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Suffolk Technologies LLC v. AOL Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

May 27, 2014

SUFFOLK TECHNOLOGIES, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
AOL INC., Defendant, AND GOOGLE INC., Defendant-Appellee

Page 1359

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in No. 12-CV-0625, Judge T. S. Ellis, III.

JOEL L. THOLLANDER, McKool Smith, P.C., of Austin, Texas, argued for plaintiff-appellant. With him on the brief were DOUGLAS A. CAWLEY and DANIEL L. GEYSER, of Dallas, Texas; and RODERICK G. DORMAN, of Los Angeles, California.

STEVEN A. HIRSCH, Keker & Van Nest LLP, of San Francisco, California, argued for defendant-appellee. With him on the brief were ROBERT A. VAN NEST, CHRISTA M. ANDERSON, and MATTHIAS A. KAMBER.

Before RADER, Chief Judge, PROST and CHEN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1360

Prost, Circuit Judge.

Suffolk Technologies, LLC (" Suffolk" ) appeals from the summary judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia holding certain claims of Suffolk's U.S. Patent No. 6,081,835 (" '835 patent" ) invalid. Specifically, the district court held that claims 1, 7, and 9 were anticipated by a Usenet newsgroup post. Suffolk then stipulated that, in light of the district court's prior art, claim construction, and expert testimony rulings, claim 6 was also anticipated. Upon entry of final judgment, Suffolk appealed.

We conclude that the district court correctly construed the claims and properly granted summary judgment of invalidity. Accordingly, we affirm.

Background

Suffolk owns the '835 patent, which is directed to methods and systems for controlling a server that supplies files to computers rendering web pages. '835 patent col. 2 l. 58-col. 4 l. 10. The patent discloses using the address of the referring web page to determine whether to serve a file, and if so, which file. Id. The claims at issue are independent claim 1 and dependent claims 6, 7, and 9. Those claims read as follows:

1. A method of operating a file server, said method comprising the steps of:
receiving a request for a file; SUFFOLK TECHNOLOGIES, LLC v. AOL INC. 3 determining if the request includes a received
identification signal identifying an originating file from which said request originated;
comparing any said received identification signal with the one or more predetermined identification signals; and
deciding which file, if any, is to be supplied in dependence upon said determining and comparing steps, and if in the deciding step it is decided that a file is to be supplied, supplying said file.

Id. col. 7 ll. 30-42 (emphases added).

6. A method as in claim 1 wherein said deciding step further comprises generating said supplied file.
7. A method as in claim 1 wherein said request conforms to a hypertext transfer protocol.

Id. col. 8 ll. 1-4 (emphasis added).

9. A method as in claim 1 in which said file server is connected to the internet

Page 1361

and wherein said request is received via the internet.

Id. col. 8 ll. 8-10.

In June 2012, Suffolk sued Google Inc. (" Google" ) for infringing the '835 patent.[1] Google responded by arguing, among other things, that the asserted claims were anticipated by a newsgroup post. Specifically, on June 29, 1995--nine months before the priority date claimed for the '835 patent--Marshall C. Yount posted to the comp.infosystems.www.authoring.cgi newsgroup a message entitled " How to tell which page called the script?" He wrote:

I am a newbie at this CGI [common gateway interface] stuff, so this question might seem ridiculous (I did look in the FAQ and on some web pag-pages). I have this script that will be called from one of 18 pages. Depending on which page it was called from, the output will be different. Is there any environment variable that will tell me this, or do I have to externally pass information to the script.

J.A. 4805.

A college student named Shishir Gundavaram replied with the following post (the " Post" ):

Look at the CGI environment variable HTTP_REFERER. In Perl, you can do something like this:
#!/usr/local/bin/perl
$referer = $ENV{'HTTP_REFERER'}; print " Content-type: text/plain", " \n\n" ; ...

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