Highway Toll Administration LLC (HTA), a provider of electronic toll collection services to the car rental industry, received on Aug. 30, 2010, a favorable Markman ruling in a pending patent lawsuit brought against the company by PlatePass LLC.
"A Markman ruling is a pretrial opinion issued by a U.S. District Court, in this case the Southern District of Texas, in Houston, determining the scope of patent claims," said Scott Bornstein, co-chair of Greenberg Traurig's patent litigation group and, along with Allan Kassenoff, HTA's outside counsel.
"Also known as a 'claim construction' opinion, it is a ruling on the meanings of relevant key words used in claims, when patent infringement is alleged," he continued. "A Markman hearing, at which evidence is heard by a judge, and the judge's subsequent ruling are two of the most critical events in such cases."
Summarizing the history of the case, Bornstein explained that in December 2008 PlatePass sued HTA, claiming infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,127,938, for a toll-tag holder used in rental cars. In May 2009, HTA sought a declaratory judgment of non-infringement and patent invalidity, asserting counterclaims for various state law torts. This was quickly followed, he said, by both parties submitting Markman briefs.
"In its brief," Bornstein said, "PlatePass attempted to broaden the scope of the patent-in-suit by arguing that the claim term 'drawer for slidable engagement' should be construed to include a box that 'open[s] by swinging out on a pivot.'"
In the Markman ruling, the court construed the key terms in HTA's favor, stated Bornstein. "Specifically, the court expressly rejected PlatePass's argument about the scope of the claimed 'drawer,'" he said. "According to the court, 'The ordinary definition of a drawer is a box that slides in and out of a larger box as a frame. It does not pivot...'"
Given the court's decision, said David Centner, president and CEO of HTA, "We expect to file a motion for summary judgment of non-infringement. We also intend to vigorously pursue our counterclaims, on which this court decision has no effect."