permanent part of the sleeve. Because the annular opening is not permanent
but is created and dismantled when the filter cup and filter are attached
or taken out of the hopper, the opening is not permanent and cannot
therefore literally infringe the `996 patent.
2. Infringement Under the Doctrine of Equivalents
Although the Recovery System does not literally have a sleeve, as
interpreted by this Court, if it has an element which is its equivalent,
then there can still be infringement Using the function-way-results test
to compare the Brita and Recovery Systems, this Court determines as a
matter of law that the Recovery System does not infringe the `996 patent
under the doctrine of equivalents.
According to Brita, the function of the sleeve is "surrounding the
filter, providing a generally enclosed chimney for the outflow of air,
and allowing the filtered water to flow into the pitcher." Brita's
Recovery Opposition Memorandum at 3. Assuming this is the correct
interpretation of the function of Brita's sleeve, Recovery argues
vehemently that this is not the function of its sleeve. Its sleeve
"collects carbon fines from the filter, keeps the filter wetted, and
slows the rate of flow of water." Recovery's Reply at 6. There is
substantial undisputed evidence that this is exactly what Recovery's
pitcher does. This is not merely the addition of elements, as Brita
suggests, but is a substantially different function for the "sleeve."
Moreover, even if the functions of the `996 sleeve and Recovery's
sleeve are the same, the way in which they perform the function is
entirely different. Recovery's sleeve causes water to flow into the
pitcher in a substantially different way. As Brita has admitted,
Recovery's sleeve does not simply allow water to fall into the pitcher
from the filter bottom but slows down the flow of the water from the
filter so that the filter does a better job in purifying the water. The
result is thus quite the opposite from the result of Brita's invention,
as the purpose of the `996 invention, as disclosed to the patent office,
is the increase in the rate of water flow.
This Recovery sleeve therefore fails the function-way-result test and
does not infringe the `996 patent under the doctrine of equivalents.
C. "to the opening in said sleeve"
Because Brita discusses two separate openings in Recovery's sleeve as
candidates for this claim limitation, this Court will examine each
1. Annular Opening
Even if the "opening in said sleeve" could mean the opening at the
intersection of the two sleeve components, the only chimney that runs up
to the opening is almost entirely blocked by the ridge in the side of the
filter cap. A chimney which by design is entirely blocked is no chimney
at all. The Recovery System therefore does not contain a chimney which
reaches the top of the filter.
2. Opening in the Sleeve
The chimney is not blocked at the point it passes the opening in the
sleeve in the Recovery System through which the purified water flows out
into the pitcher. This opening, however, bears no resemblance to the
opening in the `996 patent. The opening in the Recovery System is the
opening for the flow of water, and the chimney is in fact a conduit for
the purified water. These elements in the Recovery System are in no way
similar to what Brita asserts are the corresponding elements in the `996
patent. Brita's arguments that these are corresponding elements defies
logic and rational argument. These elements in Brita's System, as
articulated in excruciating detail and at exhaustive length in Brita's
patent, do not correspond to any elements in Recovery's product.
D. Prior Art Preclusion
Because the Court has determined that Recovery's product does not
infringe the `996 patent, this Court will not examine Recovery's argument
that prior art precludes a finding of infringement as a matter of law.
For these reasons, Recovery's motion for summary judgment is granted.
For the reasons outline in this opinion, Culligan, Signature, and
Recovery's motions for summary judgment are GRANTED. Brita's motions are
denied as moot. Brita's complaint is hereby DISMISSED.
© 1992-2003 VersusLaw Inc.