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Area 55, Inc., A California Corporation v. Celeras LLC

May 6, 2011

AREA 55, INC., A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION,
(NLS) AND VINTURI, INC., A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION,
PLAINTIFFS AND
COUNTERDEFENDANTS,
v.
CELERAS LLC, A CALIFORNIA LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY; PANDAMERICAN LLC, A CALIFORNIA LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY; FRANMARA INC., A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION; MARCO POLO TRADING COMPANY LLC, A CALIFORNIA LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY; AND PANDAMERICAN TRADING GROUP, LTD., DEFENDANTS AND COUNTERCLAIMANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marilyn L. Huff, District Judge United States District Court

TENTATIVE CLAIM CONSTRUCTION ORDER FOR UNITED STATES PATENT NUMBER 7,614,614 AND PATENT NUMBER 7,841,584

On April 1, 2011, the parties submitted their opening claim construction briefs. (Doc. Nos. 117, 118.) On April 18, 2011, the parties submitted their responsive claim construction briefs. (Doc. Nos. 129, 130.) After due consideration of the parties' briefing, the Court issues the following tentative claim construction order.

Claim Construction -- Legal Standard

The "bedrock principle" of patent law is that the "claims of a patent define the invention." Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005). In construing claim terms, a court must determine the meaning of any disputed words from the perspective of one of ordinary skill in the pertinent art at the time of filing. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1313.

The baseline for the analysis in claim construction is the "ordinary and customary meaning" of the claim term. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312-13. However, the "ordinary and customary meaning" phrase itself has a specialized meaning in patent law. It is the meaning that the term would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention. Id. at 1313. That person having 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. If the meaning of a term is not readily apparent, the court must then look to other intrinsic evidence to define the term. See id. at 1314.

A court must read claims "in view of the specification, of which they are a part." Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 979 (Fed. Cir. 1995). 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." Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc.,

90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996). A court may also look beyond the patent and consult the prosecution history, if in evidence, during claim construction. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. The patent and its prosecution history "usually provides the technological and temporal context to enable the court to ascertain the meaning of the claim to one of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention." V-Formation, Inc. v. Benetton Group SpA, 401 F.3d 1307, 1310 (Fed. Cir. 2005). In addition to intrinsic evidence, a court may also consider pertinent extrinsic evidence. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317.

The patent claims should generally be construed to encompass the preferred embodiments described in the specification, and it is often error to adopt a construction that does not include them. See On-Line Techs., Inc. v. Bodenseewerk Perkin-Elmer GmbH, 386 F.3d 1133, 1138 (Fed. Cir. 2004). However, a court must not import limitations from the specifications into the claim. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1323 ("[A]lthough the specification often describes very specific embodiments of the invention, we have repeatedly warned against confining the claims to those embodiments."); see also Agfa Corp. v. Creo Prods., Inc., 451 F.3d 1366, 1367-77 (Fed. Cir. 2006); Ormco Corp. v. Align Tech., Inc., 463 F.3d 1299, 1306-07 (Fed. Cir. 2006). Further, "the fact that the specification describes only a single embodiment, standing alone, is insufficient to limit otherwise broad claim language." Howmedia Osteonics Corp. v. Wright Med. Tech., Inc., 540 F.3d 1337, 1345 (Fed. Cir. 2008).

When a patent contains multiple claims, the doctrine of "claim differentiation" provides that "each claim in a patent is presumptively different in scope." RF Del., Inc. v. Pac. Keystone Techs., Inc., 326 F.3d 1255, 1263 (Fed. Cir. 2003). The doctrine is based on a commonplace notion that patentees use different words or phrases in different claims to indicate that the claims have different meanings. Andersen Corp. v. Fiber Composites, LLC, 474 F.3d 1361, 1369 (Fed. Cir. 2007).

"[T]he prosecution history 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 the prosecution, making the claim scope narrower than it would otherwise be." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. The doctrine of prosecution disclaimer is well established and precludes "patentees from recapturing through claim interpretation specific meanings disclaimed during prosecution." Omega Eng'g, Inc. v. Raytek Corp., 334 F.3d 1314, 1323 (Fed. Cir. 2003). For prosecution history disclaimer to apply there must be "a clear and unmistakable disavowal of scope during prosecution." Purdue Pharma L.P. v. Endo Pharms. Inc., 438 F.3d 1123, 1136 (Fed. Cir. 2006). There is no such "clear and unmistakable" disavowal if the statements are subject to "more than one reasonable interpretation." SanDisk Corp. v. Memorex Prods., Inc., 415 F.3d 1278, 1287 (Fed. Cir. 2005); see also Omega, 334 F.3d at 1324 (stating that the doctrine does not apply "where the alleged disavowal of claim scope is ambiguous").

The Court reviews each claim and considered each construction in light of the applicable standards of law. The Court has given the appropriate weight to the intrinsic evidence and, where appropriate, has declined to import limitations from the specifications.

The Court construes the claim terms in dispute as indicated in the boxes in the charts below. The Court further incorporates the notes as explanations of its constructions.

CLAIM CONSTRUCTION CHART FOR PATENT 7,614,614 ("'614 Patent")

(language for which the parties submitted proposed construction in bold A method of aerating wine, the method comprising: disposing a venturi apparatus in vertical alignment with a receptacle such that a liquid flow path vertically aligned;
pouring wine from a bottle, the wine flowing vertically downward due to gravity, through an opening in a top of the exposed to the atmosphere into a reservoir of the venturi apparatus at a beginning of the liquid flow path about atmospheric pressure in the reservoir;

continuing to dispose the apparatus such that the wine flows vertically downward from the reservoir;

decreasing pressure of the wine in a vicinity of an air intake ;
drawing air through the air intake due to the pressure decrease ;

mixing the wine with the air drawn through the air intake to form aerated wine; and continuing to dispose the apparatus in vertical alignment with the receptacle such that the aerated wine flows from the apparat receptacle.

Claim Language Plaintiffs Area 55/Vinturi's Defendant Franmara's Court's Construction Construction Construction

"venturi apparatus" tubular structure that is constricted an apparatus containing a a fitting or tubular structure, in the middle and flared on both plurality of sections defining a ends liquid flow path (as defined at both ends below) as well as an air intake (as defined below) specification. See Note 1 below.]

"liquid flow path" Construction Unnecessary a plurality of connected sections forming a sequential path or passageway for liquid to flow,

{a sequential path or passageway said sections consisting of a first through which a fluid is caused to funnel section, first cylindrical flow} section, an intermediate passageway having a ceiling with a diameter greater than the first cylindrical section located immediately above, a second cylindrical section, and a second funnel section See Note 2 below.]

"about atmospheric approximately atmospheric approximately atmospheric pressure" pressure pressure Claim Language Plaintiffs Area 55/Vinturi's Defendant Franmara's Court's Construction

Construction Construction

"decreasing pressure of the Construction Unnecessary a reduction in pressure of the wine" wine caused by flowing from the first cylindrical section into the {reducing the pressure of the intermediate passageway having wine} a ceiling with a greater diameter than the first cylindrical section immediately above

"air intake" Construction Unnecessary At least one sidearm passageway fluidly connected to the intermediate passageway section

{an opening through which air of the liquid flow path. enters}

below.]

"pressure decrease" Construction Unnecessary a reduction in pressure of the wine caused by flowing from the first cylindrical section into the previous section

{reduction in pressure} intermediate passageway having a ceiling with a greater diameter than the first cylindrical section immediately above

NOTE 1:

Plaintiffs argue that the specification of the '614 patent contains an express definition of the term "venturi apparatus." (Do specification may reveal a special definition given to a claim term by the patentee that differs from the meaning it would oth "A patentee may act as its own lexicographer and assign to a term a unique definition that is different from its ordinary and c must clearly express that intent in the written description." Helmsderfer v. Bobrick Washroom Equip., Inc.

The '614 patent states in its written description: "Venturi-type devices are well-known in the art. Generally, such devices c and in particular pipe structures, that are constricted in the middle and flared at both ends." U.S. Patent 7,614,614 col. 1 l shows a clear intent to define the term "venturi apparatus," and the Court construes the term to give it the express definition

Defendant argues that the term should be given the additional limitations of "containing a plurality of sections defining a intake." (Doc. No. 110 at 2-7.) It is unnecessary to add these limitations to this term given that claim 17 already contains the te and these claim terms will be given their own constructions. See Innova/Pure Water, Inc. v. Safari Water Filtration Sys. terms are presumed to have meaning" and that claims terms should not be rendered "unnecessary and superfluous").

NOTE 2:

Defendant argues that during prosecution, the patentees expressly limited the claim scope of the '614 patent and the term "liqu art rejection. (Doc. No. 118 at 7-9.) Plaintiffs argue that Defendant is attempting to improperly import limitations from the No. 117 at 12-14.)

The doctrine of prosecution disclaimer precludes "patentees from recapturing through claim interpretation specific meanings dis Omega, 334 F.3d at 1323. "Under the doctrine of prosecution disclaimer, a patentee may limit the meaning of a claim term by making disavowal of scope during prosecution. This may occur, for example, when the patentee explicitly characterizes an aspect of hi overcome prior art." Purdue Pharma, 438 F.3d at 1136. However, the doctrine does not apply "where 334 F.3d at 1234.

On October 13, 2008, the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") issued an Office Action and rejected the patentees the '614 patent in its entirety as either anticipated or obvious in light of certain prior art, Yamamoto and Kamelmacher. (Doc Allen ("Allen Decl.") Ex. A at 83-90.) In response to this Office Action, the patentees amended the claims in the application the USPTO:

By this amendment, Applicants have more clearly defined the subject matter which they regard as the invention, and further, hav distinguished the present invention over the cited references. In this regard, independent Claim 1 and new independent claim 1 remaining claims depend, include an intermediate passageway defining a compartment having a ceiling, floor and midsection ceiling of the intermediate passageway is fluidly coupled to and has a diameter larger than the first cylindrical section flow path that operatively causes fluid passing therethrough to experience a decrease in pressure. . . .

Such structure is completely lacking in cited references.

(Id. at 103-04 (emphasis in original).) The patentees further stated: "Neither Yamamoto nor Kamelmacher include Applicant's novel (Id. at 106.)

The Court concludes that these statements in the prosecution history represent a clear and unmistakable disavowal of claim scop examiner due to anticipation and obviousness, the patentees argued that the above structural limitation of an intermediate pass what made their invention novel over the prior art. Accordingly, the patentees clearly and unmistakably disavowed any claim in structural limitation of an intermediate passageway to be part of the claim term "liquid flow path."

The Court's conclusion that the term "liquid flow path" requires the limitation of an intermediate passageway is further suppor remainder of the prosecution history. The specification explains that the problem with the prior art was that because conventi it reduces the area in which a second fluid could mix with the first fluid and precludes the two fluids from mixing. '614 Pate that the invention solves this problem by having an intermediate passageway that causes the first fluid to "experience a slight conventional venturi design." Id. col. 2 ll. 31-34. The second fluid is then introduced at this point of reduced pressure in the intermediate passageway, facil flow dynamics. See id. col. 2 ll. 35-50. In addition, in his reasons for allowance, the USPTO examiner mentioned the importance of the intermediate making the invention novel over the prior art. (Doc. Nos. 119-21, Allen Decl. Ex. A at 185.) The examiner stated:

[T]he prior art of record fails to disclose or suggest a process for aerating wine or an apparatus for contacting a liquid with vertically aligned venturi apparatus that is open to atmosphere, such that the liquid, in particular wine, which is poured into device under goes a reduction in pressure during passage through the device, in particular an intermediate passageway of greate than the upstream portion of the flow path, so as to draw gas, in particular air into the device in the area of reduced pressur (Id.)

The Court also concludes that there is not a meaningful difference between the term "liquid flow path"--used in the claim langua path--used in the prosecution history disclaimer. The patent defines the term "fluid" in the specification as "any type of liqu Halmsderfer, 527 F.3d at 1381 ("patentee may act as its own lexicographer"). Accordingly, the term "liquid" is contained in the definitio limitations related to the term "fluid flow path" should also, therefore, be contained in the term "liquid flow path."

Plaintiffs argue that the disclaimer was not a clear disavowal because the only independent claims in the patent at the time of that ultimately issued as unasserted claims 1 and 12, not asserted claim 17--the present claim. (Doc. No. 129. at 7-10.) Howev regarding the meaning of a claim term are relevant to the interpretation of that term in every claim of the patent absent a cle Techs., Inc. v. Cardinal IG Co., 54 F.3d 1570, 1579 (Fed. Cir. 1995); accord. ERBE Elektromedizin GmbH v. Canady Tech. LLC 2010). Accordingly, the patentees' statements regarding the term "fluid flow path" apply equally to claim 17 and the term "liq part of the application at the time of the statements. See id.

Plaintiffs also argue that the doctrine of claim differentiation prevents the addition of the proposed structural limitations b described in other claims in addition to the term "fluid/liquid flow path." (Doc. No. 117 at 15-17.) Plaintiffs argue that th superfluous. (Id.) However, the doctrine of claim differentiation only creates a "presumption that each claim in a patent has a different scope Control Corp. v. Velan, Inc., 438 F.3d 1374, 1380 (Fed. Cir. 2006). Further, this presumption patentee. See ERBE, 629 F.3d at 1286-87; see also Curtiss-Wright, 438 F.3d at 1381 ("claim differentiation 'can not

Although the Court agrees with Defendant that there was a disavowal of claim scope during the prosecution of the '614 patent, t as the construction Defendants propose. Defendants proposed construction requires a five section structure consisting of a fir an intermediate passageway, a second cylindrical section, and a second funnel section. (Doc. No. 110 at 2-3.) The prosecution of these sections, the intermediate passageway. (Doc. Nos. 119-21, Allen Decl. Ex. A at 103.) The disclaimer does not even me second funnel sections. (See id.) Further, although the disclaimer does mention cylindrical s passageway. (See id.) That statement is at best ambiguous about the importance of the cylindrical sections and does not constitute a clear and unm of claim scope. See Purdue Pharma, 438 F.3d at 1136; Omega, 334 F.3d at 1323-24.

The five section structure that Defendant argues for is only contained in the specification as a preferred embodiment of the in

ll. 12-57. The specification even expressly uses the term preferred embodiment. Id. import limitations from the specification, in particular preferred embodiments, into the claims. See Phillips embodiment described in the specification does not change the Court's analysis because "'even where a patent describes only a s read restrictively unless the patentee has demonstrated a clear intention to limit the claim scope using words or expressions o Biosciences Corp v. Nutrinova, Inc., 579 F.3d 1363, 1381 (Fed. Cir. 2009) (quoting Innova/Pure Water claim scope to Defendant's five section structure. To the contrary, the specification states that it is a preferred embodiment Additional modifications and improvements of the present invention may also be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art. combination of parts and steps described and illustrated herein is intended to represent only certain embodiments of the presen intended to serve as limitations of alternative devices and methods within the spirit and scope of the invention.

'614 Patent col. 6 ll. 1-7. Accordingly, the Court declines to adopt a construction of the term "liquid flow path" that requir limitations other than the structural limitation of an intermediate passageway as disclaimed by the patentees during the prosec

NOTE 3:

The prosecution disclaimer previously mentioned in the last note clearly and unmistakably states that the reduction in pressure of the intermediate passageway. (Doc. Nos. 119-21, Allen Decl. Ex. A at 103.) This is also supported by the specification, wh the problems of the prior art by having an intermediate passageway that causes the first fluid to "experience a slight decrease venturi design." '614 Patent, col. 2 ll. 31-34. In addition, the USPTO examiner in his reasons for allowance stated that the the intermediate passageway. (Doc. Nos. 119-21, Allen Decl. Ex. A at 185.) Accordingly, the Court construes this claim to req occurs when the first fluid, here wine, enters the intermediate passageway.

NOTE 4:

Defendant's proposed construction seeks to import a limitation from the specification into the claim. The limitation of "at le connected to the intermediate passageway" is only found in the specification in describing a preferred embodiment of the invent col. 4 ll. 20-36. In construing the claims, the Court will not import limitations from preferred embodiments found in the spec

F.3d at 1323; see also Martek, 579 F.3d at 1381. Accordingly, the Court declines to adopt Defendant's proposed construction.

However, the Court disagrees with Plaintiffs' contention that the term "air intake" does not require any construction. (Doc. N is not a commonly understood phrase with a widely accepted meaning. See Phillips construction. CLAIM 18 (language for which the parties submitted proposed construction in bold

The method of claim 17 wherein decreasing the pressure of the wine occurs vertically above the air intake Claim Language Plaintiffs Area 55/Vinturi's Defendant Franmara's Court's Construction

Construction Construction

"decreasing pressure of the Construction Unnecessary a reduction in pressure of the wine wine" caused by flowing from the first cylindrical section into the {reducing the pressure of the intermediate passageway having a wine} ceiling with a greater diameter than the first cylindrical section immediately above

"air intake" Construction Unnecessary At least one sidearm passageway fluidly connected to the intermediate passageway section

{an opening through which air of the liquid flow ...


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