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Weger v. Dyson, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

May 29, 2014

KENNETH J. WEGER, Plaintiff,
v.
DYSON, INC., Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM T. HART, District Judge.

This is an action arising under the patent laws of the United States, 35 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., and under the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201-02. Plaintiff Kenneth J. Weger seeks damages for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 5, 794, 305 ("the '305 patent"), issued August 18, 1998, that patents an articulation device that pivots the movement of a vacuum cleaner either to the right or to the left. Weger claims that sales by defendant Dyson, Inc. of its DC 40, 41, and 50 model vacuum cleaners (the "accused models") infringe the '305 patent claims. Dyson seeks a declaratory judgment that the patent is not infringed.

The court has jurisdiction of the subject matter and of the parties.

The case is before the court on Dyson's motion for summary judgment of noninfringement. Infringement is a question of fact. Summary judgment of noninfringement may be granted only when there exists no genuine issue of material fact, and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fujitsu Ltd. v. Netgear Inc, 620 F.3d 1321, 1325 (Fed. Cir. 2010); Kustom Signals, Inc. v. Applied Concepts Inc., 264 F.3d 1326, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 2001).

Determining whether an accused device infringes a patent is a two-step inquiry. Terlep v. Brinkmann Corp., 418 F.3d 1379, 1381 (Fed. Cir. 2005). The court must first construe any disputed terms or disputed limitations in the asserted claims. Claim construction is a matter of law. Id. at 1381-82; Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 372 (1996). Next, the court compares the properly construed claim to the accused device to determine whether all of the claim limitations are present in the device either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents. Terlep, 418 F.3d at 1381; Innovention Toys, LLC v. MGA Entm't, Inc., 637 F.3d 1314, 1318-19 (Fed. Cir. 2011).

Claims are given their ordinary and customary meaning, which is the meaning the words would have for a person of ordinary skill in the art. Such meaning may be readily apparent to lay judges and claim construction in such cases involves the application of the widely accepted meaning of commonly understood words. Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312-14 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc).

The '305 patent states that the "invention relates generally to upright vacuum cleaners, and more specifically to a mechanism for steering and articulating a vacuum cleaner or other wheeled device, " by which it may easily be turned to the right or to the left. '305 Pat. col. 1, ll. 6-8.

The '305 patent contains two independent claims, 1 and 13, and eleven dependent claims, 2 through 12. Claim 1 is exemplary. The dependent claims incorporate every limitation of claim 1. Claim 1 provides:

1. A vacuum cleaner having improved maneuverability for moving over a surface, the vacuum cleaner comprising:
a base portion including
spaced forward wheels having a forward axis,
a pair of hemispherically shaped rearward wheels having a rear axis, and
a base member coupling the forward wheels and the rearward wheels such that the rear axis is pivotable in a plane generally perpendicular to the surface, only one of the rearward wheels being disposed on the surface when the rear axis is pivoted from a generally horizontal position; and
an upright portion coupled to the rearward wheels for pivoting the rear axis in the plane generally perpendicular to the surface, whereby the vacuum cleaner may be caused to move in a generally straight direction when both of the rearward wheels are disposed on the surface, and the vacuum cleaner may be caused to turn when the rear axis is pivoted ...

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