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Okor v. Atari Games Corp. et al

76 Fed. Appx. 327 (Fed. Cir. 2003).


I. Statement of Facts

This case is one in a series of attempts by Joseph Kwame Okor to enforce two patents against Sony and other companies. The patents at issue, U.S. Patent Nos. 4,126,851 (“851 Patent”) and 4,127,849 (“849 Patent”) both name Okor as the sole inventor. The ‘851 Patent’ involves a programmable television game system and the ‘849 Patent’ involves a system for converting coded data into display data.

II. Procedural History

In 2002, Okor filed three separate lawsuits:
1. Alleging infringement of the ‘851 Patent’ by a number of arcade-game manufacturers (Civil Action No. 00-11503)
2. Alleging infringement of the ‘849 Patent’ by the same manufacturers (Civil Action No. 00-11504), and
3. Alleging infringement of the ‘851 Patent’ by Sega, Nintendo, Sony, and nine companies who were connected to Sega’s and/or Nintendo’s products (Civil Action No. 01-10610)

The district court granted summary judgment of noninfringment of both the ‘851’ and ‘849 patents’ to the arcade-game manufacturers, and dismissed the claims against Sega, Nintendo, Sony, and the other nine defendants on the grounds of: 1. Claim Preclusion and 2. Issue Preclusion.

Okor appealed the decision of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

III. Argument

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Court analyzed the case using the district court’s case numbers:

A. Civil Action No. 00-11503

Against the arcade-game manufacturers, Okor asserted only claim 1 of the ‘851 Patent’, which states:

“A system for generating and controlling symbol-producing signals for display on the screen of a television receiver, comprising: (e) changeable memory means providing program instruction” 851 Patent, col. 8, II. 15-49.

The Federal Court held that the accused products did not included a “changeable memory means” required by limitation (e). The court found that all arcade-game manufacturers used fixed, “read-only” memory boards that could be changed by “taking the devices apart.” The court concluded that “no reasonable juror could find the fixed memory boards in defendants’ arcade-game machines to be equivalent to the “changeable memory means” in limitation (e).

B. Civil Action No. 00-11504

Okor asserted only claim 1 of the ‘849 Patent’ against the arcade-game manufacturers which reads:

“A system for converting coded data signals for presentation as display symbols on a display devise comprising:... (g) said dot generator including x and y comparators and x and y stacks operatively connected to one another and to said display computer, said x and y comparators receiving, respectively, x and y counts corresponding to the x and y addresses of said symbols.” ‘849 Patent’, col. 14, II. 58-68, col. 15, 11. 1-19.

The district court granted summary judgment of noninfringment because defendants’ machines failed to read on limitation (g). The court found that limitation (g) described a “stack” memory system which differed from other memory systems, including “frame-buffer, bit-map” systems. The court also held that all arcade games operate by means of frame buffers and that none of the accused devises literally read on limitation (g). Because Okor had added limitation (g) through amendment, the district court held Okor was estopped from asserting infringement by equivalents.

C. Civil Action No. 01-10610

Okor alleged that Sega’s and Nintendo’s home video-game systems infringed the ‘851 Patent’, and also alleged that Sony and nine other defendants were liable for being connected to Sega’s and/or Nintendo’s systems. The district court granted a motion to dismiss on two grounds:

1. Claim Preclusion

The First Circuit has established three required elements for claim preclusion:
“(1) a final judgment on the merits in an earlier suit, (2) sufficient identicality between the causes of action asserted in the earlier and later suits, and (3) sufficient identicality between the parties in the two suits.” Mass. Sch. of Law at Andover, Inc. v. American Bar Ass’n, 142 F.3d 26, 37 (1st Cir. 1998) (quoting Gonzalez v. Banco Cent. Corp., 27 F.3d 751, 755 (1st Cir. 1994).

Here, the district court found that all three of the factors for claim preclusion were met. Therefore, Okor’s new claims against Sega and Nintendo suing on the basis of the very same home video game consoles found not to infringe patent 851 in previous decision, are precluded.

2. Issue Preclusion

The First Circuit applies issue preclusion where “(1) an earlier decision involved ‘the same issue of law or fact’ as a later case, (2) ‘the parties actually litigated the issue’ in the earlier case, (3) the earlier court ‘actually resolved the issue in a final and binding judgment,’ and (4) the earlier court’s ‘resolution of that issue was essential to its judgment (i.e., necessary to its holding.)” Monarch Life Ins. Co. v. Ropes & Gray, 65 F.3d 973, 978 (1st Cir. 1995).

The district court determined that Okor’s claims against Sony and the other nine defendants failed because Okor was precluded from arguing that Sega’s and Nintendo’s products infringed the ‘851 Patent’, because Okor had failed to provide evidence that any of Sega’s and Nintendo’s video game consoles had been configured in a potentially infringing manner.

IV. Conclusion

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgments in all three cases.

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