Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lippert Components Manufacturing, Inc. v. Mor/Ryde International Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

June 18, 2018

LIPPERT COMPONENTS MANUFACTURING, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
MOR/RYDE INTERNATIONAL INC., and MOR/RYDE INC., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JON E. DEGUILIO JUDGE

         Plaintiff Lippert Components Manufacturing, Inc. (“Lippert”) alleges that Defendants Mor/Ryde International, Inc. and Mor/Ryde, Inc. (“Mor/Ryde”) have infringed and contributed to the infringement of Lippert's patents (U.S. Patent Nos. 7, 918, 478 (issued on April 5, 2011) and 7, 296, 821 (issued on November 20, 2007), hereinafter referred to as the ‘478 patent and ‘821 patent, respectively), which concern the same suspension system equalizer technology.[1] The accused instrumentality concerns Mor/Ryde's products known as the CRE/3000 suspension system [DE 61-2] and the SRE/4000 suspension system [DE 61-3]. The parties initially identified four terms appearing in the patents that require construction: “suspension system”; “pivotally mounted”; “generally encapsulated between”; and, “at least partially encapsulated between”. However, once the claim construction briefs were filed [DE's 110, 121, 122, 132, 133] and the claims construction hearing held [DE 168], the parties agreed that the only contested term requiring the Court's consideration was the term “pivotally mounted”.[2]

         I. Legal Standard

         As a matter of law, the Court must construe the claims of the patent for the jury. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 977 (Fed. Cir. 1995). Claim construction is crucial because it “defines the scope of the protected invention.” Bell Commc'ns Research, Inc. v. Vitalink Commc'ns Corp., 55 F.3d 615, 619 (Fed. Cir. 1995).

         In interpreting a disputed claim, the court must first look at the intrinsic evidence of record-the patent itself, including the claims, the specification, and (if in evidence) the prosecution history. Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996). The process begins with the words of the claims. Teleflex, Inc. v. Ficosa North American Corp., 299 F.3d 1313, 1324 (Fed. Cir. 2002). “It is a bedrock principle of patent law that the claims of a patent define the invention to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude.” Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (internal quotations and citations omitted); Teleflex, 299 F.3d at 1324 (“The claim language defines the bounds of claim scope.”). Absent an express intent otherwise, claim terms should be given “the ordinary and customary meaning . . . that the term would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art in question at the time of the invention.”[3] Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1313. “[T]he context of the surrounding words of the claim also must be considered in determining the ordinary and customary meaning of those terms.” ACTV, Inc. v. Walt Disney Co., 346 F.3d 1082, 1088 (Fed. Cir. 2003).

         However, the claims do not stand alone and they “must be read in view of the specification, of which they are a part.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1315 (quoting Markman, 52 F.3d at 979). The specification includes the drawings and the written description of the invention. Playtex Products, Inc. v. Procter & Gamble, Co., 400 F.3d 901, 909 (Fed. Cir. 2005). The specification “is always highly relevant to the claim construction analysis. Usually, it is dispositive; it is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1315 (quoting Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582). It can resolve ambiguities between the ordinary and customary meaning of words if the words used in the claim are not sufficiently clear to allow the scope of the claim to be determined from words alone. Teleflex, 299 F.3d at 1325. Yet, there's a difference “between using the specification to interpret the meaning of a claim, ” which is permissible, and “importing limitations from the specification into the claim, ” which is not. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1323. “[T]he general principle is that limitations from the specification are not to be read into the claims.” Sjolund v. Musland, 847 F.2d 1573, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1988) (citation omitted).

         Finally, the court must look to the patent's prosecution history, which “consists of the complete record of the proceedings before the [USPTO] and includes the prior art cited during the examination of the patent.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. “The prosecution history can often inform the meaning of the claim language by demonstrating how the inventor understood the invention and whether the inventor limited the invention in the course of prosecution, making the claim scope narrower than it would otherwise be.” Id. A patentee may modify the “meaning of a claim term by making a clear and unmistakable disavowal of scope during prosecution.” Purdue Pharma L.P. v. Endo Pharms., Inc., 438 F.3d 1123, 1136 (Fed. Cir. 2006).

         Nonetheless, if intrinsic evidence does not resolve the ambiguity in a disputed claim term, the court may then look to extrinsic evidence, such as expert testimony, inventor testimony, dictionaries, and treatises. Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1584. Extrinsic evidence may help the court better understand “the way in which one of skill in the art might use the claim terms.” AquaTex Indus., Inc. v. Techniche Solutions, 419 F.3d 1374, 1380 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). But extrinsic evidence may not be used to “contradict any definition found in or ascertained by a reading of the patent documents.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1322-23 (quoting Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1584, n.6). As the Federal Circuit explained in Phillips: “Ultimately, the interpretation to be given a term can only be determined and confirmed with a full understanding of what the inventors actually invented and intended to envelop with the claim. The construction that stays true to the claim language and most naturally aligns with the patent's description of the invention will be, in the end, the correct construction.” Id. at 1316 (citation omitted).

         II. Construction of “Pivotally Mounted”

         The term “pivotally mounted” appears in the ‘821 patent: Claims 1, 8-10, 12-14, 23-25, and 27-28 (with Claims 1 and 14 asserted in the independent format); and, in the ‘478 patent: Claims 1, 4, 15, and 17 (with Claims 1 and 15 asserted in the independent format).

         In its opening claim construction brief, Lippert proposes that “pivotally mounted” should be construed as “mounted for rotation about an axis.” [DE 121 at 13]. Lippert notes that the specifications of the patents use the description “rotatably secured or pivotally mounted, ” and the figures illustrate that the rotation occurring between the identified components occurs “about an axis.” Extrinsically, Lippert argues that its proposed definition is also consistent with the dictionary definitions that it has provided.

         In response, Mor/Ryde argues that Lippert's claim construction position relative to the term “pivotally mounted”: (1) is inconsistent with the plain and ordinary meaning given to it by the specification “because it would include embodiments where the axis point could move non-rotationally” [DE 133 at 7-9]; (2) broadens the claims beyond the inventor's intention as evidenced by the inventor's descriptions of the invention in the patents' Summary of the Invention, the Abstract, and the embodiments [Id. at 9-11]; (3) is not consistent with the remaining dictionary definitions of the word “pivot” [Id. at 11-12]; and (4) will render the patents-in-suit invalid for failure to comply with the enablement requirement [Id. at 13-14]. Ultimately, Mor/Ryde argues that no construction of the term “pivotally mounted” is necessary because the ordinary and customary meaning is so apparent-that is, the term necessarily describes rotational (not linear) movement, around a “fixed” axis. In sum, the parties' dispute concerns whether “pivotally mounted” allows rotational movement only from a fixed point.

         The Court finds that the intrinsic evidence does not support Mor/Ryde's overly narrow reading of the claim term “pivotally mounted”. Claims 1 and 14 of the ‘821 patent recite that a “first plate [is] pivotally mounted to the frame of the vehicle” and that “at least one equalizer arm [is] pivotally mounted to said first plate”; and, Claim 14 further recites that the “equalizer [is] pivotally mounted to the frame of the vehicle.” [DE 121-1 at 27-28]. Similarly, Claims 1 and 15 of the ‘478 patent recite that a “first plate [is] pivotally mounted to the frame of the vehicle” and that “at least one equalizer arm [is] pivotally mounted to said first plate”; and, Claim 15 further recites that the “equalizer [is] pivotally mounted to the frame of the vehicle.” [DE 121-2 at 68-69].

         The specifications of the ‘821 and ‘478 patents describe that the first plate is “rotatably secured or pivotally mounted” [DE 121-1 at p. 26, 17:62-18:28; DE 121-2 at p. 54, 20:21-49]; that the equalizer arm is “rotatably secured or pivotally mounted between the first and second base plates” [DE 121-1, at 26, 17:39-45; DE 121-2 at 54, 19:66-20:6]; and, that the equalizer is “rotatably secured or pivotally mounted” between ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.