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Eazypower Corp. v. Jore Corp.

August 14, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James B. Zagel United States District Judge

Judge James B. Zagel


Pursuant to Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370 (1996), I held a claim construction hearing in this case to determine the appropriate meaning of some of the contested words used in the patent-in-issue. After considering the parties' papers and presentations, I construe the claims at issue as follows.


Plaintiff Eazypower Corporation ("Eazypower" or "Plaintiff") owns U.S. Patent No. 4,876,929, entitled "Portable Screw Driver Having Flexible Extension Shaft" (the "'929 Patent"). Eazypower alleges that Defendant Jore Coroporation ("Jore" or "Defendant") infringed the '929 Patent with its Jore "Flex Shaft." Jore argues that its product is not infringing and that the '929 Patent is otherwise invalid.

The '929 Patent has two independent claims, numbers 1 and 7, and six dependent claims, numbers 2 through 6 and 8. There are really only two claim construction issues before me. The first has to do with the meaning of the preamble, and the second involves the phrase "said flexible extension shaft normally being disposed so as to be substantially entirely coaxial with said chuck."


Claim construction is a matter of law for the court to decide. Markman,517 U.S. at 389. In order "[t]o ascertain the meaning of claims, [the court] consider[s] three sources: The claims, the specification, and the prosecution history." Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 979 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (citations omitted). These three sources are the intrinsic evidence, public records available for all to consult and rely upon when determining the meaning and scope of a patent claim. Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1583 (Fed. Cir. 1996). When the intrinsic evidence unambiguously describes the scope of a patented invention, reliance on extrinsic evidence, such as expert testimony and treatises, is inappropriate. Id.

Claim interpretation begins with the actual language of the claims. Bell Commc'ns Research, Inc. v. Vitalink Commc'ns Corp., 55 F.3d 615, 619-20 (Fed. Cir. 1995). Generally, the words, phrases and terms in patent claims should receive their ordinary and accustomed meaning. Johnson Worldwide Assocs. v. Zebco Corp., 175 F.3d 985, 989 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (noting a "heavy presumption in favor of the ordinary meaning of claim language."). The strong presumption in favor of the ordinary meaning may be overcome only when the patentee "clearly set[s] forth a definition for a claim term in the specification." Anchor Wall Sys. v. Rockwood Retaining Walls, Inc., 340 F.3d 1298, 1306 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (citing Johnson Worldwide Assoc., 175 F.3d at 989-90). "[A] technical term used in a patent claim is interpreted as having the meaning a person of ordinary skill in the field of the invention would understand it to mean." Dow Chem. Co. v. Sumitomo Chem. Co., 257 F.3d 1364, 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (citation omitted).

"Claims must be read in view of the specification, of which they are a part." Markman, 52 F.3d at 979 (citations omitted). The specification may reveal "whether the inventor has used any terms in a manner inconsistent with their ordinary meaning." Vitronics Corp., 90 F.3d at 1582 (also noting that "the specification is always highly relevant to the claim construction analysis. Usually, it is dispositive; it is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term"). The specification also serves as an aid in determining "the meaning of the claim term as it is used . . . in the context of the entirety of [the] invention." Interactive Gift Express, Inc. v. Compuserve Inc., 231 F.3d 859, 866 (Fed. Cir. 2000) (quoting Comark Communs., Inc. v. Harris Corp., 156 F.3d 1182, 1187 (Fed. Cir. 1998)).

The claims, however, are not limited to the embodiment shown in the specifications.

Anchor Wall, 340 F.3d at 1306-07; Transmatic, Inc. v. Gulton Indus., 53 F.3d 1270, 1277 (Fed. Cir. 1995). Limitations appearing only in the specifications cannot be read into a claim because "the claim, not the specification, measures the invention." Howes v. Zircon Corp., 992 F. Supp. 957, 961 (N.D. Ill. 1998) (citing SRI Int'l v. Matsushita Elec. Corp. Of Am., 775 F.2d 1107 (Fed. Cir. 1985)). However, when the specification "makes clear that the invention does not include a particular feature, that feature is deemed to be outside the reach of the claims of the patent, even though the language of the claims, read without reference to the specification, might be considered broad enough to encompass the feature in question." SciMed Life Sys., Inc. v. Advanced Cardiovascular Sys., Inc., 242 F.3d 1337, 1341 (Fed Cir. 2001).

The publicly available prosecution history, which details the proceedings before the Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO"), may limit the interpretation of claim terms by revealing express representations made by the applicant regarding the scope of the claims or by excluding interpretations that were disclaimed during prosecution. Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582-83. However, "unless altering claim language to escape an examiner rejection, a patent applicant only limits claims during prosecution by clearly disavowing claim coverage." Kopykake Enters. v. Lucks Co., 264 F.3d 1377, 1382 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (internal quotation and citation omitted). Any such disavowal "must be clear and unmistakable." Anchor Wall, 340 F.3d at 1307. Finally, extrinsic evidence such as expert testimony may be considered only where the language of the claims remains ambiguous after consideration of the claim language, specification and file history. Key Pharms. v. Hercon Lab. Corp., 161 F.3d 709, 716 (Fed. Cir. ...

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