Doctrine of Equivalents (HW 4-4) (RCTA)

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Lemelson v. General Mills, Inc. (1992)

  • United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit
  • Plaintiff-Appellee: Jerome H. Lemelson
  • Defendants: General Mills, Inc., General Mills Fun Group, Inc., Marvin Glass & Associates
  • Defendant-Appellant: Mattel, Inc.
  • June 30, 1992


Lemelson sued Mattel, alleging that Mattel's "Hot Wheels" toy car track infringed on his patented toy track. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois found in favor of the plaintiff. Mattel appealed to the CAFC. The Court held that the "Hot Wheels" track did not contain all the limitations of the patent; there was not enough evidence to show that it was distinguishable from the prior art. That is, Lemelson's patent could not be both valid in light of the prior art and infringed upon by Mattel. Furthermore, upon his first application, claim 3 of Lemelson's patent had five clauses. The PTO examiner found the patent to be indistinguishable from the prior art. Lemelson added clauses [f] and [g] and received a patent:

  • [f] said guide means include a pair of spaced apart runner portions for defining the pathway of a vehicle moving over said track,
  • [g] said spaced apart runner portions include upwardly extending rails for guiding the wheels of a vehicle.

The Court held that "Hot wheels" did not contain any elements equivalent to clauses [f] and [g]. The Court also noted that the public is entitled to the PTO record to determine the scope and meaning of claims.