United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division
ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT OF NONINFRINGEMENT
RICHARD L. YOUNG, Chief District Judge.
CSP Technologies, Inc. ("CSP") is a leading innovator in the field of plastic packaging, and is the owner of United States Patent No. 7, 537, 137, entitled "Resealable Moisture Tight Container Assembly For Strips And The Like Having A Lip Snap Seal" (the "137 patent"). As the title of the patent suggests, the patent relates to substantially moisture-tight container and lid assemblies that can be used to store and package moisture-sensitive items, such as diagnostic test strips, using dessicant entrained polymer technology. Defendants, Süd Chemie AG, Süd Chemie, Inc., and Airsec S.A.S., Clariant Produkte Deutschland GmbH, Clariant Corporation, and Clariant Production (France) S.A.S., are competitors of CSP in this field, and are the owners of the Accused Products, the Handy Active Tubes®. The Accused Products are described by the parties as vial-shaped containers. CSP alleges that the Defendants are infringing claims 1-5 and claim 7 of the 137 patent by, inter alia, manufacturing, selling and/or importing the Accused Products into the United States, either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents. Defendants now move for summary judgment of noninfringement. For the reasons set forth below, that motion is GRANTED.
The court's infringement analysis involves two steps: claim construction of the asserted claim(s) and a determination of whether the accused method or process infringes the asserted claim(s). Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1581-82 (Fed. Cir. 1996). "Direct infringement requires proof by preponderant evidence that the defendant performs (if a method claim) or uses (if a product claim) each element of a claim, either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents." Cheese Sys., Inc. v. Tetra Pak Cheese and Powder Sys., Inc., 725 F.3d 1341, 1348 (Fed. Cir. 2013). The first step, claim construction, is an issue of law. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 384-85 (1996). The second step, comparing the properly construed claims to the allegedly infringing device, is an issue of fact. Id.
Independent claims 1 and 7 contain virtually identical claim language, and recite, in pertinent part:
1. A substantially moisture tight container and lid assembly for storing and packaging moisture-sensitive items comprising: an assembly with a container and a lid,
a) the lid is attached by a hinge to an upper housing portion of the container, the lid has an outer periphery that extends over at least a portion of the container, the lid is provided with a skirt that extends downwardly therefrom,
b) the container has a container base, and a sidewall extending upwardly from the container base,
i) a top of the container is provided with an opening that permits access to an interior of the container, wherein the opening is spaced away from an outer surface of the sidewall of the container ...
ii) the opening of the top of the container is bounded by a lip that extends upward from the top of the container, the lip of the top of the container extends around the periphery of the opening of the top of the container,
iii) the skirt of the lid is positioned at a location on the lid that allows the skirt of the lid to enter into a closing relationship with the lip of the top of the container, ...
iv) the lid further includes a flexible lip seal member that extends downwardly therefrom, the flexible lip seal member of the lid is configured to abut at least a portion of the interior side of the lip of the top container surface when the lid is in the closed position, wherein the flexible lip seal member is designed to be sufficiently deflective so as to provide a sealing position, ... which in combination with the closing relationship between the skirt of the lid and the lip of the top of the container results in a substantially moisture tight seal between the lid and the container....
Claims 2, 3, 4, and 5 are dependent claims of independent claim 1. A dependent claim is "construed to incorporate by reference all the limitations of the claim to which it refers." 35 U.S.C. § 112 (d). For example, dependent claims 2-4 require "[t]he substantially moisture tight container and lid assembly of claim 1, " and dependent claim 5 requires "[t]he substantially moisture tight container and lid assembly for storing and packaging moisture-sensitive items of claim 1."
Defendants filed the present motion for summary judgment on the same day they filed their brief on claim construction regarding the meaning of four disputed claim terms, shown in italics above: (1) "an opening wherein the opening is spaced away from an outer surface of the sidewall of the container"; (2) "a closing relationship"; (3) "an upper housing portion of the container" and (4) "substantially moisture tight." Defendants argued that, based upon their interpretation of those disputed claim terms, ...