In 2014, ACQIS accused EMC of infringing eleven patents relating to consoles containing computer peripherals, such as a keyboard, mouse, display and disk drive, into which a core computer module having the CPU, memory, I/O and hard drive) can be inserted to form a complete PC. After the claims survived an IPR challenge, Judge Burroughs granted summary judgment of noninfringement in February 2021. The claim term “PCI bus transaction” had been construed to include “all information required by the PCI standard,” noting that while the claims did not require an actual PCI bus, ACQIS never argued that the claim should be construed to require only limited portions of the standard. As the parties agreed that EMC’s system did not include the entire PCI standard, the system did not infringe. This decision, and the underlying claim construction, were upheld on appeal.
EMC then moved for a determination that the case was exceptional and for an award of attorney’s fees, which Judge Burroughs granted in part. EMC had requested ACQIS to concede non-infringement after the claims were construed, which ACQIS refused to do, necessitating summary judgment briefing and considerable related motion practice. EMC further alleged that the case was unreasonable from the outset, and that ACQIS unreasonably shifted its position on the meaning of several key claim terms throughout the litigation. ACQIS contended that, while it knew that the EMC system used a newer standard, the PCI Express (or “PCIe”), it had previously won an infringement verdict against that new standard, had licensed other entities who used PCIe, and had obtained an expert opinion that EMC’s technology infringed the patents. Judge Burroughs agreed, finding that the case was not objectively baseless when it was filed.
Judge Burroughs also found that maintaining the suit following the initial claim construction from the Texas court (where the case was originally filed) was not unreasonable, as that construction would not be binding upon the Massachusetts court and that EMC’s motion to stay the case pending IPR emphasized that the IPR’s would likely impact the issue of infringement. She did find, however, that once she had issued her claim construction order, the continued maintenance of infringement claims became unreasonable. She further found that ACQIS had argued inconsistently with respect to the construction of the claims, asserting different contructions at IPR, before the Texas Court, and before the Massachusetts Court. She accordingly granted reasonable attorneys’ fees following her claim construction order, and instructed EMC to submit the proposed fees for further consideration.
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