Monday, April 24, 2017

CAFC reverses D. Oregon in Skedco case

From the decision:

Skedco, Inc. (“Skedco”) is the exclusive licensee of U.S.
Patent No. 8,342,852 (“the ’852 patent”). The ’852 patent
is directed to a system for simulating trauma with lifelike
mannequins. The system is used in the training of medical
personnel. ’852 patent, 1:19–24, 3:29–41. Skedco sued
Strategic Operations, Inc. (“StOps”) in the United States
District Court for the District of Oregon for infringement
of claims 18, 19, and 20 of the patent. On December 8,
2015, the district court granted summary judgment of
noninfringement, both literal and under the doctrine of
equivalents, and entered judgment dismissing Skedco’s
complaint. See Skedco, Inc. v. Strategic Operations, Inc.,
154 F. Supp. 3d 1099 (D. Or. 2015). Skedco now appeals
from that judgment. We vacate and remand.

The issues:

On appeal, Skedco focuses on the district court’s construction
of the two claim limitations discussed above. As
far as the first limitation is concerned, Skedco urges that
the district court erred when it required the valve and
pump in the BPS to be physically separate. As to the
second limitation, Skedco disagrees with the district
court’s construction of “connected to” as “joined, united or
linked to.” In Skedco’s view, “connected to” should be
construed to mean “interacts directly or indirectly with.”
In the alternative, Skedco contends that the district court
erred when it required “direct,” “independent,” physical,”
and “separately controlling” connections between the
controller and the pump and valve structures in the BPS.
For these reasons, Skedco argues, the district court erred
in granting summary judgment of no literal infringement
by StOps’s BPS.

Skedco quickly won on the first point:

The district court construed “at least one valve in fluid
communication with said pump” to require the pump
and valve to be physically separate structures. Skedco,
154 F. Supp. 3d at 1111–12. We hold that this was error.
In this case, nothing in the claims requires the pump
and valve to be physically separated. The claimed valve
need only be “in fluid communication with” the claimed
pump. ’852 patent, 14:9. Nothing prevents a pump from
being “in fluid communication with” an internal valve.
See Powell v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 663 F.3d 1221,
1232 (Fed. Cir. 2011) (declining to construe “in fluid
communication” as requiring separate structures). In
fact, the claims expressly contemplate this possibility.
See Philips, 415 F.3d at 1314. Independent claim 1
recites a “pump in fluid communication with [a] reservoir”
wherein “said pump is in a cavity of said reservoir.” ’852
patent, 11:46–47 (emphasis added).

Of interest from the CAFC:

StOps maintains the separateness of the pump and
valve by pointing to various figures of the ’852 patent and
concluding that they “would be rendered nonsensical” if
the valve were integral to the pump. Appellee Response
Br. 20–21. This approach gets our precedent backwards.
“[I]t is the claims, not the written description, which
define the scope of the patent right.” Laitram Corp v.
NEC Corp., 163 F.3d 1342, 1347 (Fed. Cir. 1998). Patents
do not need to include drawings of particular embodiments
in order to claim them. See CCS Fitness, Inc. v.
Brunswick Corp., 288 F.3d 1359, 1367 (Fed. Cir. 2002).
For this reason, a claim is not limited to inventions looking
like those in the drawings. MBO Labs., Inc. v. Becton,
Dickinson & Co., 474 F.3d 1323, 1333 (Fed. Cir. 2007).
This guidance is especially apt here because the patent
refers to the drawings to which StOps points as “exemplary
embodiment[s].” ’852 patent, 2:42–3:15.

And, as to claim 18:

We hold that it was
error for the district court to have included some of these
additional limitations into claim 18.

Bottom Line:

In sum, we hold that the district court erred in its
construction of the limitation “at least one valve in fluid
connection with said pump” and the limitation “a controller
connected to said pump and said at least one valve.”
We therefore vacate the district court’s grant of summary
judgment of no literal infringement of claims 18, 19, and
20 and remand the case to the court to conduct analysis
based upon the claim constructions articulated in this
opinion. In so doing, we express no views on the issue of
literal infringement.


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