Friday, December 24, 2004

Anheuser-Busch v. Crown: another claim construction remand

In a non-precedential opinion (per Rule 47.6), the CAFC determined that Crown did not infringe the '987 patent BUT that there was a claim construction error as to Crown's '634 patent (thus, vacate and remand).

The case is about the "geometry of can ends" and is vaguely reminiscent of the 19th century Winans v. Denmead case on the "geometry of railroad cars."

Anheuser initiated suit, seeking a DJ of noninfringement as to Crown's '634 AND infringement as to Busch's '987 patent. Crown counterclaimed for the opposite. This case thus is also in the "be careful of what you wish for" category, because Anheuser, the litigation initiator, so far has ended up on the wrong end of both parts of the action.

As to the '634 patent, Crown contended that the district court erred in reading a "flat" chuck wall limitation into claim 1. The CAFC agreed, citing Dupont ( 849 F3d 1430 ) that where a specification does not require an extraneous limitation it should not be read into the claims. Further, because claim 1 was a product claim, the CAFC declined to read in a process limitation, citing Cordis v. Medtronic, 339 F3d 1352.

There was an argument by Busch about inventor testimony, which was also rejected by the CAFC, citing to Bell & Howell v. Altek, 132 F3d 701.

There was an issue of enablement. Underlying factual issues are reviewed for substantial evidence. 338 F3d 1368. The case Engel v. Lockformer, 946 F2d 1528 , was also cited. [Recall: "The enablement requirement is met if the description enables any mode of making and using the claimed invention." One embodiment can enable.]

from Bloomberg News:

-->Crown Holdings, maker of about one-fifth of the world's beverage cans, claims that the "Lid of the Future" by Anheuser-Busch and its Metal Container Corp. unit infringes on a patent owned by Crown and used for its "SuperEnd" beverage can.

The dispute centers on efforts in the can industry to save metal costs with a new beverage can end that uses less metal while maintaining its strength and allowing for stacking.

In March 2003, Crown Holdings Chief Executive Officer John Conway called SuperEnd the "new global benchmark for beverage ends," while Anheuser-Busch said its Lid of the Future was more cost-effective and energy-efficient. <--


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