and easily summarize[] or view large amounts of CRM data." Id. at col. 2 ll. 22-24. "For example, the user can rotate the rows and columns of [a pivot table] to see different summaries of the CRM data, filter the data by displaying different pages, or display the details for [an] area of interest." Id. at col. 2 ll. 24-27. The patents further describe that a user is able to "analyze the captured CRM data and 'mine' the data for important insights" upon generation of the pivot table. Id. at col. 3 ll. 5-6.

         Following briefing and argument, the district court entered a claim construction order, construing, inter alia, the term "pivot table." MasterMine Software, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp., No. 13-CV-0971, 2016 WL 8292205, at *2 (D. Minn. May 6, 2016) ("Claim Construction Order"). The district court construed "pivot table, " the term MasterMine now contests on appeal, to mean "an interactive set of data displayed in rows and columns that can be rotated and filtered to summarize or view the data in different ways." Id.

         Claim 1 of the '850 patent is illustrative and reproduced below in pertinent part:

1. A method comprising:
executing a customer relationship management (CRM) software application on a computer, wherein the CRM software application includes customized settings and local field names, and further wherein the CRM software application includes a CRM database that stores CRM data;
. . . .
invoking a spreadsheet application from the reporting module installed within the CRM software application using an application programming interface (API) of the spreadsheet application to automatically generate an electronic worksheet viewable by the spreadsheet software application, wherein the automatically generating the electronic worksheet comprises directing the spreadsheet application with the reporting module installed within the CRM software application to create a new workbook having the electronic worksheet;
further invoking the spreadsheet application from the reporting module installed within the CRM software application using the API to automatically generate a pivot table within the electronic worksheet according to the database query, wherein the pivot table contains the CRM data from the CRM database, and wherein invoking the spreadsheet application includes communicating report parameters from the reporting module installed within the CRM software application to the spreadsheet software application based on the schema and data structures of the CRM database and the customized settings including the local field names within the CRM software application;
presenting the pivot table to a user with the spreadsheet application in accordance with the report parameters received from the reporting module installed within the CRM software application;
. . . .

Id. at col. 7 l. 65 - col. 8 l. 67 (emphasis added).

         Microsoft additionally sought a declaration that claims 8 and 10 of the '850 patent and claims 1, 2, and 3 of the '518 patent are invalid for indefiniteness, which the district court addressed in its claim construction order. Claim Construction Order, 2016 WL 8292205, at *6-9. The district court agreed with Microsoft, holding the claims indefinite for improperly claiming two different subject-matter classes. Id. at *9. Following the district court's construction of "pivot table, " the parties stipulated to final judgments of noninfringement and invalidity for indefiniteness, with MasterMine reserving the right to appeal the district court's claim construction order. Pursuant to the stipulation, the district court entered final judgment, and MasterMine now appeals. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(1).

         Discussion

         MasterMine challenges both the district court's claim construction and its indefiniteness determination. We address these issues in turn.

         I.

         "The ultimate construction of the claim is a legal question and, therefore, is reviewed de novo." Info-Hold, Inc. v. Applied Media Techs. Corp., 783 F.3d 1262, 1265 (Fed. Cir. 2015). We review a district court's claim construction based solely on intrinsic evidence de novo, while we review subsidiary factual findings regarding extrinsic evidence for clear error. Teva Pharm. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 831, 841 (2015).

         Claim construction seeks to ascribe the "ordinary and customary meaning" to claim terms as a person of ordinary skill in the art would have understood them at the time of invention. Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312-14 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc) (citing Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996)). "[T]he claims themselves provide substantial guidance as to the meaning of particular claim terms." Id. at 1314. In addition, "the person of ordinary skill in the art is deemed to read the claim term not only in the context of the particular claim in which the disputed term appears, but in the context of the entire patent, including the specification." Id. at 1313. But "[w]hile we read claims in view of the specification, of which they are a part, we do not read limitations from the embodiments in the specification into the claims." Hill-Rom Servs., Inc. v. Stryker Corp., 755 F.3d 1367, 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2014).

         MasterMine argues that the district court improperly construed the term "pivot table, " which it proposes should be construed as a "computer software object [or structure] defining an interactive table that can show the same data from a list or a database in more than one arrangement." Appellant Br. 19 (alteration in original) (quoting J.A. 1338). In other words, MasterMine contends that the district court's construction is incorrect because it excludes tables that do not display data. According to MasterMine, its proposed ...


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