Summary Judgment Motion Denied Where Expert's Opinion Established a Triable Issue of Fact on Infringement


Geotag, Inc ("Geotag") filed a patent infringement action against Frontier Communications Corp. ("Frontier"). Frontier filed a motion for summary judgment of non-infringement, arguing that no triable issue of material fact exists as to whether their accused products practice the limitations of U.S. Patent No. 5,930,474 ("the '474 Patent") requiring topical organization of a database and topical searches.

The '474 Patent, titled "Internet Organizer for Accessing Geographically and Topically Diverse Information," was issued on July 27, 1999 and it claims a method, system, and apparatus for searching information both topically and geographically, wherein information relevant to one geographical area is "dynamically replicated" into a database relevant to another geographical area. As explained by the district court, "[t]he accused instrumentalities in this case are web sites or mobile applications involving geographical data. With few exceptions, these fall into four broad categories: (a) online "yellow pages"-type sites that are designed to help consumers locate businesses near a geographical area; (b) store-locator functionalities on the web sites of brick-and-mortar retailers; (c) mobile store locator "apps"; and (d) job locator sites that help potential applicants find nearby employment."

The Independent Claims asserted each required that database entries corresponding to particular geographic areas be organized "into topics" or "into one or more topics" within the database. The district court had previously determined that the term "topic" should be given its plain meaning in the context of the patent.

In its expert report, GeoTag's infringement expert identified database entries such as store addresses, phone numbers, or store hours as "topical" information meeting the limitations requiring topical organization of the accused databases. The district court explained that "h]e argued that accused store locators met "topical search" limitations, either by searching directly on the basis of "topics" such as the availability of certain store features, e.g., a grocery store with pharmacy facilities, or by searching "implicitly," for instance, by automatically returning data as to store hours when a user searches geographically."

In moving for summary judgment, Frontier argued that it did not infringe as a matter of law because no reasonable jury could find that its databases met the topical organization and search requirements of the '474 patents, in spite of Plaintiffs' expert's testimony that those limitations are in fact met.

In response, the district court stated that "[t]hough the mere ipse dixit of an expert witness is not, by itself, sufficient to establish a triable issue of material fact, the Court is reluctant to grant summary judgment over an expert's infringement testimony unless the expert's methodology is clearly flawed, his or her conclusions are legally insufficient to support a verdict, or her conclusions are clearly unreasonable."

The district court then concluded that Frontier had not met its burden. "Here, it is by no means clear that none of the "topics" cited in Plaintiff's expert reports are adequate to sustain a finding that the topical organization limitations are met. Similarly, a reasonable jury could find that "implicit" database searches fulfill the requirements of the '474 patent. The Court is not prepared to find that Plaintiff's infringement theories are so unreasonable that they should not reach a jury."

Accordingly, the district court denied the motion for summary judgment.

Geotag, Inc v. Frontier Communications Corp., Case No. 2:10-cv-00265-JRG (E.D. Tex. Jan. 30, 2014)

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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