prosecution history estoppel : CAFC Alert

Be Mindful that the Potential Reach of Claimed Components under the Doctrine of Equivalents Can Be Affected by Amendments to Claimed Sub-Components.

Stephen Parker | October 9, 2014

EMD Millipore Corporation v. Allpure Technologies, Inc. (Precedential Opinion).

September 29, 2014

Panel:  Prost, O’Malley and Hughes.  Opinion by Prost.

Summary

EMD Millipore Corporation (Millipore) appeals the District of Massachusetts decision that the accused infringer, Allpure Technologies, Inc. (Allpure) does not infringe its U.S. Patent No. 6,032,543 entitled a Device for Introduction and/or Withdrawal of a Medium into/from a Container, either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents.   The Federal Circuit affirmed that there was no literal infringement because the claims required a removable transfer member having a two part seal connected after removal, while the Allpure device had two parts of a seal separated after disassembly.   In addition, the Federal Circuit held that Allpure did not infringe under the doctrine of equivalents due to prosecution history estoppel  based on narrowing amendments limiting the transfer member to such a two part seal, along with a lack of any argument that the reasons for such amendments was not a substantial one related to patentability.


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In case of first impression, the CAFC determines that the principles of prosecution history estoppel apply to design patents.

Linda Shapiro | January 31, 2014

Pacific Coast Marine v. Malibu Boats, LLC

Decided January 8, 2014

Before Dyk, Mayer, and Chen. Opinion by Dyk.

Summary

Bach’s original design patent application included multiple embodiments of a marine windshield.  The Examiner issued a restriction requirement, in response to which Bach elected the first embodiment, canceled the other four, and filed a divisional for the third embodiment only.  After the patent issued, Bach assigned it to Pacific Coast, which sued Malibu Boats for infringement.  The Malibu Boats windshield differed slightly from the patented embodiment, as well as the non-elected embodiments.  The district court granted Malibu Boats’ motion for partial summary judgment of non-infringement on the grounds of prosecution history estoppel, finding that “that, during prosecution, the applicant had surrendered the designs reflected in the canceled figures and amended the claim ‘in order to obtain the patent.’”  The CAFC reversed, holding that although “there was a surrender of claim scope during prosecution,” the accused design was not “within the scope of the surrender.”


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Don’t Keep Limitations Not Needed To Distinguish the Prior Art

Sung-Hoon Kim | November 6, 2013

Integrated Technology Corporation v. Rudolph Technologies, Inc.

November 4, 2013

Moore (author), Rader, and Clevenger

Summary:

The CAFC reversed the denial of Rudolph’s motion for JMOL that its accused no-touch products do not infringe under the doctrine of equivalents.  The CAFC found that prosecution history estoppel (preventing ITC from recapturing through the doctrine of equivalents the subject matter that ITC surrendered during prosecution) presumptively applies, and that ITC failed to rebut the presumption because it failed to establish one of three exceptions by a preponderance of the evidence.


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Disavowal of Claim Terms is a Stringent Hurdle to Overcome, which must be “Clear and Unmistakable” Disavowal to Limit the Scope of Claims

William Westerman | August 14, 2013

Plantronics, Inc. v. Aliph, inc. and Aliphcom, Inc.

July 31, 2013

Panel:  Rader, O’Malley and Wallach.  Opinion by Wallach.

Summary

This is a patent infringement suit by Plantronics against Aliph.  Plantronics is owner of US Patent 5,712,453 (‘453 patent) entitled, “Concha Headset Stabilizer.”  This is a concha-type headset to anchor in a user’s ear for use in a telephone receiver.

The district court granted-in-part summary judgment for Aliph, for noninfringement and invalidity.  After appeal, the Federal Circuit reversed-in-part, vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings.  More specifically, the Federal Circuit reversed the summary judgment of noninfringement and invalidity.  The discussion below will focus on the issue of noninfringement.


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Clear and Unmistakeable Evidence of a Disclaimer Found in Response to Enablement Rejection

Kumiko Ide | April 24, 2013

Biogen Idec, Inc., et al. v. GlaxoSmithKline LLC, et al.

April 16, 2013

Panel: Dyk, Plager, Reyna.  Opinion by Reyna.  Dissent by Plager.

Summary

During prosecution of the patent, applicants responded to the examiner’s enablement rejection, wherein they failed to challenge the examiner’s understanding of the crucial terms, and limited their invention to what the examiner believed their specification enabled.  The CAFC affirmed the district court’s narrow claim interpretation of the term “anti-CD20 antibody” based on prosecution history disclaimer.

実施可能要件を満たしていないとして発せられた拒絶通知に対して、出願人は、審査官の理解に対して反論することなく、明細書により実施可能であると審査官が判断したものに発明を限定するような主張を行った。よって、「anti-CD20 antibody」という用語について、狭いクレーム解釈を容認した地裁の判断は誤りでなかったとCAFCは判示した。


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Divided Claim Construction Leads to Reversal of Jury Verdict Against Alleged Infringer

Cindy Chen | April 17, 2013

Saffran v. Johnson & Johnson

April 4, 2013

Panel: Lourie, Moore, and O’Malley.  Opinion by Lourie. Concurrence Opinions by Moore and O’Malley.

Summary

The Federal Circuit reversed a $482 million jury verdict against Cordis, a member of the Johnson & Johnson family. The reversal came as a result of the Federal Circuit’s significant narrowing of the district court’s construction of two key claim limitations. One claim term was narrowed because the Federal Circuit found that the patentee’s arguments made during prosecution of the asserted patent, for the purpose of distinguishing over cited prior art, amounted to prosecution disclaimer. Meanwhile, a structure identified in the specification by the patentee as the corresponding structure to a means-plus-function limitation was disregarded as such, because the specification failed to link the identified structure to the recited function with sufficient specificity.


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Prosecution Argument Bars Later Recapture Through Broadening Reissue

Nicolas Seckel | August 29, 2012

Greenliant Systems, Inc. v. Xicor LLC

August 22, 2012

Panel:  Linn, Plager and Dyk.  Opinion by Dyk

Summary:

Xicor obtained a patent claiming a semiconductor device with a tunneling layer formed by low pressure chemical vapor (CVD) deposition using tetraethylorthosilicate (TEOS).   Xicor sought and obtained reissue of the patent with device claims that did not recite the use of TEOS.   Subsequently, Greenliant sued Xicor for declaratory judgment of invalidity of the reissue claims based on recapture rule, which prohibits recapture via reissue of subject matter surrendered in order to overcome prior art during prosecution of the original patent.  The District Court held the reissue claims invalid, and the Federal Circuit affirms.  Xicor had repeatedly argued during prosecution of the original patent that the product-by-process limitation of using TEOS imparted structural limitations to the final product.  This is sufficient for the recapture rule to apply, even if Xicor now recognizes that the structure of the tunneling layer does not actually depend on the material used for the CVD process, but on deposition conditions such as temperature and pressure.


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