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Rival Co. v. Sunbeam Corp.

February 23, 1999

THE RIVAL COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
SUNBEAM CORPORATION, SUNBEAM-OSTER HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS, AND SUNBEAM PRODUCTS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Before Lourie, Clevenger, and Gajarsa, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lourie, Circuit Judge.

NOTE: Pursuant to Fed. Cir. R. 47.6, this Disposition is not citable as precedent. It is a public record. The Disposition will appear in tables published periodically.

DECISION

The Rival Company appeals from the summary judgment of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri holding that four models of Sunbeam food steamers do not infringe claims 1 and 2 of Rival's U.S. Patent 4,509,412. See Rival Co. v. Sunbeam Corp. et. al., 987 F. Supp. 1167 (W.D. Mo. 1997). Because the district court correctly construed claim 1, and did not err in determining that the accused products do not infringe claims 1 and 2, either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents, we affirm.

DISCUSSION

Rival is the owner of the `412 patent directed to a food steaming device invented by Stephen L. Whittenburg et al. Rival alleged that four food steamers sold by Sunbeam infringe claims 1 and 2 of the `412 patent. Claim 1, from which claim 2 depends, reads as follows:

"1. A steam cooking utensil comprising: a base; a boiling water reservoir defined by the base; a heater, mounted in the base to heat liquid in the boiling water reservoir; thermostat means, mounted in the base and coupled to the heater, for switching off the heater when all the liquid in the boiling water reservoir has evaporated therefrom; a condensate trough, defined by the base, and thermally insulated from the heater; and a food tray comprising an imperforate surface and a drainage surface, said food tray supported above the reservoir and trough such that said imperforate surface is aligned with the boiling water reservoir, said drainage surface is aligned with the condensate trough, and water flows from the imperforate surface to the drainage surface and into the condensate trough, said reservoir, trough and tray cooperating substantially to prevent the flow of water from the imperforate surface into the reservoir."

Figure 1 shows the invention's preferred embodiment:

"Fig. 1"

"As can be seen in figure 1, the key features of the patented invention are a heater (22) at the bottom of a reservoir (27) wherein the water is boiled. The steam escapes through openings between the top of the reservoir and the food tray (50), circulates around the food tray, and cooks the food. Steam that condenses on the food drains into a separate condensate trough (30). A thermostat (21) controls the heater."

The four Sunbeam products accused of infringement are Models 4710, 4711, *fn1 4713, and 5710. They differ from each other in immaterial ways. The following figure 2 shows the basic components of the 5710 model, which is typical of the four models:

"Fig. 2"

"As shown in figure 2, each model has a water reservoir base (E) that stores water. Each model's water reservoir also has a drain that leads to a flow-through heater beneath the reservoir. The following figure 3 shows the basic ...


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