Thursday, June 05, 2008

Does "partially" include "completely"?

In the case Brocar v. Bobrick, the appellant argued that the plain meaning of “partially” includes completely.

The CAFC noted: Our precedent instructs that
different claim terms are presumed to have different meanings. Applied Med. Res.
Corp. v. U.S. Surgical Corp., 448 F.3d 1324, 1333 n.3 (Fed. Cir. 2006) (“[T]he use of
two terms in a claim requires that they connote different meanings. . . .”); CAE
Screenplates Inc. v. Heinrich Fiedler GmbH, 224 F.3d 1308, 1317 (Fed. Cir. 2000) (“In
the absence of evidence to the contrary, we must presume that the use of these
different terms in the claims connotes different meanings.”).

The CAFC then stated: As [appellant] Brocar provides us with
no evidence to rebut this presumption, we decline to construe the term “partially hidden
from view” to have the same meaning as “generally hidden from view” or “at least
partially hidden from view.”

The claim in question:

A wall-mounted station for changing the diapers of a baby comprising:
a support platform having top and bottom surfaces and opposing sides,
the support platform being hingedly fixable at one side with respect to
a wall;
the support platform being movable between a closed position up
against a wall wherein the platform top surface is partially hidden from
and the bottom surface is exposed for view and an open position
hinged away from a wall wherein the support platform is disposed
generally perpendicular to a wall and the top surface is exposed for
receiving a baby;
a generally flat protective panel, formed of a non-glass, abrasion-
resistant material, the platform bottom surface being configured for
receiving said panel such that said panel overlies at least a portion of
the platform bottom surface and covers the exposed bottom surface of
the platform when the support platform is in a closed position to create
vandalism proof support platform for reducing the effects of graffiti and
abrasions on the platform and for improving the inner decor of a facility
in which the changing station is installed.

Appellant Brocar contended that the district court erred as a matter of law when it construed
that term to exclude totally hidden from view. Brocar proposes that the term should be
defined as “positioned so at least some of the top surface is blocked from being seen.”


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