United States District Court, N.D. California
CLAIM CONSTRUCTION ORDER RE: DKT. NOS. 85,
C. SPERO CHIEF MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Ely Holdings Limited and Greenlite Glass Systems Inc. brought
this action alleging that Defendant O'Keeffe's, Inc.
d/b/a SaftiFirst (“Safti”) infringed U.S. Patent
No. 7, 694, 475 (the “'475 patent”), which
relates to configurations of structural glass and fire-rated
glass in architectural flooring. The parties ask the Court to
construe nine disputed terms in the claims of the '475
patent. The Court held a tutorial and hearing on December 19,
2019, and resolves the parties' disputes as discussed
parties shall file supplemental materials no later than
January 2, 2020 addressing the nature of certain products
cited in the '475 patent.
summarize at a broad level, the '475 patent describes a
glass flooring system in which a layer of structural glass is
above a layer of fire-rated glass, but load from the
structural glass rests on structural “load transferring
means” (“LTMs”) that bypass the fire rated
glass to transmit that load directly to the structural frame
supporting the floor. Embodiments of the invention involve
structural glass, fire-rated glass, structural steel,
silicone pads and adhesives, and intumescent materials,
 among other
substances. According to its specifications, the '475
patent represents an improvement over prior art in which the
two layers were respectively supported on the top and bottom
flanges of structural I-beams in that it reduces space
between the structural glass and the fire-rated glass and
thus produces a more desirable appearance. '475 Patent at
1:20-28, 1:59-67. The specifications also distinguish the
'475 patent from an existing system in which the
structural and fire-rated layers were directly bonded
together and the bottom fire-rated layer carried the full
load of the floor, which was limited to 30 minutes of
integrity and insulation in the event of a fire, and which
required expensive replacement of the entire glass assembly
if the surface layer of structural glass was damaged during
use. Id. at 1:29-33.
the parties' disputes relate to whether or in what
circumstances particular claims of the '475 patent
encompass configurations where the structural glass layer is
bonded to the fire-rated glass layer by some other material,
including configurations where the fire-rated glass hangs
from the structural glass.
claims directly relevant to the parties' disputes as to
construction are as follows, with the terms in dispute
identified with bracketed letters and italics:
1. A fire rated glass flooring system comprising:
a first layer of glass which comprises a structural glass;
a second layer of glass which comprises a fire rated glass,
wherein the first layer of glass is positioned above the
second layer of glass;
one or more load transferring means; and
a structural frame comprising a plurality of beams and a
plurality of cross members interconnecting the beams, wherein
the structural frame supports the first and second layers of
glass and the one or more load transferring means;
characterized in that
[A:] the two layers of glass are separated by
one or more of the load transferring means, and
at least one of the load transferring means comprises
a horizontal portion supporting the first layer of glass
[B:] a vertical portion transferring load from
the first layer of glass above directly to the structural
frame below, bypassing the second layer of glass.
2. A fire rated glass flooring system as claimed in claim 1
wherein [F: the distance from the upper surface of
the second layer of glass to the lower surface of the first
layer of glass is less than 50 mm.
11. A fire rated glass flooring system as claimed in claim 1
wherein the horizontal portion of the load transferring means
is a portion of a [I:] glazing bar.
13. A fire rated glass flooring system as claimed in claim 1
wherein the or each load transferring means is located on the
structural frame and is of size and shape such that the first
layer of glass is supported by the or each load transferring
21. A fire rated glass flooring system as claimed in claim 13
wherein [C:] the second layer of glass is
suspended from the first layer of glass such that there is a
small gap between the first and second layers of glass.
24. A fire rated glass flooring system [E:]
comprising a first layer of glass which is a structural
glass and a second layer of glass which is a fire rated
glass, together with a structural frame supporting the
flooring system, wherein the two layers of glass are
positioned one above the other, characterized in that the two
layers of glass are separated by one or more load
transferring means and [D:] the load
transferring means transfers load applied to the first layer
of glass directly to the structural frame, bypassing the
second layer of glass, and wherein the or each load
transferring means together with the structural frame form a
C shape having an upper horizontal section, a lower
horizontal section and a connecting vertical section, with
[G:] the first layer of glass being supported by
the or each load transferring means and the second layer of
glass being supported by the structural frame.
25. A fire rated glass flooring system as claimed in claim 24
wherein the [H:] load transferring means
comprises a first portion for bearing the load applied to the
first layer of glass and a second portion for
transmitting the load applied to the first layer of glass
to the structural frame.
'475 Patent at 8:39-10:24 (emphasis added).
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) (quoting Innova/Pure Water, Inc. v. Safari
Water Filtration Sys., Inc., 381 F.3d 1111, 1115 (Fed.
Cir. 2004)). 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.”).
most significant source of the legally operative meaning of
disputed claim language” is the “[i]ntrinsic
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). “[T]he 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. In
some cases, the specification may reveal a “special
definition” given by the inventor that differs from the
meaning the term might otherwise possess. Id. 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.”
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; see also Howmedica Osteonics Corp. v. Zimmer,
822 F.3d 1312, 1321 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (“[W]e have
observed that there is a fine line between reading a claim
in light of the written description and reading a
limitation into the claim from the written
description.”). Thus, 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.
Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1323. Rather, the purpose of
the specification “is to teach and enable those of
skill in the art to make and use the invention” and the
best way to do that is often to provide one or more examples.
person of ordinary skill in the art also looks to the
prosecution history of a patent to understand how the patent
applicant and the Patent Office understood the claim terms.
Id. at 1313, 1317. Arguments and amendments made
during patent prosecution limit the interpretation of claim
terms to exclude interpretations that were disclaimed to
obtain allowance of a claim. Southwall Techs., Inc. v.
Cardinal IG Co., 54 F.3d 1570, 1576 (Fed. Cir. 1995).
Courts may also use “[e]xtrinsic evidence . . .
including expert and inventor testimony, dictionaries, and
learned treatises” in construing claim terms if it is
necessary, so long as such evidence is not used to
“vary or contradict the terms of the claims.”
Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967,
980-81 (Fed. Cir. 1995). “This evidence may be helpful
to explain scientific principles, the meaning of technical
terms, and terms of art that appear in the patent and
prosecution history.” Id. at 980. The Federal
Circuit has warned, however, that such evidence is generally
“less reliable than the patent and its prosecution
history in determining how to read claim terms.”
Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1318. A court must be careful
not to elevate extrinsic sources of evidence “to such
prominence . . . that it focuses the inquiry on the abstract
meaning of the words rather than on the meaning of claim
terms within the context of the patent.” Id.
“The Two Layers of Glass Are Separated . .
parties dispute the language in claim 1 of the '475
patent reading “the two layers of glass are
separated by one or more of the load transferring
means.” See '475 Patent at 8:51-
ask the Court to construe this phrase as follows:
There are one or more mechanisms having a horizontal
portion/upper horizontal section and a vertical
portion/connecting vertical section, where the horizontal
portion/upper horizontal section is between the structural
glass and the fire-rated glass and bears at least some of the
weight applied to the structural glass and the vertical
section passes that weight to a beam or cross member instead
of to the fire-rated glass.
Pls.' Br. (dkt. 85) at 5. Safti offers a construction
that would require complete separation between the two layers
the two layers are detached and exist by themselves without
touching each other with one or more of the load transferring
means lying between the two separated layers, transferring
the entire load from the structural glass to a beam or cross
Def.'s Br. (dkt. 92) at 5.
proposed constructions go far beyond the language of the
claim. As Safti correctly notes, Plaintiffs'
construction-which would allow for the two layers touching
one another- disregards the plain meaning of the word
“separated.” On the other hand, Safti's
requirement that the LTMs transfer the entire load
of the structural glass does not necessarily follow from the
fact that the two layers are “separated.” The
Court addresses the issue of what load must or may be
supported by the LTMs separately in the context of the next
disputed term, also from claim 1, which relates to a vertical
portion of the LTM “transferring load” and
“bypassing” the fire-rated glass.
parties dispute the meaning and significance of Figure 5 of
the '475 patent, particularly the nature of the unlabeled
single-hatched area between the panes of glass (designated as
62, 63 and 66) and extending out ...