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Pride Mobility Products Corporation v. Permobil, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

April 5, 2016

PRIDE MOBILITY PRODUCTS CORPORATION, Appellant
v.
PERMOBIL, INC., Appellee

Appeals from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patent Trial and Appeal Board in Nos. IPR2013-00407, IPR2013-00411.

Gary H. Levin, Baker & Hostetler LLP, Philadelphia, PA, argued for appellant. Also represented by Harold H. Fullmer, Daniel J. Goettle.

Amy K. Wigmore, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, Washington, DC, argued for appellee. Also represented by Owen K. Allen, Heath Brooks, David Langdon Cavanaugh, Richard Anthony Crudo.

Before Reyna, Taranto, and Chen, Circuit Judges.

TARANTO, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

Pride Mobility Products Corp. owns U.S. Patent Nos. 8, 408, 598 and 8, 408, 343, which disclose and claim wheelchairs designed to travel stably over obstacles. The Patent and Trademark Office's Patent Trial and Appeal Board, acting through a panel under authority delegated by the Director, instituted inter partes reviews of the '598 and '343 patents on petitions filed by Permobil, Inc. under 35 U.S.C. § 311 et seq. After reviewing the patents, the Board cancelled all claims of both patents for obviousness. Permobil, Inc. v. Pride Mobility Prods. Corp., IPR2013-407, 2014 WL 7405755 (PTAB Dec. 31, 2014) ('598 Decision); Permobil, Inc. v. Pride Mobility Prods. Corp., IPR2013-411, 2014 WL 7405756 (PTAB Dec. 31, 2014) ('343 Decision). Pride Mobility's appeal centers on two issues: (1) whether the Board misconstrued claim 7 of the '343 patent, which requires a "substantially planar" mounting plate "oriented perpendicular" to the axis of the claimed wheelchair's drive wheel; and (2), as to all other claims, whether the Board erred in concluding that a relevant skilled artisan would have been motivated to make the claimed wheelchair by lowering the position of a pivot in a prior-art wheelchair. We reverse the Board's construction and cancellation of claim 7 of the '343 patent. As to the other claims, we affirm.

Background

Pride Mobility and Permobil compete for sales of power wheelchairs. The '598 and '343 patents disclose wheelchairs that raise their front wheels (called caster wheels) in response to torque from the chairs' motors, enhancing the capacity of the chairs to travel stably over obstacles. '598 patent, col. 2, line 55, through col. 3, line 3; '343 patent, col. 2, lines 16–31. Figure 2 of the '598 patent and Figure 3B of the '343 patent are illustrative:

(IMAGE OMITTED)

As shown in Figure 2, the '598 patent discloses a chair with a frame 3, a drive wheel 6 centered around drive-wheel axis Pa, a front caster wheel 16 centered around caster-wheel axis 16a, and an arm 24 connecting the front caster wheel to the frame, the arm itself connected to the frame by pivot axis 24a. '598 patent, col. 4, lines 35-62. Importantly, the pivot axis is below a straight line drawn between the drive-wheel axis Pa and front-caster-wheel axis 16a. When the wheelchair accelerates or climbs a curb or other obstacle, the arm 24 rotates clockwise about the pivot axis, lifting the front caster wheel. Id., col. 5, lines 41-55.

The '343 patent discloses a chair that is similar in relevant respects. See '343 patent, Figs. 1, 3A, 3B, & 5; id., col. 7, line 51, through col. 8, line 8. Figure 3B shows portions of the '343 patent's chair relevant to the issue presented by claim 7 of that patent. A part of each of a left and right drive assembly (not numbered in Figure 3B) is a mounting plate (number 56 in other Figures), a portion of which is shown in Figure 3B as 57b. See id., col. 7, lines 60–63; id., col. 8, lines 27–32. That part of the mounting plate contains a pivot 29. The plate connects at its top to the roughly horizontal (slightly bent) front arm (numbered 60 in other Figures), which in turn connects to a caster wheel 66. Id., col. 8, lines 27–35, 60–62; id., col. 11, lines 21–28. As in the '598 patent's chair, the relevant pivot of the '343 patent's chair is positioned below a line drawn between the chair's drive-wheel axis A-dw and the front-caster-wheel axis (not numbered).

Claim 1 of the '343 patent, representative of most of the claims at issue, reads:

1. A wheelchair ...

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