Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Microthin.com, Inc. v. SiliconeZone USA

May 6, 2009

MICROTHIN.COM, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
SILICONEZONE USA, LLC, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Virginia M. Kendall, United States District Judge Northern District of Illinois

Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Microthin.com, Inc. ("Microthin") filed suit against Defendant SiliconeZone USA, LLC ("SiliconeZone") for patent infringement under 35 U.S.C. §271 et seq. Specifically, Microthin claims infringement of US Patent No. 5,942,311 (the "'311 patent") in Count I and US Patent No. 5,997,995 (the "'995 patent") in Count II. SiliconeZone moved for summary judgment on both counts based upon the invalidity of the first patent claim in each of the patents. For the reasons stated, SiliconeZone's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

STATEMENT OF UNDISPUTED FACTS

On July 3, 1997, Carl Scianna filed a patent application with the USPTO entitled "Non-Slip Mat or Pad." (Memorandum, Ex. F(a), Patent No. 5,942,311, at [22].) Scianna was granted Patent No. 5,942,311 ("the '311 Patent") on August 24, 1999. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 32.) The patent summarized the invention as a "non-slip mat or pad that is much thinner and more efficient than commercially available mouse pads or mats having a foam supporting surface which is in contact with the surface of a counter or desktop of the user." Memorandum, Ex. F(a), Patent No. 5,942,311, at 2:1-8.) At the time of issuance, Scianna assigned all rights in the '311 Patent to Microthin. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 32.)

On December 7, 1999, the USPTO granted Patent No. 5,997,995 to Carl Scianna ("the '995 Patent"). (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 34.) The '995 Patent was a division of the application for the '311 Patent. (Memorandum, Ex. F(b), Patent No. 5,997,995, at 1:3-4.) The '995 Patent teaches a method for manufacturing a non-slip mat or pad. (Memorandum, Ex. F(b), Patent No. 5,997,995, at 5:3-4.) Possible uses for the mat or pad include "mouse pads, desk mats, change pads, placemats and coasters." (Memorandum, Ex. F(b), Patent No. 5,997,995, at 2:10-12.) At the time of issuance, Scianna assigned all rights in the '995 Patent to Microthin. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 34.)

SiliconeZone sells housewares for kitchens, including the "KITCHENZONE" Cutting Boards. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 3.) "KITCHENZONE" Cutting Boards are sold in sets of four cutting boards, with each board bearing a symbol to represent different categories of food, such as meat, seafood or produce. (Id.) On March 17, 2006, Mictrothin filed suit against SiliconeZone, claiming that SiliconeZone's "KITCHENZONE" Cutting Boards infringe claim 1 of the '311 patent and claim 1 of the '995 patent. (Compl. ¶ 10.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In determining whether a genuine issue of fact exists, the Court must view the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion. Bennington v. Caterpillar Inc., 275 F.3d 654, 658 (7th Cir. 2001); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, the Court will "limit its analysis of the facts on summary judgment to evidence that is properly identified and supported in the parties' [Local Rule 56.1] statement." Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trustees, 233 F.3d 524, 529 (7th Cir. 2000). Where a proposed statement of fact is supported by the record and not adequately rebutted, the court will accept that statement as true for purposes of summary judgment. An adequate rebuttal requires a citation to specific support in the record; an unsubstantiated denial is not adequate. See Albiero v. City of Kankakee, 246 F.3d 927, 933 (7th Cir. 2001); Drake v. Minnesota Mining & Mfg. Co., 134 F.3d 878, 887 (7th Cir. 1998) ("'Rule 56 demands something more specific than the bald assertion of the general truth of a particular matter[;] rather it requires affidavits that cite specific concrete facts establishing the existence of the truth of the matter asserted.'").

DISCUSSION

I. Claim Construction

Before the Court can determine if prior art renders a patent claim invalid, the Court must first construe the challenged claim. See Power Mosfet Tech., L.L.C. v. Siemens AG, 378 F.3d 1396, 1406 (Fed. Cir. 2004). Claim construction resolves disputed meanings in a patent to clarify and explain what the claims cover. See Terlep v. Brinkmann Corp., 418 F.3d 1379, 1382 (Fed. Cir. 2005). The construction of the claims at issue is a legal determination to be made by the court. See id. (citing Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 970-71 (Fed. Cir. 1995)). Generally, the terms of a claim are given the ordinary and customary meaning that the terms would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the filing date of the patent application. See Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1313 (Fed. Cir. 2005). When interpreting an asserted claim, the court looks first to intrinsic evidence: the words of the claims, the patent specification, and the prosecution history. See Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996).

The claim language is the starting point for claim construction analysis because it frames and ultimately resolves all issues of claim interpretation. See Robotic Vision Sys., Inc. v. View Eng'g Inc., 189 F.3d 1370, 1375 (Fed. Cir. 1997). In some cases, the "ordinary and customary" meaning of the claim language may be readily apparent, even to lay judges, and the court applies the widely accepted meaning of the commonly understood words. See Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1314. In such cases, a general purpose dictionary may be helpful. See id. In many cases, however, the court must proceed beyond the bare language of the claims and examine the patent specification. See id. at 1314-15. "The person of ordinary skill in the art is deemed to read the claim term not only in the context of the particular claim in which the disputed term appears, but in the context of the entire patent, including the specification." Id. at 1313. The specification is usually dispositive; "it is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term." Id. at 1315 (quoting Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996)). In the specification, the patentee provides a written description of the invention that allows a person of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention. See id. at 1323. At times, the patentee uses the specification to "set forth an explicit definition for a claim term that could differ in scope from that which would be afforded by its ordinary meaning." Rexnord Corp. v. Laitram Corp., 274 F.3d 1336, 1342 (Fed. Cir. 2001).

The court may also look to the patent's prosecution history. See Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. While the prosecution history often lacks the clarity of and is less useful than the specification, it may inform the court of the meaning of a claim term by illustrating how the inventor understood the invention as well as how the inventor may have limited the scope of the invention. See id. The prosecution history is generally relevant if a particular interpretation of the claim was considered and specifically disclaimed during the prosecution of the patent. See Schumer v. Lab. Comp. Sys., 308 F.3d 1304, 1313 (Fed. Cir. 2002).

Finally, a court may also consult "extrinsic evidence," such as dictionaries, treatises, and expert testimony, to "shed useful light on the relevant art." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317-18.

Generally, extrinsic evidence is "less reliable" than intrinsic evidence and is "unlikely to result in a reliable interpretation of patent claim scope unless considered in the context of the intrinsic evidence." Id. at 1318-19. With respect to the use of dictionaries, technical or general, a court may consult such evidence "so long as the dictionary definition does not contradict any definition found in or ascertained by a reading of the patent documents." Id. at 1322-23.

A. Disputed Terms in the '311 Patent

SiliconeZone's Motion for Summary Judgment challenges the validity of only the independent claim (claim 1) of the '311 Patent. The parties agree on the proper construction of many terms in the '311 Patent, so the Court will only construe the disputed terms of that claim. The language of claim 1 of the '311 Patent is as follows:

A non-slip mat or pad consisting of a transparent plastic sheet having an upper surface and a lower surface, a coating of one or more inks forming a design on the lower surface and adapted to show through the plastic sheet to be seen through the top surface, and a non-slip coating adhering to the lower surface and inked ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.