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Sound View Innovations, LLC v. Hulu, LLC

Sound View Innovations, LLC owns now-expired U.S. Patent No. 6,708,213, titled “Method for Streaming Multimedia Information over Public Networks.” When Sound View brought the present case against Hulu, LLC, it alleged infringement of six Sound View patents, but only claim 16 of the ’213 patent remains at issue. Sound View alleges that Hulu infringed claim 16 by its use of (third party) edge servers, which sit between a central Hulu content server and the video-playing devices of end-user customers (clients). Most significantly for purposes of the infringement dispute currently before us, Sound View alleges that, under Hulu’s direction, when an edge server receives a client request for a video not already fully in the edge server’s possession, and obtains segments of the video seriatim from the content server (or another edge server), the edge server transmits to the Hulu client a segment it has obtained while concurrently retrieving a remaining segment.

Claim 16 specifies a method, involving a content server and intermediate servers (helper servers), to use when a client requests a streaming multimedia (SM) object. One limitation requires “allocating a buffer” at a helper server “to cache” at least a portion of the SM object. The next limitation (the “downloading/retrieving limitation”) requires sending that portion to a requesting client while concurrently retrieving a remaining portion of the SM object from the content server or another helper server. In the first ruling before us, the district court construed the downloading/retrieving limitation not to cover a process in which the downloading occurs from one buffer in the helper server and the (concurrent) retrieving places what is retrieved in another buffer in that server. Rather, the court construed the limitation to require that the same buffer in the helper server—the one allocated in the preceding step—host both the portion sent to the client and a remaining portion retrieved concurrently from the content server or other helper server. Sound View Innovations, LLC v. Hulu, LLC, No. LA CV17-04146, 2020 WL 10758103, at *5 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 13, 2020) (Claim Construction Opinion).

With that claim construction in hand, Hulu sought summary judgment of non-infringement of claim 16, arguing that it was undisputed that, in the edge servers of its content delivery networks, no single buffer hosts both the video portion downloaded to the client and the retrieved additional portion. Sound View argued, in response, that there remained a factual dispute about whether “caches” in the edge servers met the concurrency limitation as construed. The district court held, however, that a “cache” could not be the “buffer” that its construction of the downloading/retrieving limitation required, and on that basis, it granted summary judgment of non-infringement. Sound View Innovations, LLC v. Hulu, LLC, No. LA CV17-04146, 2020 WL 6821317, at *6 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 20, 2020) (Summary Judgment Opinion). A final judgment followed.

Sound View appeals. It challenges the claim construction and the summary judgment ruling. It also challenges two interlocutory rulings that excluded, under Federal Rule of Evidence 702, portions of Sound View’s expert testimony on reasonable-royalty damages. Sound View Innovations, LLC v. Hulu, LLC, No. LA CV17-04146, 2019 WL 9047211, at *9–11 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 18, 2019) (Damages Opinion I); Order Re Defendant’s Supplemental Motion to Exclude Testimony of Mr. David Yurkerwich, Sound View Innovations, LLC v. Hulu, LLC, No. LA CV17-04146 (C.D. Cal. June 18, 2020), ECF No. 840 (Damages Opinion II).

We affirm the district court’s construction of the downloading/retrieving limitation. But we reject the district court’s determination that “buffer” cannot cover “a cache,” and we therefore vacate the district court’s grant of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings. Because the evidentiary rulings could matter on remand, we address those rulings—which we affirm.

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