United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge
has sued Kranos Corporation-doing business and referred to
here as Schutt Sports-and Xenith, LLC, alleging that the two
companies are infringing three of Riddell's patents for
football helmets. Both defendants have filed motions for
claim construction. The parties submitted written briefs, and
the Court held a claim construction hearing on May 19, 2017.
This opinion sets forth the Court's construction of
disputed claim language.
manufactures and sells football equipment including helmets.
The company owns two patents-U.S. Patent Nos. 8, 528, 118 and
8, 938, 818-both of which are titled "Sports
Helmet." Both patents relate generally to a protective
helmet with a plastic shell and a raised central band that
adds strength and rigidity to the helmet without requiring
additional material and therefore without adding additional
weight. The helmets also allow for the placement of vent
openings on the shell to provide ventilation. The '118
patent was issued in September 2013, and it was reexamined
and amended in September 2014. Am. J.A. in Supp. of Cl.
Constr. Br. (JA) 24. The application for the '818 patent
was issued in January 2015 as a continuation of the '118
patent. JA722. The parties therefore largely focus their
analyses on the language in the '118 patent.
also owns a patent, U.S. Patent No. 8, 813, 269, directed at
a particular type of faceguard for its football helmets and
titled "Sports Helmet with Quick-Release Faceguard
Connector and Adjustable Internal Pad Element." JA2080.
Riddell's design is intended to decrease the time it
requires to remove the faceguard from a football helmet by
eliminating the "laborious process of unscrewing a
threaded fastener." Pl. Riddell, Inc.'s Responsive
Cl. Constr. Br. (Pl.'s Resp. to Schutt) at 3. The
application for the '269 patent was filed in April 2008,
and the patent was issued in August 2014.
defendants also manufacture and sell sports helmets. Riddell
claims that Schutt's line of Vengeance football helmets
infringe claims 1, 5-6, 11-13, 25, 30, 32- 34, and 36 of the
'118 patent and claims 1-3, 5-6, 8-12, 40-42, 49-50, 53,
56-58, 60- 61, and 65 of the '818 patent. Pl.'s Resp.
to Schutt at 2. Riddell also claims that this line of
helmets, as well as other models, infringe claims 1, 3-9,
13-20, and 22-23 of the '269 patent. Riddell, Inc. v.
Kranos Corp., No. 16 C 4496, Compl. ¶¶ 40-51.
Riddell claims that Xenith manufactures helmets that infringe
claims 1-2, 5-6, 11-13, 25-28, 30, and 32-37 of the '118
patent and claims 41-49, 51-52, 58, and 62-65 of the '818
patent. Riddell, Inc. v. Xenith, LLC, No. 16 C 4498,
Compl. ¶¶ 8-35. Riddell does not claim that Xenith
is infringing the '269 patent.
defendants have requested construction of a number of terms
appearing within these three patents; Riddell argues in most
instances that the terms do not require construction. For the
most part, defendants request construction of the same
phrases and propose virtually identical constructions. There
are some variations, in which either 1) only a single
defendant proposes construction of a particular phrase; 2)
defendants argue instead that the phrase is invalid as
indefinite under 35 U.S.C. § 112; or 3) a defendant both
offers a construction and argues in the alternative that the
phrase is indefinite.
of the '118 patent is largely representative of the
disputed language in both the '118 patent and the
A football helmet comprising:
a plastic shell configured to receive a head of a wearer of
the helmet, the shell having:
a front region,
a crown region,
a rear region,
two side regions wherein each side region has an ear flap
with an ear opening,
a raised central band integrally formed as part of the shell
and extending across the crown region to the rear region,
a first plurality of vent openings formed in the shell
outside of the raised central band, wherein the first
plurality of vent openings are aligned, and positioned along
a first side of the raised central band; and
a chin strap assembly that releasably secures the helmet to
Schutt requests construction of the '269 patent. This
patent discloses "an improved sports helmet including a
quick release connector assembly for the faceguard that
allows for rapid disconnection of the faceguard from the
helmet shell." JA2080.
of the '269 patent discloses:
A sports helmet comprising:
a faceguard connector assembly having a bracket with at least
one channel that receives an extent of the faceguard, the
faceguard connector assembly further having a releasable
coupler mechanism that extends through both the bracket and
an opening in the shell to secure the faceguard to the shell
in a use position, the releasable coupler mechanism
a washer having a main body that extends substantially
perpendicular from a flange of the washer, the main body
having a central opening and extending into and positioned
within the shell opening;
a cylindrical body that extends through the bracket and the
shell opening, wherein an extent of the cylindrical body is
received by the central opening of the washer in the use
a head positioned within the bracket, the head configured to
receive a tool that applies an actuation force; and
wherein the actuation force is applied to the coupler
mechanism to move the coupler mechanism from the use position
to a disconnected position that allows for removal of the
bracket from the shell to permit the faceguard to be
displaced with respect to the shell.
JA2095, 9:21-46. Claim 2 discloses "[t]he sports helmet
of claim 1, wherein the application of the actuation force
lacks a rotational component." Id, 9:47-48.
Court analyzes the disputed terms in the sequence listed by
the parties in their joint claim construction chart and
status report. Dkt. no. 130. Because each disputed phrase
often has three proposed constructions-or at least three
separate arguments-the Court will not list each one here, but
instead will do so at the beginning of the section of the
analysis discussing each phrase. These proposed constructions
are taken from the joint claim construction chart and status
report that the parties filed with the Court. See
dkt. no. 130. The parties differentiate between phrases for
which defendants propose a particular claim construction and
phrases that defendants contend are indefinite. Under the
parties' organization, a phrase is in the latter category
even if one of the defendants has proposed a particular
construction. For the sake of consistency, the Court
organizes its analysis in the same way.
construction begins with the words of the claim itself.
Takeda Pharm Co. Ltd. v. Zydus Pharm. USA, Inc., 743
F.3d 1359, 1363 (Fed. Cir. 2014). The terms used in the
claims bear a "heavy presumption that they mean what
they say and have the ordinary meaning that would be
attributed to those words by persons skilled in the relevant
art." Texas Digital Sys., Inc. v. Telegenix,
Inc., 308 F.3d 1193, 1202 (Fed. Cir. 2002) (internal
quotation marks omitted). The ordinary meaning is the one
derived from reading the claims in the context of the
specification and prosecution history. Starhome GmbH v.
AT&T Mobility LLC, 743 F.3d 849, 856 (Fed. Cir.
2014). Because of this, the specification is "the single
best guide to the meaning of a disputed term." Power
Integrations, Inc. v. Fairchild Semiconductor Int'l,
Inc., 711 F.3d 1348, 1361 (Fed. Cir. 2013). The
specification may reveal a particular definition given to a
term by the patentee that differs from the meaning it would
otherwise possess. Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d
1303, 1316 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc).
prosecution history also "provides evidence of how the
PTO and the inventor understood the patent." Biogen
Idec, Inc. v. GlaxoSmithKline LLC, 713 F.3d 1090, 1905
(Fed. Cir. 2013). This history, however, "often lacks
the clarity of the specification and thus is less useful for
claim construction purposes." AIA Eng'g Ltd. v.
Magotteaux Int'l S/A, 657 F.3d 1264, 1272 (Fed. Cir.
are two exceptions to the general rule that claim terms are
given their ordinary meaning: "1) when a patentee sets
out a definition and acts as his own lexicographer, or 2)
when the patentee disavows the full scope of a claim term
either in the specification or during prosecution."
Starhome, 743 F.3d at 856. Disavowal of claim scope
can occur either through amendment to the claims or arguments
made during prosecution of the patent. Aylus Networks,
Inc. v. Apple Inc., 2017 WL 1946961, at *4 (Fed. Cir.
May 11, 2017). Regardless, any disavowal must be clear and
unmistakable. Schindler Elevator Corp. v. Otis Elevator
Co., 593 F.3d 1359, 1366 (Fed. Cir. 2015). Ambiguous
statements will not suffice. Id.
"Raised central band"
Disputed Term or Phrase
raised central band
a segment that is raised with respect to the shell,
has a width defined by a pair of opposed side walls,
and includes lower side portions that extend from the
rear region towards the side regions of the shell to
terminate near the ear openings in the shell.
alternatively, invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 112 as
lacking a written description and / or non-enabled
same as Schutt
plain and ordinary meaning
ask the Court to construe the phrase "raised central
band" as indicated above. In doing so, defendants appear
to divide their arguments between whether the phrase includes
the limitation "raised with respect to the shell"
and whether the phrase includes the remaining limitations in
the above proposal. Schutt also argues, in the alternative,
that the phrase is invalid under 35 U.S.C. §112. Riddell
asks the Court to give the phrase the plain and ordinary
Court agrees with Riddell that this phrase should be given
its plain and ordinary meaning. The meaning of the phrase
"raised central band" would be readily apparent to
a lay juror-not to mention a person skilled in the art of
designing protective sportswear-and therefore does not
require further construction by the Court.
The limitations "a width defined by a pair of opposed
side walls" and "lower side portions that extend
from the rear region towards the side regions of the shell to
terminate near the ear openings in the shell"
argues primarily that each time the raised central band is
discussed in the two patents, it is described as having a
width defined by a pair of opposed side walls and lower side
portions that ...