SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has reinstated a patent claim against Google over the photography technology used in its Street View project.
Vederi v. Google revives claims by two former Caltech students who say they were creating composite photographs of neighborhoods six years before Google launched Street View. Chief Judge Randall Rader’s decision for a unanimous panel reverses a summary judgment that was granted by Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski while he was sitting temporarily as a district judge.
Vederi was formed by Enrico De Bernardo and Luis Goncalves, who allege they drove around Pasadena 14 years ago creating panoramic pictures as part of an apartment search. The two obtained patents on a method for creating synthesized images of city blocks that could be navigated on a computer. They called it ScoutTool.
Vederi sued Google in 2010, after its similar Street View feature had cataloged towns and cities around the world. Google argued that its technology was different because it created curved, or spherical, views. Vederi’s patents, by contrast, provide for views that are “substantially elevations of the objects in the geographic area.”
Kozinski agreed with Google that the term “elevation” should be construed as it’s used in architecture, which is to mean a flat building surface projected on a vertical plane. Therefore, Google did not infringe, Kozinski reasoned.
Rader concluded Friday that Kozinski’s construction read the word “substantially” out of the definition. “The word ‘substantially’ takes on important meaning in light of the rest of the intrinsic evidence in this record,” Rader wrote.
Specifically, the ScoutTool patents referred to fish-eye lenses and views. “A photographic image through a fish-eye lens provides a curved, as opposed to vertical, projection, and almost certainly reflects curvature and perspective,” Rader wrote. And the ScoutTool images included both front and side views of buildings and, therefore, were not “elevations” strictly speaking.
Judges Timothy Dyk and Richard Taranto concurred.
David Dillard of Christie, Parker & Hale argued the appeal for Vederi. King & Spalding’s Daryl Joseffer argued for Google.
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