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AERO PRODUCTS INTERNATIONAL v. INTEX RECREATION CORP.

January 27, 2004.

AERO PRODUCTS INTERNATIONAL, INC., a Florida corporation, and ROBERT B. CHAFFEE, an individual, Plaintiffs,
v.
INTEX RECREATION CORPORATION, a California corporation; QUALITY TRADING, INC., a California corporation; and WAL-MART STORES, INC., a Delaware corporation, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The Plaintiffs, Aero Products International, Inc. ("Aero") and Robert B. Chaffee, filed suit against the Defendants, Intex Recreation Corporation ("Intex"); Quality Trading, Inc. ("Quality Trading"); and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. ("Wal-Mart"). In November 2003, a Markman hearing was held. Presently before the Court is the claim construction of the patent in dispute, U.S. Patent No. 5,367,726 ("the `726 patent").

LEGAL STANDARD

  Terms in a claim are to be given their ordinary and accustomed meaning. K-2 Corp. v. Salomon S.A., 191 F.3d 1356, 1362 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (K-2). The ordinary and accustomed meaning of a disputed claim term is presumed to be the correct one unless either a different meaning is clearly and deliberately set forth in the intrinsic evidence or the ordinary and Page 2 accustomed meaning of the disputed term would deprive the claim of clarity — then extrinsic evidence may be used to ascertain the proper meaning of the term. K-2, 191 F.3d at 1362-63. Limitations that do not exist in a claim should not be read into that claim. However, claim language must be read consistently with the totality of the patent's applicable prosecution history. Biovail Corp. v. Andrx Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 239 F.3d 1297, 1300 (Fed. Cir. 2001) ("Biovail"). In judicial `claim construction' the court must achieve the same understanding of the patent . . . as would a person experienced in the technology of the invention. Such a person would not rely solely on a dictionary of general linguistic usage, but would understand the claims in light of the specification and the prior art, guided by the prosecution history and experience in the technological field." Toro Co, v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 199 F.3d 1295, 1299 (Fed. Cir. 1999).

  To construe a patent claim, a court analyzes the intrinsic evidence of the Record, which includes the claims and written description of the patent itself, and the prosecution history if it is in evidence. See Altiris, Inc. v. Symantec Corp., 318 F.3d 1363, 1375 (Fed. Cir. 2003); Biovail, 239 F.3d at 1300. Dictionary definitions may also be consulted in establishing a claim term's ordinary meaning. Altiris, 318 F.3d at 1369.

  When analyzing the intrinsic evidence, the court starts with the language of the claims and engages in a "heavy presumption" that claim terms carry their ordinary meanings as viewed by one of ordinary skill in the art. Altiris, 318 F.3d at 1369. The specification is highly relevant to the claim construction analysis. The specification is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term. See Teleflex, Inc. v. Ficosa North America Corp., 299 F.3d 1313, 1325 (Fed. Cir. 2002). Page 3 However, while the claims must be read in view of the specification, limitations from the specification are not read into the claim. Teleflex, 299 F.3d at 1326.

  Reliance on extrinsic evidence is improper if the intrinsic evidence unambiguously describes the scope of the patented invention. Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1583 (Fed. Cir. 1996) ("Vitronics"). However, the court is not barred from ever considering extrinsic evidence. See Plant Genetic Sys. v. Dekalb Genetics Corp., 315 F.3d 1335, 1346 (Fed. Cir. 2003) ("Dekalb"); Pitney Bowes, Inc. v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 182 F.3d 1298, 1308 (Fed. Cir. 1999) ("Pitney Bowes"). The court may not rely on extrinsic evidence in claim construction to contradict the meaning of the claims discernible from the intrinsic evidence. See Pitney Bowes, 182 F.3d at 1308; Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1583. Extrinsic evidence, including expert testimony, may be consulted to ensure that the court's claim construction is not inconsistent with the expressed and widely held understanding to one in the field. See Dekalb, 315 F.3d at 1346; Pitney Bowes, 182 F.3d at 1308. For example, a court may rely on extrinsic evidence to understand the underlying technology to ensure that the court's interpretation is not inconsistent with one skilled in the art. See Dekalb, 315 F.3d at 1346; Pitney Bowes, 182 F.3d at 1308-09.

  Dictionaries can help define a term but should not be used exclusively. "[B]ecause words often have multiple dictionary definitions, some having no relation to the claimed invention, the intrinsic Record must always be consulted to identify which of the different possible dictionary meanings of the claim terms in issue is most consistent with the use of the words by the inventor." Intellectual Prop. Dev. v. UA-Columbia Cablevision, 336 F.3d 1308, 1315 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). Page 4

  BACKGROUND

  The `726 patent is a pneumatic support system used to inflate portable mattresses. Claims 9 and 12 are the only independent claims asserted in the present actions. The remaining contested claims, Claims 13-15, depend on Claim 12.

  Claim 9

  The parties dispute several terms in Claim 9. Claim 9 states (with the contested terms emphasized):
An inflatable support system, comprising:
an inflatable body having an interior, an exterior, and inflation input for transfer of air between the interior and the exterior; and
a one-way valve, disposed between the interior and the inflation input, for controlling the transfer of air, providing a substantially hermetic seal under low pressure conditions, such valve including:
a circular lip, disposed peripherally in the passageway and protruding radially inward, having a first surface generally facing the interior, defining a valve seat;
a flexible circular diaphragm, having an interior surface generally facing the interior and an outer surface facing away from the interior mounted for axial movement in the passageway away from and against the valve seat in respectively open and closed positions of the valve, so that an outer annular region of the outer surface of the diaphragm engages against the valve seat in the closed position; and
  a generally circular coupling defining the passageway, the coupling having an open end defining the inflation input and a flared end, contiguous therewith, providing the circular lip, so that the (i) coupling at the open end has a smaller internal diameter than at the flared end and (ii) the diaphragm can be pushed axially to open the valve by reaching into the open end of the coupling. Page 5

  Claim 12

  The parties dispute terms in Claim 12 as well. Many of these terms are also found in Claim 9. Claim 12 states (with the contested terms emphasized):
An inflatable body comprising:
an inflatable bladder having an interior and an inflation input;
a one-way valve disposed between the interior and the inflation input providing a substantially hermetic seal under low pressure conditions, such valve including:
a passageway having a generally circular cross section and a first end in communication with the interior and a second end in communication with the inflation input;
a circular Up, disposed peripherally in the passageway and protruding radially inward, having a first surface generally facing the interior, defining a valve seat;
a flexible circular diaphragm, having an inner surface generally facing the interior and an outer surface facing away from the interior, mounted for axial movement in the passageway away from and against the valve seat in the respectively open and closed positions of the valve, so that (i) the act of inflation of the bladder under low pressure is sufficient to cause axial motion of the valve into the open position to permit the large influx of air and (ii) following inflation of the bladder, air pressure created in the interior the bladder by inflation thereof causes an outer annular region of the outer surface of the diaphragm to be urged into engagement against the valve seat to provide a complete hermetic seal when the valve is in the closed position; and
stiffening means for reducing flexing of the diaphragm except in its outer annular region.
ANALYSIS
  The parties dispute multiple terms in each claim. Six of these terms are interrelated; and, therefore, construing the claims of one of these terms affects the construction of ...

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