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Safegate Airport Systems, Inc. v. Rlg Docking Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

July 11, 2014

Safegate Airport Systems, Inc., a Minnesota corporation; and Safegate International AB, a corporation of Sweden, Plaintiffs/Counterdefendants,
v.
RLG Docking Systems, Inc., an Arizona corporation; and Robert L. Gaugenmaier, individually, Defendants/Counterclaimants.

ORDER

G. MURRAY SNOW, District Judge.

Pending before this Court are the briefs addressing claim construction. (Docs. 70-73.) The Court held a Markman Hearing on April 25, 2014, at which the parties presented additional arguments. The parties then submitted proposed orders. (Docs. 76-78.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court makes the following construction and interpretation of the meaning of the disputed claims.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Safegate Airport Systems, Inc., and Safegate International AB (collectively "Safegate") have patents covering both a device and a method used to assist pilots in precisely parking aircraft at a terminal. Those patents are: U.S. Patent 6, 023, 665 (665) (Doc. 21, Ex. A) and U.S. Patent 6, 324, 489 (489) (Doc. 21, Ex. B). Safegate's complaint alleges that Defendant RLG Docking Systems ("RLG") is infringing on Claim 14 of the 665 patent and Claims 1 and 11 from the 489 patent.

The 665 and 489 patents cover a system that assists pilots in safely docking aircraft at a gate. That system provides guidance to the pilot by using a Laser Range Finder ("LRF") to identify and monitor the position of an approaching aircraft. The system identifies the model of aircraft by matching certain aircraft features, such as the shape or location of the nose, tail, wing, or engine, to a database of aircraft profile information. It then calculates and identifies the proper track and stopping point and guides the pilot through safely docking the aircraft. The primary difference between the 665 and the 489 patents is that the later issued patent, 489, uses a second feature match to further identify an incoming aircraft and resolve any ambiguity about the exact type and dimensions of the approaching aircraft. The 489 patent also includes claims covering a method of docking an aircraft as just described, as opposed to an apparatus claim.

The parties are disputing the meaning of multiple terms contained in three independent claims. The full text of Claim 14 of the 665 patent, with disputed phrases underlined, is as follows:

14. A system for tracking an incoming object comprising:
means for generating light pulses;
means for projecting said pulses outwardly onto an incoming object and for reflecting said light pulses off said object;
means for collecting the light pulses reflected off of said object;
means for detecting the position relative to an imaginary axial line projecting from a predetermined point and for detecting the distance between said object and said predetermined point whereby tracking of the location of said object is enabled; wherein
a comparison table is generated reflecting information about the laser scan and is compared with a profile table indicating the shape of known objects;
a distance distribution table is generated recording the distribution of distances from the nose of the object to the measuring device for each reflected pulse; and.
an average distance to a desired stopping position is calculated.

The parties agree on the interpretation of the phrases "means for generating light pulses" and "means for collecting the light pulses reflected off of said object." Both phrases are means-plus-function claim limitations and the structure that performs the recited function is an LRF. (Doc. 67 at 3.)

The full text of Claim 1 from the 489 patent, with disputed phrases underlined, is as follows:

1. A system for determining whether a detected object is a known object, the known object having a known profile and also having a known feature at a known location, the system comprising:
projecting means for projecting light pulses onto the detected object;
collecting means for collecting light pulses reflected off the detected object and for detecting a shape of the detected object in accordance with the light pulses;
comparing means for comparing the detected shape with a profile corresponding to the known shape and for determining whether the detected shape corresponds to the known shape; and
identifying means for identifying whether the detected object is the known object by determining whether the detected object has the known feature at the known location.

The parties agree on the interpretation of the phrase "collecting means for collecting light pulses reflected off the detected object and for detecting a shape of the detected object in accordance with the light pulses." It is means-plus-function claim limitations and the structure that performs the recited function is an LRF. (Doc. 67 at 3.)

The full text of the Claim 11 from the 489 patent, with disputed phrases underlined, is as follows:

11. A method for determining whether a detected object is a known object, the known object having a known profile and also having a known feature at a known location, the method comprising:
(a) projecting light pulses onto the detected object;
(b) collecting light pulses reflected off the detected object and for detecting a shape of the detected object in accordance with the light pulses;
(c) comparing the detected shape with a profile corresponding to the known shape and for determining whether the detected shape ...

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