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WATERLOO FURNITURE COMPONENTS, LTD. v. HAWORTH

June 18, 1992

WATERLOO FURNITURE COMPONENTS, LTD., Plaintiff,
v.
HAWORTH, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES B. MORAN

 Plaintiff Waterloo Furniture Components, Ltd. (Waterloo) filed this declaratory judgment action against defendant Haworth, Inc. (Haworth), owner of U.S. Patent No. 4,616,798 ('798 patent), asking this court to find that the '798 patent is invalid and unenforceable, and that Waterloo did not infringe the patent claims. In its answer, Haworth admitted charging Waterloo with infringing the '798 claims and filed a counterclaim charging infringement. *fn1" Waterloo now moves for summary judgment, alleging that claims 22 and 31 through 38 of the '798 patent are invalid because they do not satisfy the definiteness requirement of 35 U.S.C. § 112, P 2. *fn2" Alternatively, plaintiff asks this court to find that the claims at issue are limited to the structures described in the '798 patent, or their equivalents. For the reasons stated, we deny plaintiff's motion.

 I. FACTS

 The '798 patent claims an apparatus that can be used to support a device such as a computer keyboard. The claimed apparatus comprises a tray which is stored underneath the primary work surface, such as a desk. This tray can be pulled out and pivoted vertically to a desired working position. The tray also may be pivoted around a vertical axis, if desired by the user.

 Claim 22 is representative of claims at issue in this case. The critical clauses in that claim are emphasized:

 22. In combination, a primary work support defining thereon an enlarged upwardly facing primary work surface, the primary support having a front edge adjacent the primary work surface, an auxiliary shelflike support defining thereon an enlarged upwardly facing auxiliary work surface adapted for supporting a keyboard unit thereon, the auxiliary shelflike support having front and rear edges and spaced side edges so that the auxiliary support is of substantial sideward extent, and mounting means connecting said primary and auxiliary work supports together for movably supporting the auxiliary support relative to the primary support in the vicinity of the front edge of the primary support, the improvement wherein said mounting means comprises:

 carriage means positioned under and movably mounted on the underside of said primary support for linear horizontal translation of said carriage means relative to said primary support along a direction which extends substantially perpendicularly with respect to the front edge of said primary support, said carriage means permits horizontal linear translation of said auxiliary support relative to said primary support between (1) an inner storage position wherein the auxiliary support is disposed substantially directly under said primary support, (2) an outer use position wherein said auxiliary support is positioned entirely forwardly of the primary support so that the rear edge of the auxiliary support is spaced forwardly a substantial distance from the front edge of the primary support, and (3) an intermediate use position wherein the auxiliary support is still positioned in its entirety forwardly of said primary support but is disposed with its rear edge horizontally closely adjacent the front edge of the primary support;

 first means positioned under said primary support and mounted on said carriage means;

 second means mounted on said auxiliary support and positioned below the underside thereof;

 said link means comprising a vertical parallelogram linkage including a pair of elongated and substantially parallel upper links disposed in adjacent but sidewardly spaced relationship, said pair of upper links having their rearward ends pivotally joined to said first means about a first substantially horizontal pivot axis and their outer ends pivotally joined to said second means about a second substantially horizontal pivot axis, the sideward spacing between said pair of upper links being a small fraction of the overall sideward extent of said auxiliary support, and an elongated lower link positioned sidewardly between said upper links and having its rearward end pivotally joined to said first means about a third substantially horizontal pivot axis and its outer end pivotally joined to said second means about a fourth substantially horizontal pivot axis;

 stop means coacting between said link means and said primary support and effective when the auxiliary support is in said partially lowered and raised use positions for preventing inward movement of the auxiliary support from said intermediate use position toward said inner storage position so as to prevent the keyboard unit from being struck by the primary support, said stop means including a stop which is fixedly positioned adjacent the underside of said primary support and is spaced rearwardly from the front edge thereof, said stop means being ineffective when the auxiliary support is in said lowered storage position for permitting the auxiliary support to be slidably displaced into said inner storage position; and

 means for locking said link means at either of said end positions or at any intermediate position therebetween to prevent vertical swinging thereof, said locking means including a readily-accessible, manually-engageable locking member for controlling the locking and unlocking of said link means.

 Waterloo contends that these clauses make the claims at issue indefinite because they recite a means without specifying a function, ...


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