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Rivera v. International Trade Commission

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

May 23, 2017


         Appeal from the United States International Trade Commission in Investigation No. 337-TA-929.

          Sudip Kumar Kundu, Kundu PLLC, Washington, DC, argued for appellants. Also represented by MATTHEW G. Cunningham.

          Robert John Needham, Office of General Counsel, United States International Trade Commission, Washington, DC, argued for appellee. Also represented by DOMINIC L. Bianchi, Wayne W. Herrington, Sidney A. Rosenzweig.

          Laurence M. Sandell, Mei & Mark LLP, Washington, DC, argued for intervenor. Also represented by Lei Mel

          Before Reyna, Linn, and Chen, Circuit Judges.

          LlNN, Circuit Judge.

         Adrian Rivera and Adrian Rivera Maynez Enterprises (collectively, "Rivera") appeal from a divided decision by the International Trade Commission, finding no violation of Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, 19 U.S.C. § 1337, based on the Commission's holding of invalidity of certain asserted claims of Rivera's U.S. Patent No. 8, 720, 320 ("'320 patent"), filed July 13, 2007, titled "Pod Adaptor System for Single Service Beverage Brewers." In re Certain Beverage Brewing Capsules, Components Thereof, and Products Containing the Same, Inv. No. 337-TA-929 (April 5, 2016) (Final) ('Beverage Capsules" and "Beverage Capsules Dissent").

         Because substantial evidence supports the Commission's holding that all asserted claims are invalid for lack of written description, we affirm. We need not, and do not, reach any of the alternative grounds for affirmance.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Disclosure in the '320 patent

         The '320 patent describes single-brew coffee machines falling into two general categories. "Some machines have brewing chambers configured to receive pods which are small, flattened disk-shaped filter packages of beverage extract, while other machines are configured to accommodate larger, cup-shaped beverage filter cartridges." '320 patent, col. 1, 11. 17-21. The Keurig® system, which uses "K-Cups, " is an example of the latter system.

         The patent describes the Keurig® brewer in some detail, and notes that it "inherently limits the use of the machine to cup-shaped cartridges, " id. at col. 1, 11. 40-41, so that "users of the Keurig machine . . . would have to purchase a different machine to brew beverage from pods, which are typically somewhat flattened disc shaped filter paper packets containing coffee, " id. at col. 1, 11. 41-45. Because multiple machines are inconvenient and expensive, the '320 patent identifies "a need for brewers configured for cup-shaped cartridges [to] also be used to brew beverages from pods." Id. at col. 1, 11. 47-50.

         The '320 explicitly defines a "pod" as follows: "As used herein, the term 'pod' is a broad term and shall have its ordinary meaning and shall include, but not be limited to, a package formed of a water permeable material and containing an amount of ground coffee or other beverage therein." Id. at col. 1, 1. 66 - col. 2, 1. 3.

         As explained in the specification, the '320 patent purports to solve two problems: (1) the incompatibility between pod-based and cartridge-based systems; and (2) the lack of flavor from single-service brewed coffee resulting from the lack of tamping (i.e., contraction) of the coffee. Id. at col. 1, 11. 11-62. The claims at issue here are only concerned with the first problem and Rivera's asserted solution to it. The '320 patent Abstract explains that "[t]he assembly is especially designed for brewing pods in brewers configured for cup-shaped beverage extract cartridges." The invention "more particularly relates to an adaptor assembly configured to effect operative compatibility between a single serve beverage brewer and beverage pods." Id. at col. 1, 11. 6-9.

         The '320 patent includes several embodiments to effectuate its purposes. Every embodiment in the '320 patent shows a cup-shaped "receptacle, " adapted in various ways to receive a discrete water permeable, coffee-containing "pod." For example, the embodiment shown in Figure 3A, reproduced below, shows a "pod adaptor assembly, " 300, which "generally comprises a receptacle 302" with "a substantially circular base 306 and sidewalls 308 extending upwardly from the base." Id. at col. 5, 11. 40-43. "The base 306 has an annular raised portion 314 extending upwardly from a lower surface 316 of the base, " which "provides a raised support surface 318 for a pod 320 so that the pod 320 does not contact and possibly block the opening 324 for brewed coffee to flow through." Id. at col. 5, 11. 42-51.

         (Image Omitted)

         The remaining embodiments either show only a "receptacle" without a filter, id. at FIGS. 1A, IB, 1C, 2, 3B, 6, or show a discrete "pod" with filter sitting inside the receptacle, id. at FIGS. 4, 5. See also FIG. 1 (showing prior art).

         The patent was filed on July 13, 2007, claiming a "pod adaptor assembly" with a "receptacle . . . adapted to provide a support surface for a pod, " or a "pod adaptor assembly" with a "housing having an interior region adapted to receive a beverage pod, " or a "brewing chamber for a beverage pod" with "a housing adapted to receive the beverage pod." J. App'x at 2052-53. After almost seven years of prosecution and multiple amendments, the '320 patent issued. None of the claims as issued included any reference to a "pod, " "pod adaptor assembly, " or "brewing chamber for a beverage pod." Instead, the relevant claims call for "a container ...

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