Short Circuit: January 29 – February 10, 2013
This claim construction case arose out of the United Stated District Court for the Southern District of Texas and considered a patent for Accent Package, Inc.’s (“Accent”) wire tier device that was used to bale recyclables for easier handling. Accent appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Leggett & Platt (“Leggett”) which held Leggett did not infringe Accent’s device on several claims.
Accent’s patent disclosed a wire tier device including, “[an] operator assembly including a pivotal shaft assembly and elongated operator bodies, with each of the operator bodies being operably couple with a respective one of said gripper, knotter, cutting element, and cover . . . .” The main issue in the case was whether this limitation only protected tier devices with four operator bodies—each devoted to gripping, knotting, cutting, and covering respectively—or was broad enough to include tier devices with only two operator bodies, such as Leggett’s potentially infringing invention. The CAFC reversed the lower court, and held that nothing in the claim’s language required four operator bodies.
Full Citation: Accent Packaging Inc. v. Leggett & Platt, Inc., __ F.3d __, No. 2012-1011 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 29, 2013).
Find the full opinion here
Arkema Inc. v. Honeywell Int’l Inc.
This suit arises out of a dispute between two manufacturers of automobile refrigerants. The Defendant, Honeywell, owned two patents, which claimed methods of using 1234yf, a refrigerant with a low global warming potential, that has become “the de facto standard refrigerant in Europe and the United States.” Arkema had plans for selling 1234yf to automotive manufactures, and, fearing liability, filed suit against Honewell seeking a declaratory judgment for invalidity and noninfringment. The District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania held that this claim was not justiciable because as a supplier, not a manufacturer, Arkema would not be using 1234yf and therefore could not directly infringe Honeywell’s patent. The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, stating, “[o]n its face, this is a quintessential example of a situation in which declaratory relief is warranted.”
The fundamental error in the trial court’s reasoning was the notion that declaratory judgment is generally reserved for cases of potential direct infringement. The CAFC dismissed this notion and explained that, in Honeywell’s view, there was “no question that both the automobile manufacturers and their ultimate consumers . . . infringe the method patents.” In other words, if Arkema agreed to sell 1234yf to car manufactures, there would be no question that Honeywell could sue Arkema for indirect infringement. As a result, Arkema had an immediate economic need to understand the bounds of Honeywell’s patent rights, and the claim for declaratory judgment was justiciable.
Full Citation: Arkema Inc. v. Honewell Int’l Inc, __ F.3d __, No 2012-1308 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 1, 2013).
Find the full opinion here