Vederi owns several patents which cover certain methods for enabling users to navigate a geographic area visually from a device, including a personal computer. Vederi asserted that Google's Street View service, which allows users to explore geographic location by viewing street-level imagery, infringed its patents. Both parties cross moved for summary judgment on the issue of infringement.
In its summary judgment motion, Google asserted that Street View did not infringe any of Vederi's patents because each of Vederi's patents contains the limitation "depicting views of objects in the geographic area, the view being substantially elevations," which relate to the retrieved images presented to the user. During the Markman hearing, the court construed whether this term applied to curved or spherical views (Vederi's position) or just vertical or flat views (Google's position). The court adopted Google's position "because Vederi's method of taking, processing and displaying images creates only vertical flat views, not spherical ones."
In reaching this construction, the court rejected Vederi's arguments regarding its provisional patent application. "In construing the limitation to cover only flat views, the court rejected Vederi's argument regarding its provisional patent application. Vederi's application disclosed that if a sufficient number of cameras were used, a 360-degree panorama could be created, allowing the user to control the direction of the view. Hr'g Tr. 112:3-7; Bostwick Decl. Ex. I, at 249. According to Vederi, this covered curved views. Hr'g Tr. 112:8-18. In reality, Vederi's provisional application referred to panning 360 degrees along a horizontal plane, not within a sphere. Id. at 115:19-23. The resulting panorama would be as if a camera took pictures as it spun around on a Lazy Susan. It would not be possible, as it is with Street View, to pan up and see the top of a tall building or down and see the pavement."
Further, as a result of "[t]he court's construction of the "substantially elevations" limitation means that if Street View presents only curved/spherical images, it doesn't infringe Vederi's patents because all of Vederi's patents contain the 'substantially elevations' limitation."
The court then noted that "Vederi has fought well and hard to make a genuine issue of the views that Street View captures, processes and displays. But the court is persuaded that Street View presents only curved/spherical views, not vertical flat ones: Street View 'allows a user to look around inside a spherical virtual environment, providing the effect of actually being at the location where the images used to create the spherical image were captured.'"
The court then rejected that Google had admitted its views were flat. "The court also rejects Vederi's assertion that Google admits its views are flat. Vederi argues that because Google says that Street View displays "rectilinear" images, it necessarily depicts vertical flat views. Mem. in Supp. of Vederi's Mot. for Summ. J. 12 n.14. Vederi points to Dictionary.com's definition of rectilinear: "formed by straight lines" or 'characterized by straight lines.' Rectilinear, Dictionary.com, dictionary.reference.com/browse/rectilinear (last visited Sept. 11, 2012); see Parcher Decl. Ex. 14, at 32. But "rectilinear" can also mean 'bounded by straight lines,' Webster's New International Dictionary 2082 (2d ed. 1939), and this is precisely how Google used it. Google cuts the spherical panorama into rectilinear tiles so the images can fit on the user's screen; the views within the tiles remain curved. See Grindon Reply Decl. ¶¶ 10-12; Google's Mem. in Opp'n to Vederi's Mot. for Summ. J. 13."
The court then rejected Vederi's argument that vertical flat depiction means substantially horizontal views. "Finally, the court rejects Vederi's argument that 'vertical flat . . . depictions' means "substantially horizontal views." Mem. in Supp. of Vederi's Mot. for Summ. J. 10; Vederi's Statement of Uncontroverted Facts 24. When you initially access a location in Street View, you see a substantially horizontal view, as though you were standing with your feet on the ground, looking straight ahead. See Martin Decl. in Supp. of Google's Mem. in Opp'n ¶¶ 3-4. Vederi argues that at least this view is vertical flat. Mem. in Supp. of Vederi's Mot. for Summ. J. 14. When you look out to sea, the surface appears to be flat, but we all know it actually curves away from you. It's somewhat the same in Street View. While some views may appear to be flat to the naked eye, they are actually curved, because of the method by which Google takes, processes and displays the images. See Martin Decl. in Supp. of Google's Mot. for Summ. J. ¶¶ 22, 28. Because Street View displays only curved views, it doesn't contain the "substantially elevations" limitation, and so doesn't literally infringe Vederi's patents."
Finally, the court rejected Vederi's doctrine of equivalents argument. "Neither does Street View infringe under the doctrine of equivalents. '[I]f a court determines that a finding of infringement under the doctrine of equivalents would entirely vitiate a particular claimed element, then the court should rule that there is no infringement under the doctrine of equivalents.' Lockheed Martin Corp. v. Space Sys./Loral, Inc., 324 F.3d 1308, 1321 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks and alteration omitted). Were the court to hold Street View's curved/spherical images are a substantial equivalent to vertical flat ones, it would eliminate the 'vertical flat (as opposed to curved or spherical)' portion of the 'substantially elevations' construction, leaving only 'depictions of front or side views.' Since that would vitiate the claim construction, the court cannot find infringement under the doctrine of equivalents."
Accordingly, the court granted Google's motion for summary judgment of non-infringement.
The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent trial lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.