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Bradley v. Applied Marine Systems LLC

United States District Court, N.D. California

February 2, 2015

REASON BRADLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
APPLIED MARINE SYSTEMS LLC, Defendant.

CLAIM CONSTRUCTION ORDER Re: Dkt. Nos. 73 & 74

JACQUELINE SCOTT CORLEY, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Reason Bradley alleges Defendant Applied Marine Systems LLC infringes U.S. Patent No. 8, 094, 520 (the "520 Patent"). The parties have asked the Court to construe two disputed claim terms.[1]

THE PATENT-IN-SUIT

This lawsuit involves sonar mounts for boats and ships. Sonars play an important role in ship navigation, dredging compliance, finding underwater objects, maintaining safe waterways, and mapping. The 520 Patent relates to a sonar mount that "allows repeatable, accurate and precise alignment of a sonar head to a boat." See 520 Patent Col. 1:49-51. The sonar mount has a tilt mechanism which (1) "allows the sonar head to be lifted to a position that is substantially parallel to the boat's deck, thus facilitating placement of the boat on a trailer without the need to remove the sonar head from the boat"; (2) allows the sonar pole to lock in the fore or aft position on the vessel when transiting in the water"; and (3) "doubles as a breakaway safety mechanism." Id. at Col. 1:51-57.

LEGAL STANDARDS

"It is a bedrock principle of patent law that the claims of a patent define the invention to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude." Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Generally, claim terms are given the ordinary and customary meaning that would be ascribed to them by a person of ordinary skill in the field of the invention. Id. at 1312-13; see also Rexnord Corp. v. Laitram Corp., 274 F.3d 1336, 1342 (Fed. Cir. 2001) ("[U]nless compelled to do otherwise, a court will give a claim term the full range of its ordinary meaning as understood by an artisan of ordinary skill"). Ordinary and customary meaning is not the same as a dictionary definition. "Properly viewed, the ordinary meaning' of a claim term is its meaning to the ordinary artisan after reading the entire patent. Yet heavy reliance on the dictionary divorced from the intrinsic evidence risks transforming the meaning of the claim term to the artisan into the meaning of the term in the abstract, out of its particular context, which is the specification." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1321.

The most "significant source of the legally operative meaning of disputed claim language" is the intrinsic evidence of record, that is, the claims, the specification and the prosecution history. Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996). This is because "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." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1313. Thus, "[t]he inventor's words that are used to describe the invention-the inventor's lexicography-must be understood and interpreted by the court as they would be understood and interpreted by a person in that field of technology." Multiform Desiccants, Inc. v. Medzam, Ltd., 133 F.3d 1473, 1477 (Fed. Cir. 1998); see also ACTV, Inc. v. Walt Disney Co., 346 F.3d 1082, 1088 (Fed. Cir. 2003) ("the context of the surrounding words of the claim also must be considered in determining the ordinary and customary meaning of those terms"). In some cases, the specification may reveal a "special definition" given by the inventor that differs from the meaning the term might otherwise possess. Phillips, 1415 F.3d at 1316. In such instances, "the inventor's lexicography governs." Id. Similarly, a specification may reveal "an intentional disclaimer, or disavowal, of claim scope by the inventor." Id.

While claims are to be construed in light of the specification, courts must be careful not to read limitations from the specification into the claim. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1323. For example, if a patent specification describes only a single embodiment of a claimed invention that does not mean the claims of the patent necessarily must be construed as limited to that embodiment. Id. Rather, the purpose of the specification "is to teach and enable those of skill in the art to make and use the invention" and often the best way to do so is to provide an example. Id. However, the court "cannot look at the ordinary meaning of the term... in a vacuum. Rather, [it] must look at the ordinary meaning in the context of the written description and the prosecution history." Medrad, Inc. v. MRI Devices Corp., 401 F.3d 1313, 1319 (Fed. Cir. 2005).

CONSTRUCTION OF CLAIM TERMS

The parties jointly submitted two claim terms for construction consistent with Patent Local Rule 4-3 and the Court's Case Management Order. The two terms are (1) "Z direction, " and (2) "any of a selected Z direction and yaw adjustment." The disputed claim terms appear in Claim 1 of the 520 Patent which provides:

1. A tiltable mount, comprising:
a base having an attachment mechanism for securing said mount to a vehicle surface;
a clamp mechanism, secured to said base;
a cross tube, coupled to said clamp mechanism, wherein said clamp mechanism comprises a mechanism that is operable to release said cross tube to establish any of a selected Z direction and pitch adjustment, and said clamp mechanism is operable to secure said cross tube to maintain said Z direction and/or pitch established adjustment during operation of said mount;
a Z tube, coupled substantially perpendicular to an axis of said cross tube at an ...

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