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LOCKFORMER, CO. v. PPG INDUSTRIES

March 21, 2003

THE LOCKFORMER COMPANY, PLAINTIFF, AND TRUSEAL TECHNOLOGIES, INC., CROSS-CLAIM DEFENDANT,
v.
PPG INDUSTRIES, INC., DEFENDANT, AND PPG INDUSTRIES, OHIO, INC., CROSS-CLAIM PLAINTIFF.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The Lockformer Company ("Lockformer") filed suit seeking inter alia a declaration that use of its machinery with RL-50 desiccant does not infringe PPG Industries Ohio, Inc.'s United States Patent No. 5,177,916 (the "'916 patent") and that the patent is invalid or unenforceable. PPG Industries, Inc. ("PPG Industries") and PPG Industries Ohio, Inc. ("PPG Ohio") (collectively "PPG") moved for partial summary judgment on all counts of unenforceability and invalidity except obviousness. Lockforiner and "TruSeal Technologies, Inc. ("TruSeal") moved for partial summary judgment on invalidity for indefiniteness. For the reasons stated herein, PPG's motion is granted and Lockformer and TruSeal's motion is denied.

FACTS

1. Parties

Lockformer, an Illinois corporation, makes and sells machinery used to manufacture metal spacers for double-glazed windows known as insulated glass units ("IGU"s). (R.159-1, Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts on Infringement ¶ 9.) An IGU is manufactured by attaching two panes of glass to the opposing sides of a spacer.*fn1 TruSeal is an Ohio corporation that sells components and machines for use in the IOU industry. (R.152-1, Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts on Validity ¶ 2.) TruSeal is the exclusive distributor of Lockformer's IGU manufacturing machinery. (Id.) It makes a desiccant*fn2 called RL-50 that is used in making IGUs. (R. 159-1, Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts on Infringement ¶ 9.) Defendant PPG Ohio owns the '916 patent and licenses it to Defendant PPG Industries. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.)

II. Litigation History

Judge Coar presided over this case until it was reassigned to this Court on September 12, 2002. Judge Coar explained the history of this case in an August 25, 2001 opinion. See Lockformer Co. v. PPG Indus., Inc., 2001 WL 940555, at *1 (N.D. Ill. 2001). The Court will briefly sum up those facts. Lockformer filed a complaint against Defendants on October 15, 1999. Its amended complaint, filed on January 31, 2000, seeks a declaration that it does not infringe the '916 patent and that the patent is invalid and unenforceable. Defendants countered with a patent infringement claim against Lockformer and third-party defendant TruSeal. Judge Coar held a Markman hewing on December 21, 2000 and construed the '916 patent in his August 25, 2001 order.

III Patent Claim And Markman Hearings

Claim 1 is the only independent claim of the '916 patent. It claims protection for:

A strip to be shaped into spacer stock for maintaining adjacent glass sheets of an insulating unit in a predetermined spaced relationship to one another, the strip comprising:
[1] an clongated flat bendable metal substrate have opposed major surfaces, at least one of the surfaces being fluid impervious, said substrate having a structural stability sufficient to maintain adjacent glass sheets in the fixed relationship when said substrate is shaped into the spacer stock;
[2] an elongated bead of fluid previous adhesive adhered directly to one of said major surfaces spaced from the edges of said substrate, said adhesive having structural stability less than the structural stability of said substrate; and
[3] a desiccant in said bead.

'916 Patent, Col. 6 1ns. 32-43. Judge Coar construed Claim 1 after the Markman hearing as follows:

This claim covers metal stock that will be formed into multi-pane window spacers. The metal strip must be longer than it is wide, planer, and prevent fluid from passing through . . . at least one of the flat sides. The strip mast be pliabic enough to be shaped into spacer stock, but rigid enough to hold panes of glass apart. A bead of adhesive is stuck to one of the strips's flat surfaces. The adhesive must not simply coat the surface but be three dimensional and be longer than it is either tall or wide. The adhesive must also be set in from the edges of the strip and contain a drying agent. Finally, the adhesive must not be as rigid as the metal strip.
Lockfomer Co., 2001 WL 940555 at *3 Judge Coar also construed the term "adhesive" to limit the claim to where "the material stick[s] to the metal strip, at a minimum, throughout the process of shaping the strip into spacer stock and fixing glass to the spacer." Id. at *4

IV. PPG Ohio's Licensing And Tying

PPG Ohio licenses the '916 patent to certain manufacturers of IGUs. (R. 163-1, Lockformer's Resp. to PPG's Statement of Material Facts on Validity & Enforceability ΒΆ 16.) PPG charges its licensees higher ...


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