The opinion of the court was delivered by: AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Papst Licensing GmbH and Co. KG ("Papst"), a German company,
accuses Defendants Sunon Inc., a California corporation, and Beyond
Components of Illinois, Inc., an Illinois corporation (collectively
"Sunon")*fn1, of infringing United States Patent No. 4,734,015 (*the
`015 patent"). On March 2, 2004, the Court conducted a hearing during
which it heard evidence and argument regarding the construction of Claim
29 of the `015 patent, the only
disputed claim. The Court's construction of Claim 29 is set forth
A determination of patent infringement is a two-step process in which
the Court first construes the claims. Cybor Corp. v. FAS Techs., Inc.,
138 F.3d 1448, 1454 (Fed. Cir. 1998) (en bane). Claim construction, the
interpretation of the patent claims that define the scope of a patentee's
rights under a patent, is a matter of law exclusively for the court.
Markman v. West view Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 970-971 (Fed. Cir.
1995) (en banc), off'd 517 U.S. 370 (1996). The factfinder then compares
the properly construed claims to the accused device to determine, as a
question of fact, whether all of the claim limitations are present in the
accused device, Cybor, 138 F.3d at 1454,
The language of the claims is the starting point for all claim
construction analysis, because it frames and ultimately resolves all
issues of claim interpretation. Robotic Vision Sys., Inc. v. View Bug's,
Inc., 189 F.3d 1370, 1375 (Fed. Cir. 1999); Abtox, Inc. v. Exitron Corp.,
122 F.3d 1019, 1023 (Fed. Cir. 1997). In construing an asserted claim,
the analytical focus of the construction must begin, and remain
centered, on the language of the claims themselves. Texas Digital Sys.,
Inc. v. Telegenix, Inc., 308 F.3d 1193, 1201-02 (Fed. Cir. 2002).
In the absence of an express intent by the patentee to impart a novel
meaning to a claim term, the words are presumed to take on the ordinary
and customary meaning attributed to them by those of ordinary skill in
the art. Teleflex, Inc. v. Ficosa N. Am. Corp., 299 F.3d 1313, 1325
(Fed. Cir. 2002). The Court may determine the ordinary and customary
meaning of a claim term by reviewing a variety of sources, beginning with
the intrinsic evidence consisting of the claim
terms themselves, the written specification, drawings, and prosecution
history. Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed.
Cir. 1996). The Court may consult dictionaries, encyclopedias and
treatises to determine the ordinary meaning of a word. Texas Digital, 308
F.3d at 1202-1203.
II. Means-Plus-Function Claims
A claim limitation may be expressed in means-plus-function format in
accordance with 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6.*fn2 Section 112, ¶ 6 allows the
patentee to define the structure for performing a particular function
genetically through the use of a means expression, provided that it
discloses specific structure corresponding to that means in the patent
specification. Kemco. Sales, Inc. v. Control Papers Co., 208 F.3d 1352,
1360-61 (Fed. Cir. 2000). Whether claim language invokes section 112, ¶
6 is an exercise of claim construction and is therefore a question of
law. Wenger Mfg., Inc. v. Coating Mach. Sys., Inc., 239 F.3d 1225, 1231
(Fed. Cir. 2001).
The use of the word "means" gives rise to "a presumption that the
inventor used the term advisedly to invoke the statutory mandates for
means-plus-function clauses." Micro Chem., Inc. v. Great Plains Chem.
Co., 194 F.3d 1250
, 1257 (Fed. Cir. 1999). This presumption, however, is
not conclusive. For example, where a claim uses the word "means," but
specifies no corresponding function for the "means," section 112, ¶ 6
does not apply. Rodime PLC v. Seagate Tech., Inc., 174 F.3d 1294
(Fed. Cir. 1999); York Prods., Inc. v. Cent. Tractor Farm & Family Ctr.,
99 F.3d 1568, 1574 (Fed. Cir. 1996). Similarly, where a claim recites a
but then goes on to elaborate sufficient structure, material, or acts
within the claim itself to perform entirely the recited function, the
claim is not in means-plus-function format. Sage Prods, v. Devon Indus.,
Inc., 126 F.3d 1420
, 1427-28 (Fed. Cir. 1997); Cole v. Kimberly-Clark
Corp., 102 F.3d 524, 531 (Fed. Cir. 1996),
The `015 patent discloses an axial-flow fan having a higher efficiency
than known axial-flow fans. The fan operates as follows. The fan blades
(impellers) are rotated by a motor contained in the hub. The hub and
motor are fixed to the fan housing by means of a motor mounting flange.
The rotation of the motor and the fan blades causes air to enter the
inlet side of the fan, accelerate, and blow out of the outlet side of the
fan. Axial-flow fans of this type are typically used in applications
where low noise, high air output, and small size are required. One such
application is cooling computer equipment.
Papst alleges that Sunon manufactures various axial-flow fans that
infringe Claim 29. Claim 29 recites:
An axial-flow fan comprising
a drive motor means,
a scroll plate means surrounding an impeller means
having a hub, an inner contour of said scroll plate
means having a cylindrical configuration in a
vicinity of an axial median plane of the fan and
extending towards an inlet side of the fan and with
an outlet side of the scroll plate means formed into
a polygonal profile circumscribing an impeller
diameter and accompanied by formation of comer
areas, and a central, coaxial core means formed by
the drive motor means, the impeller hub and a
mounting flange for the drive motor means, said core
means having an annular surface reduced in diameter
towards the inlet side, the annular surface having
an axial length extending for a given distance along
the length of the hub, and with respect to the axial
median plane, the scroll plate means being
asymmetrical in the corner areas and being
cylindrical over a longer distance from the axial
medial plane to the inlet side than to the outlet
side and wherein the impeller means has an outside
edge which extends from an area adjacent the inlet
side of the fan into the comer areas.
`015 patent, col. 9, M. 19-39 (emphases added). The disputed claim
language is emphasized. For convenience, the Court addresses each of the
eleven disputed elements in the order in which they appear in Claim 29.
I. The Disputed Claim Terms
A. Element 1: "Drive Motor Means"
Element 1 contains the term "drive motor means." The use of the word
"means" creates a presumption that section 112, ¶ 6 applies.
Personalized Media Communications, LLC v. Int'l Trade Comm'n, 161 F.3d 696,
702 (Fed. Cir. 1998). Sunon contends that section 112, ¶ 6 applies to
Element 1, and that the recited "function" of the "drive motor means" is
to "drive the blades of the fan." (R. 96-1, Defs.' Claim Constr. Br. at
11.) Papst argues that section 112, ¶ 6 does not apply because the claim
does not recite a function that corresponds to the means. The Court
agrees with Papst.
The claim language does not state a function. Rather, the claim term
"drive motor means" recites a definite structure, i.e., the drive motor.
See Cole, 102 F.3d at 531; see also Pirelli Cable Corp. v. Ciena Corp.,
988 F. Supp. 424, 434 (D. Del. 1997) (holding that the term "optical
coupling means" recites a definite structure, "the optical coupler").
Sunon fails to identify any language within Claim 29-or anywhere else in
the patent-that suggests that the term "drive motor means" has a
corresponding function, and that the corresponding function is
"to drive the blades of the fan." Because there is no corresponding
function for the "means," section 112, ¶ 6 does not apply to the "drive
motor means" term. Rodime PLC v. Seagate Tech., Inc., 174 F.3d 1294, 1302
(Fed. Cir. 1999); Sage Prods., 126 F.3d at 1427; York Prods., 99 F.3d at
Papst argues that the Court should define the term "drive motor means"
to mean any type of electric motor that is used to drive a fan. The
parties do not dispute the meaning of the word "motor," and the
specification indicates that the "drive motor" is simply an electric motor
that drives the fan. See `015 patent, col. 5, 11. 51-53. Papst contends
that the Court should further construe the term "drive motor means" to
specifically include both types of motors that are typically used to drive
fans-AC motors and DC motors. Papst argues that Figure 2 of the *015
patent depicts a squirrel cage motor, which one skilled in the art would
recognize as an AC motor. Nothing in the claim language or the
specification, however, expressly includes or excludes any particular type
of electric motor from the scope of the claim. Accordingly, the Court
interprets Element 1 to mean any type of electric motor that is used to
drive a fan.
B. Element 2: "A Scroll Plate Means Surrounding An Impeller Means
Having A Hub"
Element 2 of Claim 29 requires "a scroll plate means surrounding an
impeller means having a hub." For clarity, the Court separately addresses
whether section ¶ 12, ¶ 6 applies to the terms "scroll plate means" and
I. Section 112, ¶ 6 Does Not Apply To Either Term
Sunon asserts that the use of the word "means" creates a presumption
that section 112, ¶ 6 applies, and that the function of the "scroll
plate means" is "to surround the impeller means."
(R. 96-1, Defs.' Claim Constr. Br. at 12.) The word "surrounding,"
however, does not specify a function. Rather, the word "surrounding"
refers to a structural relationship between the fan housing, the fan
blades, and the hub. Further, the term "scroll plate means" recites
structure, i.e.t the scroll plate (the fan housing). Cole, 102 F.3d at
531; Piretti Cable, 988 F. Supp. at 434. Because there is no corresponding
function for the "means," section 112, ¶ 6 does not apply to the "scroll
plate means" term. Rodime, 174 F.3d at 1302; Sage Prods., 126 F.3d at 1427;
York Prods., 99 F.3d at 1574.
Sunon argues that the use of the word "means" creates a presumption
that section 112, ¶ 6 applies, and that the function of the "impeller
means" is "the impelling of air through the fan." (R. 96-1, Defs.' Claim
Constr. Br. at 13.) The function of "impelling . . . air through the
fan," however, does not appear in Claim 29, and the term "impeller means"
recites structure, i.e., the "impeller" (the fan blades). Cole, 102 F.3d
at 531; Pirelli Cable, 988 F. Supp. at 434. As the Court has already
noted, where a claim uses the word "means" but specifies no corresponding
function for the "means," it does not implicate section 112, ¶ 6.
Rodime, 174 F.3d at 1302; Sage Prods., 126 F.3d at 1427; York Prods., 99
F.3d at 1574. Accordingly, section 112, ¶ 6 does not apply to the
"impeller means" term.
2. "A Scroll Plate Means Surrounding An Impeller Means Having A
Papst argues that the Court should construe the claim term in its
entirety to mean the fan housing that surrounds a number of fan blades
attached to a hub. The Court agrees. The claim language does not limit
the scroll plate means to a particular fan housing. Similarly, the
specification simply refers to the scroll plate means as the "housing."
`015 patent, col. 3, 11.11-12
("The impeller is installed into a scroll plate or housing."). The
specification describes the structural relationship of the housing, fan
blades, and hub. `015 patent, col. 3, 11. 60-63 ("[I]n the construction
according to the present invention, the fan blades 4 are surrounded over
a relatively large axial area by the cylindrical area 5 of the scroll
plate 2 . . .") Further, Figures 1 and 2 of the "015 patent make clear
that the housing surrounds the fan blades and the hub.
Similarly, the claim language does not limit the impeller means to any
particular structure or material.*fn3 While the specification describes
the preferred structure and material of the blades, see "015 patent,
col. 6, 11.42-61 and Fig. 10, neither the claim language nor the
specification limits the impeller to that particular structure and
material. The Court may not interpret claims by adding limitations
appearing only in the specification where the specification does not
clearly require it. Laitram Corp. v. Cambridge Wire Cloth Co.,
863 F.2d 855, 865 (Fed. Cir. 1989).
Accordingly, the Court interprets Element 2 to mean the housing of a
fan that surrounds a number of fan blades that are attached to a hub.
C. Element 3: "An Inner Contour Of Said Scroll Plate Means Having
Cylindrical Configuration In A Vicinity Of AD Axial Median Plane
Of The Fan And Extending Towards An Inlet Side Of The Fan"
Element 3 of Claim 29 requires "an inner contour of said scroll plate
means having a cylindrical configuration in a vicinity of an axial median
plane of the fan and extending towards an inlet side of the fan." This
term refers to the inner surface of the fan housing surrounding the ...