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Leapfrog filed suit in October 2003, alleging that Fisher-Price’s PowerTouch product infringed claim 25 of the ’861 patent. Leapfrog amended the complaint to add
Mattel, Inc. as a codefendant in September 2004. The ’861 patent relates to a learning device to help young children read phonetically. Claim 25 reads as follows:

An interactive learning device, comprising:

a housing including a plurality of switches;
a sound production device in communication with the switches and including a processor and a memory;
at least one depiction of a sequence of letters, each letter being associable with a switch; and
a reader configured to communicate the identity of the depiction to the processor,

wherein selection of a depicted letter activates an associated switch to communicate with the processor, causing the sound production device to generate a signal corresponding to a sound associated with the selected letter, the sound being determined by a position of the letter in the sequence of letters.

’861 patent, col.10 ll.23-36.

In an April 7, 2005 Order, the trial court construed a number of terms from claim 25 of the patent. The court construed the phrase “selection of a depicted letter” to mean “choosing a particular depicted letter from the depicted sequence of letters by contacting or coming into proximity to that particular depicted letter.” Leapfrog Enters., Inc. v. Fisher-Price, Inc., No. 03-927 (D. Del. Apr. 7, 2005).

The accused PowerTouch device consists of a hinged plastic housing containing electronics and a speaker that opens to lie flat. When so opened, a user places a book made for use with the device in a rectangular recess in the housing. The books contain large, colorful pictures that also show words associated with the objects shown in those pictures. The user may select one of multiple modes of operation. In phonics mode, when the user touches one of the words on the page, the device pronounces the word, then pronounces each phoneme of the word in sequence, and finally pronounces the entire word again. The device relies on a grid of “crosspoints” located in the area underneath where the books are placed to detect the location on the page being touched by the user. The processor in the device may be programmed to associate a particular response with each crosspoint. Some of the words on the pages of the books are large enough that each letter of the word corresponds to a separate crosspoint. However, the phonics mode operates in the same manner for those words, with pronunciation of the word, the phonemes, and the word again, regardless which letter the user touches because each letter has been associated with the same response in the device’s programming.

The case proceeded to trial, but the jury deadlocked on May 27, 2005. The parties stipulated that the case would be submitted to the trial court for decision, based on the record and the rulings made by the court at the time the case was submitted to the jury.

The trial court issued its decision on March 30, 2006, finding claim 25 of the ’861 patent not infringed and invalid as obvious. The court found that the accused PowerTouch device could not practice the “selection of a depicted letter” because it only allowed selection of words rather than letters. The court thus found that the PowerTouch did not infringe claim 25. The court also concluded that claim 25 was invalid as obvious in view of the combination of U.S. Patent 3,748,748 to Bevan, the Texas Instruments Super Speak & Read (“SSR”) device, and the knowledge of one of ordinary skill in the art as represented by the testimony of Fisher-Price’s technical expert, Ronald Milner.

Leapfrog timely appealed. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(1). Next Page ->

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