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CLIPCO, LTD. v. IGNITE DESIGN

August 1, 2005.

CLIPCO, LTD., Plaintiff,
v.
IGNITE DESIGN, LLC, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SUZANNE CONLON, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Clipco, Ltd. ("Clipco") sues Ignite Design, LLC ("Ignite") for patent infringement pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 271 et seq., and breach of a license agreement. The parties cross-move for summary judgment on the infringement issue.

BACKGROUND

  I. The Parties

  The following facts are undisputed. U.S. Patent No. 5,270,909 ("the `909 patent") entitled "Openable Handle Attachment" was filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on November 20, 1992, and issued on December 14, 1993. Clipco Facts at ¶ 6. The patent describes "an openable and reclosable, rigid integral handle attachment for small portable items to permit quick, facile selective attachment to and release from another item, such as a backpack or belt." Ignite Add'l Facts at ¶ 1. The patent identifies Jennifer Weiss Kaslow, president of Clipco, and her father Richard Weiss as co-inventors of the patent. Clipco Facts at ¶¶ 5-6. Clipco is the sole owner of the `909 patent by assignment. Id. at ¶ 7; Ignite Facts at ¶ 1. Ignite manufactures and sells insulated mugs and coffee presses. Ignite Facts at ¶ 12. In December 2002, Clipco granted Ignite a non-exclusive, royalty-bearing license to use the `909 patent. Clipco Facts at ¶ 8. In September 2003, Ignite informed Clipco that it did not believe its products were covered by the patent. Id. Ignite never paid royalties to Clipco under the license agreement. Id. Ignite sells Extreme Tumbler mugs and an Extreme Coffee Press to Starbucks Corporation. Id. at ¶ 9. At one time, Ignite marked certain products with the `909 patent number. Id.

  II. The `909 Patent

  Clipco alleges that Ignite's Extreme Tumbler Mug infringes Claims 2-7, 20 and 21 of the `909 patent. Ignite Facts at ¶ 13. Clipco alleges Ignite's Extreme Coffee Press infringes Claims 2-7 and 20. Id. Claims 2 and 21 are independent claims. Id. at ¶ 14. Claim 2 states:
An openable handle for attachment to a portable object, the handle comprising:
an elongated first arm having first and second opposed ends and extending therebetween and an elongated second arm having first and second opposed ends and extending therebetween, said first arm and said second arm each being connected to the object by the corresponding first ends thereof in spaced relation to each other and in such manner that said handle is attached to the object so as not to be separable therefrom, the second end of said first arm and the second end of said second arm each extending outwardly from the object attached to said handle and defining therebetween a site for locating means for making said handle openable; and
means for making said handle openable located at the site between the second end of said first arm and the second end of said second arm and permitting selective passage therethrough of a member from which the object is to be suspended, said means for making said handle openable being automatically recloseable after opening.
Clipco Ex. 18, col. 11, In. 4-27. Claim 21 states:
The combination of a mug and an openable handle therefor, wherein said openable handle comprises
an elongated first arm having first and second ends and extending therebetween and an elongated second arm having first and second opposed ends and extending therebetween, said first arm and said second arm each being connected to the mug in spaced relation to each other, the first end of said first arm and the first end of said second arm each being connected to the mug in such manner that the handle is integrally attached thereto so as not to be removable from the mug, the second end of said first arm and the second end said second arm each extending away from the mug attached to said handle and defining therebetween a site for making said handle openable; and
means for making said handle openable located at the site between the second end of said first arm and the second end of said second arm and permitting selective passage therethrough of a member from which the mug is to be suspended, said means for making said handle openable being automatically recloseable after opening.
Id. at col. 14, In. 29-52.
  Claims 3-7 and 20 are dependent claims. Ignite Facts at ¶ 14. Claim 3 states:
The openable handle of claim 2, wherein said means for making said handle openable is an elongated member having first and second opposed ends and extending therebetween, the first end of said elongated member being pivotally connected to the second end of one of said first arm and said second arm and the second end of said elongated member including means for selectively openable latchable connection to the second end of the other of said first arm and said second arm.
Id. at col. 11, In. 27-35.

  Claim 4 requires that the means for making the handle openable be recloseable after opening. Clipco Facts at ¶ 23. Claim 5 requires that the means for making the handle openable be repeatedly openable and recloseable. Id. at ¶ 24. Claim 6 adds a limitation requiring that the means for making the handle openable include a spring for effecting automatic reclosing of the openable portion. Id. at ¶ 25. Claim 7 requires that the means for making the handle openable be in the form of a latching mechanism of a carabiner. Id. at ¶ 26. A carabiner is "an oblong metal ring with one spring-hinged side that is used especially in mountain climbing as a connector and to hold a freely running rope." Id. Claim 20 requires that the central openable portion may be opened by a single finger and automatically returns to the closed position when the finger is removed. Id. at ¶ 27.

  III. Claim Construction

  Clipco and Ignite contested the "elongated arm" and "means for making said handle openable" claim limitations in Claims 2 and 21. Id. The court construed "elongated arm" to mean "an attachment that is long in comparison to its width and that generally extends horizontally outward." Id. at ¶ 13; see also Memorandum Opinion & Order, 2/23/05, Dkt. No. 36 at 9. It is uncontested that Ignite's Extreme Tumbler Mug and Extreme Coffee Press contain one elongated arm as construed by the court. Clipco Facts at ¶ 15. The court also construed the means-plus-function limitation to require the means for making the handle openable perform two functions: (1) make the handle openable; and (2) make the handle automatically recloseable. Id. at ¶ 14; Dkt. No. 36 at 11. The court identified Figs. 1-5, 16 and 17 as containing the corresponding structure for the required functions of the means-plus-function limitation. Id.; Dkt. No. 36 at 12-13. The tumbler mug and coffee press include pivot levers that can be opened by exerting pressure with a single finger. Id. at ¶ 21. When the finger is released, the levers automatically reclose. Id. DISCUSSION

  I. Legal Standard

  On cross-motions for summary judgment, each movant must satisfy the requirements of Rule 56. EEOC v. Admiral Maint. Serv., L.P., No. 97 C 2034, 1998 WL 102748, at * 6 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 26, 1998). Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving papers and affidavits show there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once a moving party meets its burden, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (e); Silk v. City of Chicago, 194 F.3d 788, 798 (7th Cir. 1999). The court considers the record as a whole and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Bay v. Cassens Transport Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000). 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).

  An infringement analysis requires two steps: claim construction and comparison of the alleged infringing product with the patent claims. See Markman v. Westview Instr., Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 979 (Fed. Cir. 1995), aff'd 517 U.S. 370 (1996); Intellicall, Inc. v. Phonometrics, Inc., 952 F.2d 1384, 1387-89 (Fed. Cir. 1992). The court has already performed the first step by construing the disputed claims. See Memorandum Opinion & Order, 2/23/05, Dkt. No. 3. Comparison of the claims with the accused devices, in a summary judgment setting, requires a determination that "a reasonable trier of fact could find that every limitation in every construed claim at issue" is found in the infringing products. Unidynamics Corp. v. Automatic Prods. Int'l, Ltd., 157 F.3d 1311, 1316-17 (Fed. Cir. 1998). "A patent is infringed if a single claim is infringed." Intervel America, Inc. v. Kee-Vet Lab., Inc., 887 F.2d 1050, 1055 (Fed. Cir. 1989); see also Deering Precision Instr., LLC v. Vector Distrib. Sys., 347 F.3d 1314, 1324 (Fed. Cir. ...


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