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Intex Recreation Corporation v. Team Worldwide Corporation

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 10, 2014

INTEX RECREATION CORPORATION, Plaintiff/Counterclaim-Defendant,
v.
TEAM WORLDWIDE CORPORATION, Defendant/Counterclaim-Plaintiff.

OPINION

PAUL L. FRIEDMAN, District Judge.

Ten years ago, defendant Team Worldwide Corporation ("TWW") accused plaintiff Intex Recreation Corporation ("Intex") of infringing the claims of TWW's inflatable product patent. This lawsuit followed, and with it, the initiation of discovery, proceedings on a motion to dismiss, a reexamination by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO"), and claim construction proceedings.

The issue that spurred this lawsuit - whether the air mattresses manufactured by Intex infringe any of the patent claims asserted by TWW - is now before the Court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. The question of infringement turns primarily on whether the air mattresses manufactured by Intex contain "sockets" as that term is used in TWW's patent. After careful review of the patent documents, relevant legal authorities, and the arguments made by the parties in their papers and at oral argument on February 25, 2014, the Court concludes that Intex's air mattresses do not contain "sockets" or their equivalents, and that Intex's products therefore do not infringe TWW's patent. The Court will grant Intex's motion for summary judgment, deny TWW's motion for summary judgment, and enter judgment for Intex on the issue of non-infringement.[1]

I. BACKGROUND

The background of this case was summarized in the Court's September 24, 2013 Claim Construction Opinion and is reviewed only briefly here. Intex and TWW are manufacturers of air mattresses of the sort used in homes and on camping trips. They disagree as to the scope of United States Patent No. 6, 793, 469 B2 ("the '469 Patent"), currently owned by TWW. The invention claimed by the '469 Patent is an inflatable product comprised of an inflatable body, a socket, an electric pump that includes a pump body and an air outlet, and a battery case. See '469 Patent col.1 lines 30-35; id. at col.7 line 24-col.8 line 60. Two embodiments (examples) of the pump-socket connection in the claimed invention are shown below:

On October 8, 2004, shortly after obtaining the '469 Patent, TWW sent a cease-and-desist letter to Intex in which TWW accused Intex of selling inflatable air mattresses that infringed the '469 Patent. TWW Answer and Counterclaim ¶ 7. In response, Intex filed this civil action against TWW, seeking a declaration of non-infringement as to the '469 Patent and a declaration of its invalidity.[2] TWW, in turn, filed a counterclaim asserting that Intex has infringed and continues to infringe the patent.

After discovery and resolution of a motion to dismiss, claim construction proceedings were held before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, who issued her Markman decision on March 3, 2008. Intex Recreation Corp. v. Team Worldwide Corp. , 541 F.Supp.2d 113 (D.D.C. 2008) ("Intex II").[3] Intex timely objected to certain constructions in Magistrate Judge Robinson's decision. Proceedings on these objections, however, were stayed pending the PTO's reexamination of the '469 Patent, which ultimately led to the PTO's issuance of an ex parte reexamination certificate, in which the PTO confirmed that the '469 Patent claims are patentable. See Jt. Status Rpt. 2. On September 24, 2013, the Court issued an opinion and order adopting in part and setting aside in part Magistrate Judge Robinson's decision. Intex Recreation Corp. v. Team Worldwide Corp., ___ F.Supp.2d ___, 2013 WL 5328372 (D.D.C. 2013) ("Intex III"). The parties then filed cross-motions for summary judgment: TWW moved for a finding of literal infringement, and Intex moved for a finding of non-infringement, both literally and under the doctrine of equivalents.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

Determining whether a patent has been infringed involves a two-step analysis: first, the Court must construe the relevant claim language to determine the meaning and scope of the patent claims; and second, the Court must compare the construed claims to the accused device to determine whether each claim element is present, either literally or equivalently. Markman v. Westview Instr., Inc. , 52 F.3d 967, 976 (Fed. Cir. 1995), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370 (1996); see also Freedman Seating Co. v. American Seating Co. , 420 F.3d 1350, 1356-57 (Fed. Cir. 2005); Zodiac Pool Care, Inc. v. Hoffinger Indus., Inc. , 206 F.3d 1408, 1413 (Fed. Cir. 2000).

"[L]iteral infringement requires that each and every limitation set forth in a claim appear in an accused product." Frank's Casing Crew & Rental Tools, Inc. v. Weatherford Int'l, Inc. , 389 F.3d 1370, 1378 (Fed. Cir. 2004)). A product that does not literally infringe a claim, however, nevertheless may infringe under the doctrine of equivalents "if differences between the accused device and the claimed invention are insubstantial.'" Desper Prods., Inc. v. QSound Labs, Inc. , 157 F.3d 1325, 1338 (Fed. Cir. 1998). TWW, as the patentee, has the burden of establishing infringement at trial. See Medtronic, Inc. v. Mirowski Family Ventures, LLC , 134 S.Ct. 843, 846 (2014).

Whether an accused product infringes the properly construed claims of a patent is a question of fact. Desper Prods., Inc. v. QSound Labs, Inc. , 157 F.3d at 1332. As with other types of civil litigation, however, summary judgment is available and appropriate in a patent infringement case when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a); see Taurus IP, LLC v. DaimlerChrysler Corp. , 726 F.3d 1306, 1326 (Fed. Cir. 2013); Frank's Casing Crew & Rental Tools, Inc. v. Weatherford Int'l, Inc. , 389 F.3d at 1378; C.R. Bard, Inc. v. Advanced Cardiovascular Sys., Inc. , 911 F.2d 670, 672 (Fed. Cir. 1990).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Claims 14-17 Of The '469 Patent

The '469 Patent sets forth 17 claims, but only Claims 14 through 17 are relevant to this patent infringement action. See TWW SJ Mot. 1. These claims are listed in the table below:

'469 Patent col.8 lines 29-60 (bold in original).

Of particular importance, the Court has construed the term "socket" as "a structure that fits and holds onto an inserted part so that the structure and the part are detachably connected to each other." Intex III, 2013 WL 5328372, at *16. In so doing, the Court distinguished certain inflatable products in which the electric pump could be easily inserted into and removed from a socket in the inflatable body - which were claimed by the '469 Patent - from unclaimed inflatable products in which the pump was permanently housed inside the mattress. See id. at *10-11 (noting that certain socket-less embodiments with permanent pumps were disclosed but not claimed in the patent specification).

Also relevant here, the term "electric pump" is construed as "an electronically powered machine or device for raising, compressing, or transferring fluids, including gases, " Intex II , 541 F.Supp.2d at 118-19, and the term "pump body" is construed as "the main part of the electric pump and to be a separate and distinct element from the air outlet." Intex III, 2013 WL 5328372, at *16.

B. The Accused Devices

In manufacturing its air bed products, Intex employs two types of pumps accused of infringing the '469 Patent. See TWW SMF ¶ 1; Intex SMF Resp. ¶ 1. The first type, referred to as the "Pump A" models, includes model numbers 619RW and 619RL. TWW SMF ¶ 1; Intex SMF Resp. ¶ 1. The second type, the "Pump B" models, includes model numbers AP619, 639, and 626R. TWW SMF ¶ 1; Intex SMF Resp. ¶ 1. There is no dispute with respect to the structure of the accused pumps. Intex SMF ¶ 13; TWW SMF Resp. ¶ 13.

The Pump A model can inflate, but not deflate, an air mattress. TWW SMF ¶ 6; Intex SMF Resp. ¶ 6. The housing of the pump, which is built into an air mattress, serves as an opening into which various pump components - such as the motor, impeller unit, solenoid, and circuit board - are placed and fastened with screws. Intex SMF ¶¶ 14-15; TWW SMF Resp. ¶¶ 14-15. The faceplate of the pump also is connected to the housing with screws. Intex SMF ¶¶ 15-16; TWW SMF Resp. ¶¶ 15-16. The Pump A model requires between ten and eleven screws, and requires substantial disassembly to remove the pump components from the air mattress. Intex SMF ¶¶ 16-17; TWW SMF Resp. ¶¶ 16-17. The pump can be powered on by flipping a switch located on the ...


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