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Bal Seal Engineering Company, Inc., A California Corporation v. Jay Qiang Huang

August 1, 2011

BAL SEAL ENGINEERING COMPANY, INC., A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAY QIANG HUANG, AN INDIVIDUAL; AND SAINT-GOBAIN PERFORMANCE PLASTICS CORPORATION, A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cathy Ann Bencivengo United States Magistrate Judge

CLAIM CONSTRUCTION ORDER FOR U.S. PATENT NO. 5,160,122

Before the Court are the parties' joint motions for claim construction for U.S. Patent No. 5,160,122 ("the '122 Patent "). Pursuant to the Patent Local Rules and this Court's scheduling order, the plaintiff Bal Seal Engineering Co., Inc., and defendants Jay Quiang Huang and Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., submitted opening and responsive briefs and Joint Claim Construction Charts regarding the proposed constructions for certain terms and phrases of this patent. The Court held a claim construction hearing on March 25, 2011.

The purpose of a claim construction hearing is to resolve "disputed meanings and technical scope, to clarify and when necessary to explain what the patentee covered by the claims, for use in the determination of infringement." U.S. Surgical Corp. v. Ethicon, Inc., 103 F.3d 1554, 1568 (Fed. Cir. 1997). District courts are not required to construe every limitation present in the patent's asserted claims. 02 Micro Intern, Ltd. v. Beyond Innovation Technology Co., Ltd., 521 F.3d 1351, 1362 (Fed. Cir. 2008). "When the parties present a fundamental dispute regarding the scope of a claim term, it is the court's duty to resolve it." Id.

The parties identified Claims 1, 3, 5, 9, 12 and 13 of the '122 Patent as at issue in this litigation and presented certain limitations of those claims for construction. Having considered the submissions of the parties and the arguments of counsel, the Court construes the limitations at issue as set forth in the Attachment to this Order.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

Attachment

Claim Construction for

U.S. Patent No. 5,160,122

Claim Construction for U.S. Patent 5,160,122

Claim 1. A spring assembly comprising:

a plurality of coil means, interconnected with one another in a spaced-apart relationship, for causing the spring assembly to exert a force in a loading direction approximately normal to a tangent to a centerline of said plurality of coil means in response to deflection of the spring assembly along said loading direction; and

elastic material means, disposed around and between said plurality of coil means and having a hollow cross-section, for modifying the force exerted by the spring assembly in response to deflection of the spring assembly along said loading direction.

Terms for Construction

A plurality of coil means, interconnected with one another in a spaced-apart relationship, for causing the spring assembly to exert a force in a loading direction approximately normal to a

to a centerline of said plurality of coil means in response to deflection of the spring assembly along said loading direction

The Court interprets this claim language in accordance with 35 U.S.C. §112, paragraph 6 ("section 112(6)"), which states: An element in a claim for a combination may be expressed as a means or step for performing a specified function without the recital of structure, material, or acts in support thereof, and such claim shall be construed to cover the corresponding structure, material, or acts described in the specification and equivalents thereof ("means-plus-function claim"). Laitram Corp. v. Rexnord, Inc., 939 F.2d. 1533, 1536 (Fed. Cir. 1991). A claim limitation that actually uses the word "means" will invoke a rebuttable presumption that §112(6) applies. Personalized Media Comm'n, LLC v. Int'l Trade Comm'n, 161 F.3d 696, 703-04 (Fed. Cir. 1998) ("Means-plus-function claim"). Claim 1 uses the word "means" for defining a plurality of coil means. Both parties agree the rules of section 112(6) apply.

The language of Claim 1 includes the specific structural recitation that the means be "interconnected with one another in a spaced-apart relationship." This limitation of Claim 1 is consistent with the corresponding structures for the plurality of coil means depicted in the specification. The recitation of some structure in a means-plus-function element does not preclude the applicability of section 112(6). Laitram Corp., 939 F.2d at 1536.

"The construction of a means-plus-function limitation includes two steps. First, [the court determines] the claimed function. Second, [the court identifies] the corresponding structure in the written description that performs that function." JVW Enterprises, Inc. v. Interact Accessories, Inc., 424 F.3d 1324, 1330 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). The function of the plurality of coil means is to cause the spring assembly to exert a force in a loading direction approximately normal to a tangent to a centerline of said plurality of coil means in response to deflection of the spring assembly along said loading direction.

The Court looks to the specification for the corresponding structure. Figures 1, 1a and 1b show a spring assembly with "a plurality of coils interconnected with one another in a spaced-apart relationship" for the function described in Claim 1. Col. 4, lines 47-53. The spring assembly may include "circular coils, not canted to a centerline thereof, or . . . canted coil assemblies." Col. 4, lines 60-63. Consequently, the parties' proposed joint construction limiting the plurality of coil means to canted coils is too limiting.

The Court finds that section 112(6) applies, modifies the parties' joint construction of a plurality of coil means, interconnected with one another in a spaced-apart relationship, for causing the spring assembly to exert a force in a loading direction approximately normal to a tangent to a centerline of said plurality of coil means in response to deflection of the spring assembly along said loading direction, and defines it as:

Two or more spaced-apart coils of a circular or canted coil spring, and equivalents thereof.

Elastic material means, disposed around and between said plurality of coil means and having a

cross-section, for modifying the force exerted by the spring assembly in response to deflection of the spring assembly along said loading direction

Claim 1 uses the word "means" for defining elastic material. Both parties agree the rules of section 112(6) apply. The function of the elastic material means is for modifying the force exerted by the spring assembly in response to deflection of the spring assembly along said loading direction. The language of Claim 1 includes the specific structural recitation that the means be "disposed around and between said plurality of coil means and having a hollow cross-section."

The Court looks to the specification for the corresponding structure. Figure 1 depicts elastic material means disposed around and between the plurality of coils with a hollow cross-section for the function described in Claim 1. Col. 4, lines 54-60. The elastic material, or elastomer, of Figure 1 is described as "any synthetic or natural material capable of recovering its original size and shape after deformation. That is, the material is resilient." Col. 6, lines 8-12. Examples of such resilient material are given at Col. 7, lines 57-62.

The Court finds that section 112(6) applies, modifies the parties's joint construction of elastic material means, disposed around and between said plurality of coil means and having a hollow cross-section, for modifying the force exerted by the spring assembly in response to deflection of the spring assembly along said loading direction, and defines it as:

A resilient elastic material, and equivalents thereof.

Claim 3. The spring assembly according to claim 1 or 2 wherein said elastic ...


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