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BRANDT, INC. v. CRANE

March 17, 1983

BRANDT, INC., A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF WISCONSIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILLIAM CRANE, D/B/A MONEY PROCESSING CONSULTANTS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Aspen, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Brandt, Inc. ("Brandt") brought this patent action against William Crane, doing business as Money Processing Consultants ("Crane"), alleging infringement of its Patent No. 4,114,804 ("the patent"), which covers a counterfeit bill detection device manufactured and distributed by Brandt.*fn1 The matter now comes before this Court on Crane's motions to dismiss and for summary judgment.*fn2 For the reasons set forth below, the motions will be denied.

According to its abstract, the patent covers a machine that counts stacks of documents, particularly legal tender, and tests the documents for certain properties of genuineness. More specifically, the machine tests bills for fluorescence and magnetic characteristics. A "suspect" bill automatically stops the machine and consequently halts the counting process. The suspect bill is concurrently isolated in an "outfeed" stacker for further investigation of genuineness.

In its complaint, Brandt claims that the patent is infringed by a counterfeit detection machine, Billcon Model H-180CF ("the Billcon machine"), which was sold by Crane to a Chicago bank. Specifically, Brandt alleges that the Billcon machine employs a means for detecting the magnetic characteristics of bills being counted that is substantially identical to the means described in Claim 16 of the patent.*fn3 Crane moves for summary judgment on Brandt's complaint, contending that the Billcon machine uses neither the means described in Claim 16 for detecting magnetic characteristics nor any other means covered by the patent.*fn4 Crane further alleges in support of both dismissal and summary judgment that Claim 16 is invalid on the ground that the claim as written is not sufficiently clear to satisfy the standards set forth in 35 U.S.C. § 112.

I.

We first address Crane's contention that Claim 16 is invalid. Crane asserts that Claim 16 as originally filed is unintelligible "gobbledygook"*fn5 and does not meet the standard for clarity of patent claims set forth in 35 U.S.C. § 112.*fn6

  As originally filed, the challenged portion of Claim 16 reads:

   . . sensing means for sensing the presence of a
  magnetic field created by particles on said bill
  magnetized by said magnetizing means for generating a
  suspect signal when the position of the bill passing
  said magnetizing contains no magnetized particles. .
  . .
(Emphasis added). Subsequent to the filing of this litigation,
Brandt filed an application with the Patent Office for a
certificate of correction with respect to three claims, including
Claim 16. On October 8, 1982, Brandt's counsel was notified by
letter that the Patent Office had ruled in its favor, and that
"the Certificate of Correction will issue in due course." As
corrected, Claim 16 reads in relevant part:

   . . sensing means for sensing the presence of a
  magnetic field created by particles on said bill
  magnetized by said magnetizing means for generating a
  suspect signal when the portion of the bill passing
  said magnetizing means contains no magnetized
  particles. . . .

(Emphasis added). In sum, the word "position" was corrected to read "portion," and the word "means" was inserted after the word "magnetizing."

35 U.S.C. § 255 provides that clerical or typographical errors not the fault of the Patent Office may be corrected "if the correction does not involve such changes in the patent as would constitute new matter or would require reexamination."*fn7 The statute permits a minor error, when made in good faith, to be corrected. Eagle Iron Works v. McLanahan Corp., 429 F.2d 1375, 1383, 166 U.S.P.Q. 225, 231 (3d Cir. 1970).

In granting Brandt's application for a certificate of correction pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 255, the patent examiner concluded "that no new matter has been introduced, that no reexamination is required, and that the scope of the claimed subject matter is not affected since the corrections merely reflect what was always intended by both patentees and the examiner."*fn8 After the initial decision to grant the certificate of correction was made, Crane's opposition to the application for a correction, including Crane's contention that Claim 16 was unintelligible and thus invalid, was brought to the attention of the Patent Office. A subsequent letter to Brandt's counsel from the same Patent Office official acknowledges receipt of Crane's letters in opposition, and concludes:

  Upon consideration of the opposition to the issuance
  of the certificate of correction and patentees'
  response to that opposition, the decision of August
  6, 1982, has been reconsidered but is adhered to. The

  certificate of correction will issue in due
  course.*fn9

Both in deference to the ruling of the Patent Office and upon our own examination of the entire patent materials, we refuse to accept Crane's contention that Claim 16 is unintelligible either in its original or amended form.*fn10 The two typographical errors corrected by the certificate were hardly so substantial as to convert "gobbledygook" into an intelligible claim. Crane's motion to dismiss will therefore be ...


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