Doctrine of Equivalents : CAFC Alert

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

| November 6, 2013

Integrated Technology Corporation v. Rudolph Technologies, Inc.

November 4, 2013

Moore (author), Rader, and Clevenger


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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Vitiation exclusion: a judicial determination ensuring that doctrine of equivalents does not overtake statutory function of claims in defining scope of exclusive rights

| January 2, 2013

Deere & Co. v. Bush Hog

December 4, 2012

Panel:  Rader, Newman and Plager. Opinion by Rader.


The United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, among other things, construed the claimed term “into engagement with” of ‘980 Patent to require direct contact and construed “being secured to” of ‘980 Patent as “fastened or attached.” Based on this construction, the district court granted Bush Hog & Co. LLC’s and Great Plains Inc.’s motions for summary judgment of noninfringement by holding that Deere did not raise a genuine issue of material fact as to literal infringement because the upper deck walls do not come into contact with the lower deck walls in any of the accused products. In addition, the district court held that Deere could not assert infringement under the doctrine of equivalents because doing so would vitiate the “into engagement with” limitation. Because in the context of the ‘980 Patent “into engagement with” encompasses indirect contact, the Federal Circuit vacated the district court’s construction of this term, reversed the grant of summary judgment, and remanded for further proceedings. Also, the Federal Circuit found that the district court invoked vitiation exclusion in error by refusing to apply the doctrine of equivalents because “a reasonable jury could find that a small spacer connecting the upper and lower deck walls represents an insubstantial difference from direct contact.” Therefore, the Federal Circuit also vacated the grant of summary judgment of no infringement under the doctrine of equivalents.

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