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Intex Recreation Corp. v. Team Worldwide Corp.

March 28, 2008

INTEX RECREATION CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF/COUNTERCLAIM-DEFENDANT,
v.
TEAM WORLDWIDE CORPORATION, DEFENDANT/COUNTERCLAIM-PLAINTIFF.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Deborah A. Robinson United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Defendant Team Worldwide ("TWW") Corporation's Motion for Claim Construction (Document No. 140) is pending for determination by the undersigned. Upon consideration of the motion; the memoranda in support thereof and in opposition thereto;*fn1 the proffers and arguments of counsel at the hearing on the motion; the parties' Joint Statement of Undisputed Claim Construction Evidence (Document No. 142) ("Joint Statement"), and the entire record herein, Defendant's motion will be GRANTED IN PART.

I. BACKGROUND OF THE INSTANT ACTION

Intex Recreation Corporation ("Intex") is a California corporation engaged in the business of the distribution and sale of a variety of inflatable products, including air mattresses. See Intex Recreation Corp. v. Team Worldwide Corp. 2 Motion of Intex Recreation Corp[.] for Order Under Rule 56, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that the Accused Products Do Not Infringe Claims 14-17 of the Patent-in-Suit (Document No. 101) at 2, n.2.

On September 21, 2004, the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") issued U.S. Patent No. 6,793,469 ("the '469 patent"), of which TWW is the owner by assignment. First Amended Complaint (Document No. 4) at 1; Intex's Brief at 1. On about October 8, 2004, Intex received a letter from TWW in which TWW alleged that Intex had infringed the '469 patent by selling an inflatable air mattress with a built-in pump. First Amended Complaint, ¶7. Intex denies that its products infringe the '469 patent, and seeks a declaratory judgment that the '469 patent has not been infringed and that said patent is invalid pursuant to 35 U.S.C. §§ 102, 103. First Amended Complaint, ¶¶ 7-11, 12-15.*fn2

TWW, in its answer, denies that Intex is entitled to any relief. In its counterclaim, TWW alleges that Intex has infringed, and continues to infringe, one or more claims of the '469 patent by unlawfully making, using, importing, selling , and/or offering for sale, inflatable mattress covered by one or more claims of the '469 patent. Answer (Document No. 10), ¶¶ 10-11, 14-15, 19-20; Counterclaim (Document No. 10), ¶¶ 8-10.

In its answer to the counterclaim, Intex denies TWW's allegations, and alleges as affirmative defenses that TWW failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and that the patent is invalid pursuant to 35 U.S.C. §§ 102, 103. Answer to Counterclaim (Document No. Intex Recreation Corp. v. Team Worldwide Corp. 3 15), ¶¶ 12, 14.*fn3

Following proceedings with respect to the conduct of discovery and other pretrial matters, TWW moved the court "to construe the claim terms of U. S. Patent No. [6],793,469 according to Exhibit A of this Motion." Defendant Team Worldwide Corporation's Motion for Claim Construction at 1; see also Joint Statement of Disputed Claim Terms and Phrases (Document No. 138) at 3.

II. STANDARDS GOVERNING CLAIM CONSTRUCTION

Claim construction is a question of law for the court. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 384 (1996). "In construing patent claims, a court must start with the claim language and consider it in light of the specification and prosecution history, and if necessary use extrinsic evidence . . . to clarify any remaining ambiguity." Michilin Prosperity Co. v. Fellowes Mfg. Co., 450 F. Supp. 2d 35, 37 (D.D.C. 2006). In construing the claims, it is "the person of ordinary skill in the field of the invention through whose eye the claims are construed." Multiform Desiccants, Inc., v. Medzam, Ltd., 133 F.3d 1473, 1477 (Fed. Cir. 1998). In its interpretation of disputed claim terms, a court "should look first to the intrinsic evidence of record, i.e., 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). There is a "heavy presumption" that the terms used in the claims "mean what they say and have the ordinary meaning that would be attributed to those words by persons skilled in the relevant Intex Recreation Corp. v. Team Worldwide Corp. 4 art." Texas Digital Sys., Inc. v. Telegenix, Inc., 308 F.3d 1193, 1202 (Fed. Cir. 2002); see also CCS Fitness, Inc. v. Brunswick Corp., 288 F.3d 1359, 1366 (Fed. Cir. 2002).

In its evaluation of the intrinsic evidence, a court may consult a dictionary and the inventor's drawings. Intex Recreation Corp. v. Metalast, 245 F. Supp. 2d 65, 69 (D.D.C. 2003). "Dictionary definitions . . . are valuable resources to be used by a court at any time to assist in determining the ordinary meaning of claim language." Id. (citations omitted). "Because words often have multiple dictionary definitions, some having no relation to the claimed invention, the intrinsic record must always be consulted to identify which of the different possible dictionary meanings of the claim terms in issue is most consistent with the use of the words by the inventor." Texas Digital Sys., 308 F.3d at 1203 (citations omitted). "[T]he presumption in favor of a dictionary definition will be overcome where the patentee, acting as his or her own lexicographer, has clearly set forth an explicit definition of the term different from its ordinary meaning." Id. at 1204 (citations omitted). A court may consult the drawings "because drawings may graphically support the proper interpretation of the claim language." Intex, 245 F. Supp. 2d at 69 (citing Desper Products, Inc. v. Q Sound Labs, Inc.,) 157 F.3d 1325, 1333 (Fed. Cir. 1998)).*fn4

This court has observed that "if the meaning [of a disputed claim term] is sufficiently clear from the intrinsic evidence, that meaning shall apply[,]" and that "extrinsic evidence may be considered only when the claim language remains genuinely ambiguous after consideration of the intrinsic evidence." Intex, 245 F. Supp. 2d at 69 (citing Frank's Casing Crew Rental Tools, Intex Recreation Corp. v. Team Worldwide Corp. 5 Inc. v. PMR Technologies, Ltd., 292 F.3d 1363, 1374 (Fed. Cir. 2002); Bell & Howell Doc. Mgmt. Prods. Co. v. Altek Sys., 132 F.3d 701, 705-706 (Fed. Cir. 1997). However, extrinsic evidence "may not be used to vary or contradict the claim language." Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1584; accord, Texas Digital Sys., 308 F.3d at 1212.

A technical term will generally be assigned the ordinary meaning that it would be given by one skilled in the art, unless 'it is apparent from the patent and the prosecution history that the inventor used the term with a different meaning."' Intex, 245 F. Supp. 2d at 68 (citing Phillips Petroleum v. Huntsman Polymers, 157 F. 3d 866, 871 (Fed. Cir. 1998)). "Deviation from the ordinary meaning of claim terms requires clear evidence . . . ." Id. Only when it appears that an inventor assigned a different meaning to the words in a claim than the ordinary meaning can the court adopt that other meaning. Id. (citation omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

The technology at issue in this action "is inflatable mattresses which are sold to consumers, to the consuming public, and that are inflated by the use of an electrical air pump." Transcript of Markman Hearing, June 26, 2007 (Document No. 143) ("June 26, 2007 Tr.") at 21. The disputed claim terms and phrases are (1) "socket"; (2) "electric pump"; (3) "connector"; (4) "inflatable body"; (5) "pump body"; (6) "air outlet"; (7) "connected to"; (8) "received" and (9) "matched[.]" Joint Statement of Disputed Claim Terms and Phrases at 3. Neither party called witnesses at the Markman hearing, and instead, each side relied upon the exhibits offered into evidence and counsel's arguments with respect to the exhibits. See June 26, 2007 Tr. at 9. The proffers and arguments of counsel for the parties, and the undersigned's findings with respect to Intex Recreation Corp. v. Team Worldwide Corp. 6 each disputed term and phrase, are discussed in turn.

A. "Socket"

The term "socket" is used in claims 14--17. Plaintiff contends that term means "a structure that fits and holds onto an inserted part . . . so that the structure and the part are detachably connected to each other." Intex's Brief at 26. Plaintiff contends that the embodiments of the pump and socket make it clear the pump is fitted in, put in or screwed together with the socket. Id. Plaintiff also cites the summary of the invention in the '469 patent's specification in support of its proposed definition of socket, which provides that a pump is "detachably connected to the socket to pump the airbed." Id. Plaintiff also argues that the court should reject the more expansive definition proposed by Defendant because in the '469 patent, Plaintiff contends that a "chambers" or "chamber device," which Defendant includes in the definition of "socket," is an opening or hollow for an inserted part that is not "detachably connected," unlike parts placed in the "socket." Id. at 28-32. Plaintiff contends that Defendant now seeks post hoc to expand the meaning of "socket" to encompass the meaning of "opening or hollow that forms a holder for something," which it has already attributed to "chamber." Id. at 29. Referring to Figs. 2 and 13A in the '469 patent, the Plaintiff contends that by using "socket" and "chamber" to refer to separate and distinct concepts, the court must construe them as having different meanings, as the court similarly did in Bell Atlantic Network Services, Inc., v. Covad Commc'ns Group, Inc., 262 F.3d 1258 (Fed. Cir. 2001). Id. at 28. Plaintiff also contends that the prosecution history shows that the Defendant and the examiner repeatedly used the phrase "socket" to mean a structure that fits and holds onto a detachable pump. Id. 34-35. ...


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