CCS Fitness, Inc. v. Brunswick Corporation (901422128)

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Read for 3/25/11

Reading Notes

  • Decided by the CAFC in 2002
  • District Court ruled non-infringement in favor of Brunswick for a curved "pedal lever" for an exercise machine
    • Ruled that the claim limitation "reciprocating member" only covers a single-component straight bar
  • CAFC holds that the term "member" does not limit the claim's meaning so it does include the curved bar
    • Reverse the decision on these grounds
  • Three combination patents owned by CCS are the issue here
    • No claims describe the shape of the reciprocating member but they are depicted as single-member and straight
  • Sued in 4/98 for infringement under the doctrine of equivalents and literally
    • CCS maintains a broad, ordinary meaning of "member" in the art while Life Fitness maintains no customary meaning exists
  • Precedents show that dictionary definitions may establish a claim term's ordinary meaning
  • Patentee need not describe every conceivable future embodiment of his invention
    • Using the guidelines below, the terminology does include the accused member
  • Cannot rely on the expert testimony of the meaning of "member"
  • Must determine if the claim term recites sufficient structure
    • Examine understood meaning in the art
  • District court relied on the preferred embodiments alone as representing the entire scope of the claimed invention
    • Wrong
  • Remanded to district court


  • Two-step analysis
    1. Determine the correct scope and meaning of a disputed claim term
    2. Comparison to the accused device to see whether that device contains all the limitations, either literally or by equivalents
  • Four ways to limit a term beyond its ordinary meaning
    1. Patentee clearly set forth a definition in the specification or prosecution history
    2. Patentee distinguished the term from prior art based on particular embodiments
    3. The term deprives the claim or clarity
    4. The claim is phrased in step- or means-plus-function format

Class Notes