Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ely Holdings Ltd. v. O'Keeffe's, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

December 19, 2019

ELY HOLDINGS LIMITED, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
O'KEEFFE'S, INC., Defendant.

          CLAIM CONSTRUCTION ORDER RE: DKT. NOS. 85, 92

          JOSEPH C. SPERO CHIEF MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiffs 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 below.[1]

         The parties shall file supplemental materials no later than January 2, 2020 addressing the nature of certain products cited in the '475 patent.

         II. BACKGROUND

         To 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, [2] 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.

         Many of 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.

         The 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 above and
[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:[3] 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 means.
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).

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         “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) (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.”).

         “[T]he 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.” 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; 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. See id.

         A 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. at 1321-22.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A.The Two Layers of Glass Are Separated . . .”

         The 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- 52.

         Plaintiffs 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 of glass:

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 member

Def.'s Br. (dkt. 92) at 5.

         Both 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.

         The 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.