The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Morton Denlow
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the Court are the claim construction briefs of Plaintiff Eazypower Corporation ("Eazypower"), the accused infringer, and Defendant Alden Corporation ("Alden"), the patentee. The patents at issue are 6,595,730 ('730) and 6,742,416 ('416), which both describe a bit used to remove damaged screws and fasteners. The disputed terms are: (1) "point"; (2) "in a plane including the axis"; (3) "straight"; (4) "scraping edges"; and (5) "acute angle relative to the axis."
I. CLAIM CONSTRUCTION RULES
The basic rules of claim construction were summarized and affirmed by the Federal Circuit in Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303 (Fed. Cir. 2005).
A. The Claim Terms Themselves
Proper claim construction begins by analyzing the claims themselves because "the claims of a patent define the invention to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude."
Id. at 1312. "[T]he words of a claim are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning." Id. at 1312.*fn1 "The ordinary and customary meaning of a claim term is the meaning that the term would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art in question at the time of the invention." Id. at 1313. "In some cases, the ordinary meaning of claim language as understood by a person of skill in the art may be readily apparent even to lay judges, and claim construction in such cases involves little more than the application of the widely accepted meaning of commonly understood words." Id. at 1314.
The context in which a claim term is used is important, and the usage of the term in other claims, both asserted and unasserted, can be instructive as well. Id. "Because claim terms are normally used consistently throughout the patent, the usage of a term in one claim can often illuminate the meaning of the same term in other claims." Id. In many cases, however, the meaning of claim terms is not readily apparent from the claims themselves, and a court must consider additional sources of information.
A person of ordinary skill in the art is "deemed to read the claim term not only in the context of the particular claim . . . but in the context of the entire patent, including the specification." Id. at 1313. Therefore, "claims must be read in view of the specification, of which they are a part." Id. at 1315. The specification is always highly relevant and usually dispositive. Id. "[I]t is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term." Id. "The construction that stays true to the claim language and most naturally aligns with the patent's description of the invention will be, in the end, the correct construction." Id. at 1316.
The specification may reveal a special definition of the claim term or a disclaimer of claim scope. Id. There is a fine line, however, between properly construing the claim terms in light of the specification and improperly importing limitations from the specification. Id. at 1323. Where the specification describes specific embodiments of the invention, a court should not confine the claims to those embodiments. Id. If the patentee has described "the invention" in the specification, however, as opposed to describing a particular embodiment, it is appropriate to construe the claim terms consistent with the patentee's description. Honeywell Intern., Inc. v. ITT Industries, Inc., 452 F.3d 1312, 1318 (Fed. Cir. 2006).
C. The Prosecution History
The prosecution history, meaning the complete record of proceedings before the Patent and Trademark Office and the prior art cited during the patent examination, is relevant to claim construction. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. The prosecution history "provides evidence of how the PTO and the inventor understood the patent." Id. Prosecution history enjoys less weight than the claim terms and specification, but "can often inform the meaning of the claim language by demonstrating how the inventor understood the invention and whether the inventor limited the invention in the course of prosecution, making the claim scope narrower than it would otherwise be." Id.
Under the doctrine of claim differentiation, a court may construe a claim based on how it differs from other claims. Id. at 1314-15. For example, if a dependent claim adds a particular limitation not found in an independent claim, a rebuttable presumption arises that the limitation is not found in the independent claim. Id. The doctrine of claim differentiation has less force, however, where there are additional differences between the claims. SRAM Corp. v. AD-II Engineering, Inc., 465 F.3d 1351, 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2006). The presumption arising from claim differentiation is overcome if the result conflicts with the specification or prosecution history. Anderson v. Fiber Composites, LLC, 474 F.3d 1361, 1369-70 (Fed. Cir. 2007).
A court may also consider evidence external to the patent and prosecution history, including expert and inventor testimony, dictionaries, and treatises. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317-18. These sources are entitled to less weight than the patent's intrinsic evidence. Id. at 1318.
A. "Point" as used in Claims 1, 5, 6, 8, 21, and 27 of the '416 Patent and Claim 6 of the '730 Patent*fn2
The term "point" is found in several claims and in both patents. Alden asserts that the term should be construed to mean "a small central area of the tip of the bit where the scraping and rearward edges and tapered surfaces converge. The term point does not refer to a dimensionless dot." Alden Br. at 5. Eazypower's construction is "the position where the scraping edges intersect" for claims 416:1, 5, 6, and 8 and "the position where the scraping edges and rearward edges intersect" for claims 416:21 and 27 and 730:6. Eazypower Br. at 10, 25. The dispute is essentially whether, as Alden asserts, the "point" can have some amount of material to it such that the edges do not intersect at the axis, or is a geometric dot where edges intersect, as Eazypower asserts.
The claim reads, in full:
For removing damaged screws, a bit having an axis and a tip end formed with a point and a rear end formed in hexagonal cross-section adapted for installation in a chuck of a variable speed reversible drill, the tip end having a plurality of longitudinal recesses uniformly disposed about the tip end, each bordered by a longitudinal surface facing in a counter-clockwise direction, the surface formed with a distal straight scraping edge, the scraping edges of the recesses each being in a plane including the axis and being at an acute angle less than 70° to the axis, and a support portion behind each scraping edge, the support portions each defined by a relief surface curving away from the scraping edge down to a rearward edge bordering one of the longitudinal recesses, each rearward edge also lying in a plane including the axis and being disposed at more acute angle to the axis than the scraping edge angle.
DX B, col 3, lns 50-65.*fn3 The relevant language is "a bit having an axis and a tip end formed with a point." Nothing in the claim either refers to the intersection of edges or describes the point as a "central area."
A method for unscrewing threaded fasteners installed in an object and having a head with a deformed end surface, the method comprising the steps of:
a. providing a bit having an axis and a tip end formed with a point, the tip end having a plurality of longitudinal recesses uniformly disposed about the tip end, each bordered by a longitudinal surface facing in a counter-clockwise direction and being in a plane including the axis, and formed with a straight scraping edge, the scraping edges of the recesses each being at acute angles to the axis and a support portion behind each scraping edge, the support portions at the tip end each defined by a relief surface curving away from the scraping edge down to a rearward edge bordering one of the longitudinal recesses, each rearward edge also lying in a plane including the axis and being disposed at more acute angle to the axis than the scraping edge,
b. engaging the head with the tip end with the scraping edges engaging the end surface of the fastener,
c. rotating the bit in a counter-clockwise direction.
DX B, col 4, lns 12-32. There is no material difference in the language of claims 416:1 and 5 related to the term "point."
a. a threaded fastener having an axis, a threaded section and a head section, the head section being formed with a generally radial end surface having a damaged cross slot having sloping sidewall portions defining a first angle to the axis, and
b. a cylindrical extraction bit having an axis aligned with the axis of the fastener and a tip end formed with a point, the tip end having a plurality of longitudinal recesses about the tip end, each bordered by a longitudinal scraping surface facing in a counter-clockwise direction and having a scraping edge, the scraping edges each lying in a plane including the axis of the bit and disposed at a second angle to the axis, the second angle being less sharp than the first angle, the scraping edges engaging the end surface of the faster at the margin of the cross slot.
DX B, col 4, lns 33-49. Again, nothing about the claim language dictates either proposed interpretation.
A tool for removing damaged screws comprising: a bit having an axis and a tip end formed with a point and a rear end formed in hexagonal cross-section adapted for installation in a chuck of a variable speed reversible drill, the tip end having a plurality of longitudinal recesses uniformly disposed about the tip end, each bordered by a scraping surface facing in a counter-clockwise direction, the scraping surface formed with a distal straight scraping edge, the scraping edges of the recesses each being disposed at a scraping edge acute angle to the axis less than about 70°, and a support portion behind each scraping edge, the support portions each defined by a relief surface curving away from the scraping edge down to a rearward edge bordering one of the longitudinal recesses the rearward edge being disposed at a more acute angle to the axis than the scraping edge acute angle.
DX B col 4, lns 58-67; col 5, lns 1-5. This claim does not materially differ from claim 416:1.
A tool for removing damaged screws as defined in claim 16 herein the rearward edge borders one of the longitudinal recesses and meets at a point with the scraping edge associated with the scraping surface of the one of the longitudinal recesses.
DX B, col 6, lns 13-17. The limitations added to claim 416:16 by claim 416:21 refer to the recesses meeting "at a point." This language, by itself, does not lead the to Court to accept either proposed claim construction, as the recesses could meet at a point regardless of whether the intersection of the recesses forms the point. In other words, even if the "point" is more than ...