The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES KOCORAS, District Judge
This matter comes before the court on Defendant William Merit &
Associates, Inc.'s ("WMA") motion for partial summary judgment.
For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.
Both WMA and Plaintiff RTC Industries, Inc. ("RTC") produce
spring-loaded, product-pushing shelf divider systems that are
sold to retail stores. These systems, mounted onto shelves in
grocery, drug, and mass merchandise stores, have become
increasingly popular in recent years. Once a row of products is
loaded into the dividers, springs located in the dividers
automatically force the products forward towards the front of the shelf. When a customer removes a product
from a row, the springs push the remaining products towards the
front of the shelf. These systems not only ensure that a
particular product is always at the very front of the shelf, but
have been shown to increase sales, reduce labor costs (by keeping
products neatly divided into separated rows), and prevent
RTC owns a patent, U.S. Letters Patent No. 4,830,201 ("the '201
patent"), which was issued on May 16, 1989, and is entitled
"Spring-urged Shelf Divider System." WMA produces a shelf divider
system known and sold under the name "Glide-Trak," which comes in
two versions, Model 1 and Model 2 (the "Glide-Trak systems"). The
Model 1 version has since been discontinued. On February 18,
2004, RTC filed suit in this court alleging that the Glide-Trak
systems infringe on the '201 patent. WMA now moves for partial
summary judgment, contending that Claims 1 through 8 of the '201
patent have not been infringed by the Glide-Trak systems.
Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c). On summary judgment the moving party must identify "those
portions of `the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact."
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). This initial burden may be satisfied by
presenting specific evidence on a particular issue or by pointing
out "an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's
case." Id. at 325. Once the movant has met this burden, the
non-moving party cannot simply rest on the allegations in the
pleadings, but, "by affidavits or as otherwise provided for in
[Rule 56], must set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). A genuine issue
of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The
court must consider the record as a whole in a light most
favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Id. at 255; Voice
Technologies Group, Inc. v. VMC Systems, Inc. 164 F.3d 605, 612
(Fed. Cir. 1999). With these considerations in mind, we now turn
to the present motion.
Determining whether a patent has been infringed requires a
two-step analysis. Dayco Products, Inc. v. Total Containment,
Inc., 258 F.3d 1317, 1323 (Fed. Cir. 2001). First, the claims in
question must be properly construed to determine their scope and meaning, which is a matter of law. Id. at 1324. The second step
is a determination of infringement, which is a question of fact.
Id. A granting of summary judgment that the product in question
does not infringe may occur only if there is no genuine issue as
to whether the accused device is encompassed by the claims in
dispute. Id. Non-infringement may be demonstrated by showing
that a single material claim limitation of the accuser's patent
is not found in the accused device. SmithKline Diagnostics, Inc.
v. Helena Laboratories Corp., 859 F.2d 878, 889 (Fed. Cir.
For the first step of our analysis, claim construction, "the
analytical focus must begin and remain centered on the language
of the claims themselves." Texas Digital Systems, Inc. v.
Telegenix, Inc., 308 F.3d 1193, 1201 (Fed. Cir. 2002). "The
terms used in the claims bear a `heavy presumption' that they
mean what they say and have the ordinary meaning that would be
attributed to those words by persons skilled in the relevant
art." Id. at 1202 (quotation omitted). In deciding the ordinary
and customary meaning of claim terms, dictionaries,
encyclopedias, and treatises may be employed by the court, as
"these materials may be the most meaningful sources of
information to aid judges." Id. at 1203. Because words often
have multiple dictionary definitions, "[i]f more than one
dictionary definition is consistent with the use of the words in
the intrinsic record, the claim terms may be construed to
encompass all such consistent meanings." Id. Even though the
intrinsic record, namely the patent's specifications, must be examined in each case to determine whether the
presumption of ordinary and customary meaning is rebutted,
consulting intrinsic evidence as a "threshold step" before
ascertaining the plain meaning of the claims' words "invites a
violation of [Federal Circuit] precedent counseling against
importing limitations into the claims." Id. at 1204.
Furthermore, while dictionaries and other reference materials are
the preferred choice for construing the meaning of claim
language, other extrinsic evidence can be utilized by the court,
such as the prosecution history and expert or inventor testimony.
Pitney Bowes, Inc. v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 182 F.3d 1298,
1308-09 (Fed Cir. 1999).
WMA contends that its Glide-Trak systems do not infringe on the
'201 patent because three elements found in Claims 1 through 8 of
the '201 patent are not found in the Glide-Trak systems. Because
Claims 2 through 8 reincorporate Claim 1's description of a
"shelf divider system," we will focus our analysis on the
language of Claim 1, which is reprinted as follows:
A shelf divider system comprising:
An elongated channel mounting member operationally
securable to a front portion of a shelf;
a shelf divider member slidably receivable in said
mounting member so that the divider member extend
rearwardly over the shelf; track means on said divider comprising a pair of
elongated rails, spring-urged pusher means comprising
a pusher member having a front pusher face and a pair
of flanges engaging said rails whereby said pusher
member is operationally slidable on the rails and the
pusher means is rearwardly retractable to accommodate
a display of merchandise and will bear against the
merchandise to automatically urge the same forwardly
on the shelf.
WMA first argues that the Glide-Trak systems do not infringe on
Claim I of the '201 patent because they do not contain a "divider
member slidably receivable in said mounting member." (Emphasis
added). This clause of Claim 1 describes how the
spring-containing dividers on the '201 system (aligned
perpendicular to the shelf's edge) are attached to the system's
mounting unit, which is affixed to and runs along the front edge
of the store shelf. The front of the '201 divider contains a
"depending tongue" which extends downward in the direction of the
shelf's surface. This depending tongue is then inserted into and
constrained in a channel (shaped like a "U" or a rectangle
missing its top side) in the mounting member in which the tongue
is tightly held (in the words of the '201 patent, the tongue is
"frictionally received and retained in the channel . . . of the
mounting member"). Once the tongue is placed into the mounting
member's channel, the snug fit keeps the divider attached to the
On the other hand, instead of having downward extending tongues
at the front of their spring-containing dividers, WMA's
Glide-Trak systems' dividers (both Models 1 and 2) have downward facing C-shaped hooks ("C-hooks") attached
to their front ends. These hooks fit tightly around tubes (in the
shape of a narrow cylinder running parallel to the front of the
shelf) that sit atop the Glide-Traks' mounting members. These
tubes are physically part of the mounting member, but a raised
bar connects the bottom of the tube to the surface of the
mounting member. When the C-hook of the divider is locked around
the tube of the mounting member, the divider becomes attached to
the mounting member.
WMA contends that because the Glide-Trak dividers attach to
their mounting members by securing the C-hooks around the
mounting member's raised tubes, the Glide-Trak dividers are never
"in" the systems' mounting members. Both parties are satisfied
with the definition of the word "in" as stated in the Random
House College Dictionary Revised Edition (1988): "(used to
indicate inclusion within space, a place, or limits): walking in
the park." We therefore will rely on this definition in
determining whether the Glide-Trak divider members are slidably
receivable "in" their mounting members. WMA's central argument is
that the Glide-Traks' divider members attach to the mounting
members via C-hooks that connect on or around a raised tube
resting atop the mounting member rather than "in" the mounting
member. However, preliminarily focusing on the differences
between the features of the Glide-Traks and the features of the
'201 patent (as written in the patent's description) before determining the plain meaning of the disputed claim term would
violate the two-step construction process outlined in Texas
Digital. See Intellectual Property Development, Inc. v.
UA-Columbia Cablevision of Westchester, Inc., 336 F.3d 1308,
1315 (Fed. Cir. 2003).
Because the parties agree the Random House definition of "in"
is appropriate, we can next look to whether the '201's
description rebuts or is inconsistent with the meaning of "in" in
the 201's Claim 1, "for example whether [RTC] has specifically
defined the term or otherwise limited the scope of the claim."
Resonate Inc. v. Alteon Websystems, Inc., 338 F.3d 1360, 1364
(Fed. Cir. 2003). The '201's specifications speak of a depending
tongue that is to be "frictionally received and retained in the
channel of the mounting member." (emphasis added). This
description certainly is encompassed by the Random House
definition, as it indicates the '201's divider member's tongue
being within the space or limits ...