A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware


Entries for tag: claim-construction

danist-8Gg2Ne_uTcM-unsplash.jpg
Construction site birds, 贝莉儿 DANIST, Unsplash

Late last summer, we posted about an interesting order from Judge Noreika rejecting the parties' claim construction chart for including too many terms. As Judge Noreika released a similar order just last week, I though it might be interesting to examine how firm the 10-term limit has been in the months since that first order.

The answer is "very." in the 20-some Markman orders Judge Noreika has issued since that first one, she has never once construed more than 10 terms. 4 times, she has rejected a claim construction chart for including more than 10 (14, 13, 13, and 17 terms were included in those rejected charts). In each case, she has …

Judge Andrews today released a claim construction regarding several computer bag claims. Six of the claims at issue included elements regarding orientation of the opening in a computer bag:

“[pouch] opening[s] [is/are] . . . oriented in a direction substantially parallel to the planar surface”

U.S. Pat. No. 8,567,578
U.S. Pat. No. 8,567,578 U.S. Pat. No. 8,567,578

He found the claims indefinite because a POSITA would not understand the "orientation" of a bag opening, and the specification and prosecution history offered no hints:

At oral argument, [defendant] Victorinox contended that it is impossible to choose between two plausible views as to how to identify the orientation of the pouch opening; the “planar view” articulated by Victorinox and the direction pointing out of the pouch …

Pixelated Game Over screen on an oversized PAC-MAN arcade machine
Sigmund, Unsplash

Being a notorious font of local wisdom, I am often asked whether Judge X or Y will entertain indefiniteness at Markman. Well here you have it faithful readers—everything you need to know about raising indefiniteness at Markman in Delaware

Every Judge Will Allow Briefing and Argument on Indefiniteness at Markman

Judge Sleet rather famously did not entertain indefiniteness arguments at Markman, considering it “an attempt at an end-run around the court's scheduling order regarding the filing of dispositive motions [that] will not be sanctioned.” Pharmastem Therapeutics, Inc. v. Viacell, Inc., No. 02-148 GMS, 2003 WL 124149, at *1 n.1 (D. Del. Jan. 13, 2003). He frequently referred to this prohibition as "the …

In a summary judgment opinion issued on April 20, Judge Connolly found claims of two patents indefinite because they included a limitation directed to applying a composition "in an amount effective to enhance the condition of the skin." Judge Connolly reasoned that whether he applied the plain meaning of the term or the meaning ascribed to the term by the specification, "the determination of whether a person's skin is enhanced provides a paradigmatic example of indefiniteness." As he pointed out, "Beauty . . . is 'in the eyes of the beholder.'"

Before the Supreme Court held in Markman v. Westview Instruments that claim construction is an issue of law to be decided by the judge, and not the jury, parties would often build alternative theories of infringement and invalidity into their contentions and expert reports to take into account the different claim construction positions being argued. Because they couldn't know which position would be accepted, they were forced to plan for both, and present theories under both at trial.

Markman changed that practice. Now that claim construction is almost always decided before trial (and usually before expert reports), parties can focus on the judge's construction while building their trial presentation. However, it is worth remembering that pretrial claim construction is not set in stone, and that the judge can modify that construction based on any number of inputs, including the evidence at trial and the parties' evolving arguments.

Judge Noreika did exactly that in a ruling issued earlier this week, leading to a non-infringement finding for the defendant, and eliminating the need for a post-trial opinion on the evidence and argument submitted during trial.

A nautilus. It's nice when significant cases have memorable names.
A nautilus. It's nice when significant cases have memorable names. Shawn Low, Unsplash

Claim construction opinions tend to be highly fact-specific, so even though they can be critically important to the parties in a case, we don't always post about them on this blog.

Judge Andrews issued an interesting claim construction opinion today, however, which addressed indefiniteness due to a potential drafting error in a claim.

The opinion involved claim language for a mechanical device:

. . . wherein the . . . assembly comprises a housing comprising the syringe and the stirring motor . . .

Defendants argued indefiniteness in light of the dual use of "comprising," because a person of skill in the art cannot determine a …

In a case that's been pending for years, Judge Connolly just ordered the parties to redo their three-year-old Markman briefs.

Although the parties briefed and argued claim construction at the end of 2017, Judge Sleet granted an IPR stay before a Markman opinion was issued. While the stay was in place, Judge Sleet retired and the case was reassigned to Judge Connolly.

The parties were set to argue claim construction again this week, with 18 disputed terms from the plaintiffs' patents and 26 disputed terms from the defendant's patents. But on Monday, Judge Connolly issued an oral order cancelling the Markman hearing and ordering the parties to substantially narrow their disputes (to 10 limitations for each side's patents).

He also …

Threading the Needle
amirali mirhashemian, Unsplash

Motions for reconsideration are almost impossible to win, often because the legal standard requires parties to thread a very small needle. On one hand, you can't rehash arguments you already made. On the other hand, you can't raise new arguments that you could have made earlier.

Judge Connolly illustrated this catch-22 a few days ago, when the plaintiffs on the wrong end of a Markman order tried to convince the judge to reconsider one of his claim constructions. He ignored many of the plaintiffs' arguments, which "simply regurgitate the arguments [they] made in their share of the 113-page Joint Claim Construction Brief and at the Markman hearing."

The plaintiffs raised one new argument: that Judge Connolly's construction …

A Markman ruling issued by Judge Andrews this week demonstrates how hard it can be to convince the Court that a patentee has disclaimed claim scope. In the MDL In re: Sitagliptin Phosphate ('708 & '921) Patent Litigation, Judge Andrews drew a distinction between the kinds of prosecution activity that can give rise to disclaimer, and those that cannot.

Surfactants at work
Surfactants at work Soap bubbles_3, Daniele Levis Pelusi, Unsplash

In short, defendants argued that the plaintiff had disclaimed claim scope regarding the nature and purpose of the claimed "surfactant" during prosecution. The Court ultimately agreed in part, finding that "surfactant" had been limited to a "wetting agent" that increases dissolution of sitagliptin.

It is worth noting here that …

During the claim construction process, parties identify and offer constructions for claim terms. It is not uncommon for parties to dispute the meaning of words within those constructions but which do not appear in the claims themselves, leading to further refinement of positions during subsequent claim construction exchanges and briefing. Parties may be tempted to ask the Court to separately resolve these "construction within a construction" disputes. Judge Stark recently addressed such a request.