The opinion of the court was delivered by: AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs Cannon Rubber Limited and Avent America, Inc.
("Cannon") accuse Defendant The First Years, Inc. ("TFY") of
infringing United States Patent No. 5,749,850 ("the '850
patent"). On September 9, 2004, the Court conducted a hearing
during which it heard argument regarding the construction of
certain claim terms within Claims 1, 3, and 5 of the '850 patent.
The Court's construction of the disputed claim terms 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 banc).
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. Westview
Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 970-71 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (en
banc), aff'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 Eng'g, 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 1202-03.
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.*fn1 Section
112, ¶ 6 allows the patentee to define the structure for
performing a particular function generically 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, 1302 (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 function, 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
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).
Cannon is the named assignee of the '850 patent. The '850
patent discloses a handheld breast pump which operates generally
as follows. The user inserts her breast into the open end of a
conical attachment. '850 patent, col. 5, Ins. 12-13. The user
squeezes the handle to begin the pumping cycle. Id. col. 5,
Ins. 17-18. The handle pivots about a pivot point and distorts
the diaphragm upwardly. Id. col. 5, Ins. 20-24. The movement of the
diaphragm creates negative pressure (a vacuum) within the upper
part of the body of the pump. Id. col. 5, Ins. 23-24. The
negative pressure causes the valve to lift upwardly, causing it
to form a seal between the wall that divides the upper part of
the body and the vessel that collects the milk. Id. col. 5,
Ins. 23-27. As a result, the negative pressure is maintained in
the upper part of the body. Id. col. 5, Ins. 27-28. The
negative pressure created within the region between the valve,
the diaphragm, and the user's breast causes the breast to
lactate. Id. col. 5, Ins. 30-33. The expressed milk flows from
the breast into the pump. Id. col. 5, In. 33.
When the user releases the handle, the diaphragm returns to its
original position. Id. col. 5, Ins. 34-39. This causes the
valve to break its seal between the upper part of the body and
the milk-collecting vessel. Id. col. 5, Ins. 39-41. Gravity
causes the expressed milk that is contained in the upper part of
the body to flow through the aperture into the milk-collecting
vessel. Id. col. 5, Ins. 41-44.
Cannon alleges that TFY manufactures various breast pumps that
infringe Claims 3 and 5 of the '850 patent. Dependent Claim 3
depends from Claim 1, and dependent Claim 5 depends from Claim 3.
Accordingly, Claim 3 contains all of the limitations of Claim 1,
and Claim 5 contains all of the limitations of Claim 3.
35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 4.
Claim 1 recites:
A breast pump comprising:
a body, said body having an inlet;
a breast receiving portion connected to the inlet and
shaped to receive a portion of a user's breast and
means for releasably connecting an expressed milk
collecting container to said body; a deformable diaphragm disposed in the body;
actuating means operatively connected to the
diaphragm for cyclically moving said diaphragm to
generate a negative pressure in the inlet; and
valve means mounted in the body for cyclically
releasing the negative pressure which is generated in
'850 patent, col. 8, Ins. 54-66 (emphases added). The disputed
claim language is emphasized. Claim 3 recites:
A pump as claimed in claim 1, wherein the diaphragm
has a connector extending upwardly therefrom and the
actuating means are releasably attached thereto.
'850 patent, col. 9, Ins. 3-5 (emphasis added). Claim 5 recites:
A pump as claimed in claim 3, wherein the connector
is a separate member releasably attached to the
'850 patent, col. 9, Ins. 8-9 (emphasis added).
The application that led to the '850 patent was originally
filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO") on
March 21, 1996. It claimed priority from an earlier application
that had been filed in the United Kingdom patent office on March
When Cannon filed its U.S. application, Claim 1 read as
A breast pump comprising
a body with an inlet thereto to receive milk
expressed from a woman's breast,
means for releasably attaching the pump to a
container for collecting expressed milk,
the body mounting a deformable diaphragm which, in
use, is cyclicly moved by actuating means connected
thereto, and valve means in the body operable so that
a negative pressure is cyclicly generated and
released in the nipple region to stimulate the nipple
area to cause lactation.
On June 13, 1997, the Examiner rejected all of the original
claims as either indefinite under 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 2 or as anticipated by prior art under
35 U.S.C. § 102. On September 18, 1997, the applicant filed an amendment in
which he cancelled Claims 1-24 and added new Claims 26-46. Claim
26 replaced original Claim 1, and ultimately issued as Claim 1.
The '850 patent issued on May 12, 1998.
I. The Disputed Claim Limitations
The parties dispute the construction of three claim
limitations: (1) "valve means mounted in the body for cyclically
releasing the negative pressure which is generated in the inlet;"
(2) "in the body;" and (3) "releasably attached."
A. "Valve Means Mounted In The Body For Cyclically Releasing
The Negative Pressure Which Is Generated In The Inlet"
This claim limitation appears in Claim 1. The parties agree
that Section 112, ¶ 6 applies to this limitation,*fn2 but
disagree as to the definition of the recited function and the
structure corresponding to the function.
In the first step of construing a means-plus-function claim,
the Court identifies the recited function that the "means"
performs. Micro Chem., 194 F.3d at 1258. The construction of
that function must include the limitations contained in the claim
language, and only those limitations. Cardiac ...