Riester:CCS Fitness, Inc. v. Brunswick Corporation, 288 F.3d 1359 (2002)

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United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit.

CCS FITNESS, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

BRUNSWICK CORPORATION and its Division Life Fitness, Defendants Appellees.

  • Plaintiff-Appellant CCS Fitness, Inc. appeals from a decision by the United States District Court for the District of Colorado holding that the claim limitation “reciprocating member” as used in the asserted patents does not cover anything more than the single-component straight bar depicted in the patents' drawings. As a result, the district court concluded, the accused infringer Life Fitness warranted summary judgment of non-infringement, since its accused exercise machines' “pedal lever” uses a multi-component, curved bar.
  • i.e. CCS sued Brunswick for infringement but the District Court of Colorado warranted a summary judgement of non-infringement because the "reciprocating member" part of the claim only covers the single component straight bar depicted in patent drawings whereas Brunswick used a multiple-component, curved bar. CCS appealed to USCA.
  • Court of appeals reversed because the term 'member' has an established meaning the patent does explicitly say it has to be straight and so the use of a curved, multi component member does in fact infringe.
  • Reversed - infringement!
  • Patent deals with an elliptical.
  • "Besides the description set forth above, nothing in the claim language of the three patents describes the shape of the reciprocating members or whether it consists of a single-component structure only, as opposed to a structure consisting of multiple components."
  • important language: preferred embodiments of the design, which kinda lends itself to less specificity
  • Both parties moved for summary judgment, with CCS Fitness arguing that the reciprocating members contained in each of the claims at issue comprised more than simply a single-component, straight bar-they also included the curved, multi-component structure used in the accused devices. The parties agreed that “reciprocating” referred to the “back and forth” movement of the “member”; but the district court disagreed with CCS Fitness' proposed construction of “member,” reasoning that the claim language never alluded to the reciprocating members as having multiple parts. Further, said the district court, the “illustrations in the three patents-in-suit show a reciprocating member ... made of one contiguous piece of hard material, with no connections or joints.”
  • As to the shape of the reciprocating members, the court noted that nothing in the claims, specifications or prosecution history indicates what shape these structures had to take; but again, it reasoned that the “figures [of the claimed invention] illustrate a straight bar.”
  • the district court concluded that it did not literally infringe CCS Fitness' ′962 or ′567 patents as a matter of law
  • This seems to be the salient point: Brunswick's manifestation of the design differed by only a different shaped and broken up member, but that wasn't specified under the CCS patent so it's still encompassed within the CCS patent and thus infringes.
  • Does this mean it's better to be less precise sometimes?
  • Life Fitness counters that (among other things) the specification and the drawings can limit the scope of the claimed reciprocating members, since “member” is a vague term whose scope requires clarification from the specification and drawings. To support this argument, Life Fitness points to an affidavit from an expert who avers that “member” has no customary meaning to one of ordinary skill, thereby necessitating resort to the specification.
  • CCS Fitness appeals, arguing again that the ordinary meaning of the term “reciprocating member”-whether defined by an ordinary or a technical dictionary-covers a curved structure consisting of one or more components

an affidavit from the inventor who asserts that “member” has a broad, ordinary meaning in the relevant art.

  • Life Fitness suggests that the claimed “member” is so lacking in structure that it essentially constitutes a means-plus-function clause, see 35 U.S.C. § 112 ¶ 6
  • 35 U.S.C. section 112 paragraph 6:

An element in a claim for a combination may be expressed as a means or step for performing a specified function without the recital of structure, material, or acts in support thereof, and such claim shall be construed to cover the corresponding structure, material, or acts described in the specification and equivalents thereof.

i.e. you can specify a means with out specifying material or structure but then you have to claims those somewhere ( i think?)

Generally speaking, we indulge a “heavy presumption” that a claim term carries its ordinary and customary meaning.

[I]f an apparatus claim recites a general structure without limiting that structure to a specific subset of structures, we will generally construe the term to cover all known types of that structure” that the patent disclosure supports.

Judges can use dictionaries to understand patents (haha)

Indeed, contrary to the district court's analysis here, our case law makes clear that a patentee need not “describe in the specification every conceivable and possible future embodiment of his invention.”

  • Applying these principles, we hold that the claim term “reciprocating member,” as used in the asserted patents, encompasses the multi-component, curved structure used by the accused exercise machines.