Future Link Systems, LLC has kicked off a second litigation campaign over two patents from its portfolio of former NXP assets generally related to on-chip power management. The IPValue Management (d/b/a IPValue) plaintiff has sued 11 defendants in separate complaints, accusing AMD, Amlogic, Broadcom, Qualcomm, and Realtek Semiconductor of infringement through the provision of certain multicore ARM systems-on-chip (SoCs) or processors, including those with performance and efficiency cores, targeting features allowing processors to power down components (including cores) when not in use. Acer, Alphabet (Google), Apple, Dell, HP, and Lenovo (Motorola Mobility) are alleged to infringe through devices incorporating such SoCs or processors.
The asserted patents (7,685,439; 8,099,614) generally relate to powering/shutting down components within a processor, with the '614 patent tying the claimed feature to power management. The original development work for the '439 patent was conducted at Philips Semiconductors (which merged into NXP more than a decade ago); for the '614 patent, at NXP. Future Link Systems describes itself as "the owner of over 200 issued and pending US patents . . . the result of R&D investments by NXP Semiconductors and Philips" and its patent holdings as "relate[d] to a variety of products and technologies, such as data interconnect and interface technologies, computer and network architecture, gaming devise, mobile phones, processors, memory, and other integrated circuits".
Currently available USPTO assignment records now identify nearly 240 assets held by Future Link Systems, acquired through transactions dated in August 2013 (211 assets) and March 2015 (three assets), both from Partners for Corporate Research International (PCRI), a Cayman Islands entity apparently formed by IPValue for the purpose of acquiring this IP, and dated in January 2021 (22 assets), acquired directly from NXP.
AMD, Amlogic, Apple, Broadcom, and Qualcomm are already locked in litigation with Future Link, which restarted its first campaign in late 2020 after a three-year hiatus following the end of earlier litigation against Intel, in August 2017. That campaign concerns more than a dozen Future Link patents, originally developed at NXP, Philips, or VLSI Technology, beginning with a March 2014 complaint filed in the District of Delaware, Intel seeking declaratory judgments of noninfringement of nine patents held by Future Link Systems, citing 2013 notice letters sent by the NPE to its customers Dell, HP (before its separation into HP Enterprise and HP, Inc.), and Promise Technology, as well as indemnification requests from its customers "based on Future Link's patent infringement accusations". The complaint also asserted a license defense against Future Link's accusations, which prompted long motion practice culminating in a September 2016 order in which District Judge Leonard P. Stark granted Intel's motion for summary judgment on the license issue only in part.
Thereafter, Future Link Systems asserted multiple patents affirmatively, prompting questions from the court about how to gauge the scope of the damages at issue, whether that figure was closer to Future Link's estimate of $10B or Intel's estimate of, at most, $10M. Without arriving at an answer, however, Judge Stark, in July 2017, handed down sealed rulings on multiple pending motions (motions for summary judgment and motions challenging expert opinions), public versions of which were never docketed because by mid-August of that year, the court had signed a dismissal with prejudice in light of the parties' settlement (on undisclosed terms).
In December 2020, Future Link Systems rebooted its first campaign, this time in the Western District of Texas, suing AMD over the provision of various processors and graphics/video cards. Three patents (6,622,108; 6,363,466; 7,983,888) are in suit there, District Judge Alan D. Albright issuing an October 2021 order that resolves several disputes over claim terms from the patents, rejecting three indefiniteness challenges and otherwise leaving terms to their "plain and ordinary" meanings (several of which required further explication by the court in its order). Trial is currently set for August 2022 in this case.
In March and April 2021, Future Link Systems added suits against Amlogic, Apple, Broadcom, Qualcomm, and Realtek Semiconductor, all but Amlogic also sued in the Western District of Texas, Amlogic tagged in Delaware instead. In West Texas, Apple has moved for a convenience transfer to the Northern District of California, as has Broadcom, Broadcom's motion filed concurrently with a motion to dismiss certain defendants for improper venue. Realtek Semiconductor has filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and for insufficient service of process. All of these motions remain pending as the parties, including Qualcomm, have filed briefs ahead of a claim construction hearing scheduled for January 12. (As RPX has extensively reported, Judge Albright and the Federal Circuit have been engaged in a months-long back-and-forth concerning proper convenience transfer analyses.)
In Delaware, late this past November, Judge Stark held another "Section 101" Day, resolving a motion filed by Amlogic to challenge Future Link Systems patents under Alice. During the portion of the hearing devoted to the suit, Judge Stark opted not to rule on step one of the Alice test (dealing with whether the challenged claims are directed to an abstract idea), instead skipping to step two given the factual dispute over the claims' inventiveness—i.e., whether the claims would have been "well-understood, routine and conventional" to a skilled artisan in the relevant field at the relevant time—raised by Future Link. That factual issue, held Judge Stark, warranted the dismissal without prejudice to renew as a result of the Federal Circuit's February 2018 Aatrix decision, which established that district courts must deny Rule 12 Alice motions when questions over inventiveness are sufficiently raised. Amlogic has since filed its answer.
Since a PTAB proceeding filed by Intel back in 2016 was terminated after institution, there have been seven petitions for inter partes review of patents asserted in litigation by Future Link, each filed in 2021 and each awaiting an institution decision.
Future Link was formed in Delaware in October 2012 and is identified as one of the portfolios of IPValue, a company now held by private equity firm Vector Capital. Currently available USPTO records indicate that IPValue, through its various associated entities, holds over 6,160 US patent assets, including patents originating with AMD, Cypress Semiconductor, Elpida Memory, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Infineon, IBM, NEC, Panasonic, Samsung, and Seiko. Vector Capital acquired IPValue in mid-2014.
All of Future Link's new cases have been assigned to Judge Albright in the Western District of Texas, except for the suit against Amlogic, which has again been filed in Delaware, where Judge Stark presides. 12/22, Amlogic 1:21-cv-01790, District of Delaware; 12/22, Acer 6:21-cv-01344, Alphabet (Google) 6:21-cv-01349, AMD 6:21-cv-01345, Apple 6:21-cv-01346, Broadcom 6:21-cv-01347, Dell 6:21-cv-01348, HP 6:21-cv-01350, Lenovo 6:21-cv-01351, Qualcomm 6:21-cv-01352, Realtek Semiconductor 6:21-cv-01353, Western District of Texas.
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