United States District Court, D. Connecticut
CLAIM CONSTRUCTION RULING
R. UNDERHILL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
LLC (“Floodbreak”) filed suit against Art Metal
Industries, LLC (“AMI”) and its principal owner,
Kevin F. Biebel,  for patent infringement of United States
Patent No. 9, 752, 342 (“the ‘342 patent”),
pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 271 et seq. Compl.,
Doc. No. 1, at ¶ 4. The ‘342 patent relates to a
flood protection apparatus for underground air vents.
and AMI have submitted claim construction arguments
concerning three terms: (1) “stops”, as used in
independent claims 1, 22, 23, and 24 of the ‘342
patent, (2) “profile”, as used in independent
claims 1, 22, 23, and 24, and (3) “gravitational
rotation”, as used in independent claims 23 and 24.
Floodbreak has generally argued against the need for claim
construction, asserting that the claim language at issue has
an ordinary meaning understood by a person of skill in the
art, while AMI has generally argued for more narrow
definitions of the terms at issue.
reasons discussed below, I find that that the terms
“stops” and “profile” do not require
construction because they each have an ordinary meaning to
those skilled in the art. I find, however, that the term
“gravitational rotation” does not have ordinary
meaning to those skilled in the art, and thus requires
construction. I construe that term below.
alleges that AMI directly infringed, and continues to
infringe, one or more claims of the ‘342 patent”
by making, using, offering to sell, and selling innovative
Mechanical Closure Devices (“MCDs”), which are
covered by the ‘342 patent, and which Floodbreak
therefore owns. Id. at ¶¶ 8-10. MCDs are
used in ventilation ducts and serve to block flooding water
from entering underground ventilation passages in the New
York City subway system. Id. at ¶ 10.
alleges that “AMI has copied Floodbreak's
technology and partners with installers…to enter into
contracts with the New York City Transit Authority to supply
an MCD which has been represented as being ‘equal to
the specified Flood Break unit.” Id. at ¶
11. Floodbreak alleges that AMI continues to make, use, offer
to sell, and sell Floodbreak's MCD units with full
knowledge of infringement of the ‘342 patent.
Id. at ¶ 19.
seeks a court order permanently enjoining AMI's
infringing activities. Id. at 7. Floodbreak also
seeks money damages as well as costs, expenses, and
reasonable attorneys' fees. Id.
complaint was filed on March 26, 2018. Doc. No. 1. On May 11,
2018, AMI filed an answer. Doc. No. 23. After a Rule 16
conference, a Markman claim construction hearing was
scheduled. Doc. No. 28. A joint claim construction statement
was filed by the parties on October 19, 2018. Doc. No. 35. A
joint appendix of intrinsic evidence was filed by the parties
on October 26, 2018. Doc. No. 36. Floodbreak and AMI filed
opening claim construction briefs on November 19, 2018. Doc.
Nos. 38 and 39. Both parties filed responses on December 18,
2018. Doc. Nos. 41 and 42. Affidavits were filed by both
parties on that same day. Doc. Nos. 43, 44, and 45. I held a
hearing on January 8, 2019. Doc. No. 47.
general matter, the claims of a patent define the invention
that a patentee is granted the right to exclude others from
making or using, with the specification in a patent serving
as a basic presentation teaching that invention. See,
e.g., Innova/Pure Water Inc. v. Safari Water
Filtration Systems, Inc., 381 F.3d 1111, 1115 (Fed. Cir.
2004); Oak Technology Inc. v. International Trade
Commission, 248 F.3d 1316, 1328-29 (Fed. Cir. 2001).
Courts construe claims in order to resolve ambiguities and to
assign meaning to claims so that a patentee's right to
exclude is clearly defined. Liquid Dynamics Corp. v.
Vaughan Co., 355 F.3d 1361, 1367 (Fed. Cir. 2004).
Because the claims define an invention, limitations should
not be read from the specification into those claims, but a
claim should be read in light of the specification.
Comark Communications, Inc. v. Harris Corp., 156
F.3d 1182, 1186-87 (Fed. Cir. 1998). This can be difficult,
because “the distinction between using the
specification to interpret the meaning of a claim and
importing limitations from the specification into the claim
can be a difficult one to apply in practice.”
Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1323 (Fed.
Phillips, the Federal Circuit discussed, clarified,
and re-affirmed principles of claim construction, providing
courts with direction in the manner in which claims should be
construed. First, the claims themselves provide substantial
guidance about the meaning of particular claim terms.
Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576,
1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996). “[T]he context in which a term
is used in the asserted claim can be highly instructive....
[T]he use of a term within the claim provides a firm basis
for construing the term.” Phillips, 415 F.3d
at 1314. The use of a term in one claim can help demonstrate
the meaning of that term in another claim, and differences
among claims can also guide understanding. See
Rexnord Corp. v. Laitram Corp., 274 F.3d 1336, 1342
(Fed. Cir. 2001); Laitram Corp. v. Rexnord, Inc.,
939 F.2d 1533, 1538 (Fed. Cir. 1991). Notably, when a
dependent claim adds a limitation that is not present in the
claim on which it depends, the independent claim is presumed
to be free of that limitation. Liebel-Flarsheim Co. v.
Medrad, Inc., 358 F.3d 898, 910 (Fed. Cir. 2004).
claims are part of the patent as a whole, “claims must
be read in view of the specification, of which they are a
part.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1315 (internal
quotation marks omitted) (citing Markman v. Westview
Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 979-81 (Fed. Cir. 1995)
(en banc), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370 (1996)). That
specification is “highly relevant to the claim
construction analysis ... [and is] the single best guide to
the meaning of a disputed term.” Vitronics, 90
F.3d at 1582. The scope and construction of claims, then, is
determined by “giving claims their broadest reasonable
construction in light of the specification as it would be
interpreted by one of ordinary skill in the art.”
Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1316 (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted). In other words, the specification may
indicate certain outer limits of a claim's scope, but
that claim may be broader than the embodiments identified and
discussed in a patent's specification.
as discussed below, the specifications in the ‘342
patent are instructive regarding the meaning and proper
construction of the claim terms “stops” and
“profile”. Therefore, I limit my discussion of
those terms to the claims and their specifications, and do
not consult the patents' prosecution histories or any
extrinsic sources, such as dictionaries or trade
publications. For the term “gravitational
rotation”, however, the prosecution history must be
examined to reach a determination, as discussed below.
has generally argued against the need for claim construction,
asserting that the claim language at issue has an ordinary
meaning understood by a person of skill in the art.
SeePhillips, 415 F.3d at 1316 (internal
quotation marks and citation ...