Federal Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment in Golf Club Infringement Case

On September 16, 2010, Nassau Precision Casting Co., Inc., owner of U.S. Patent No. 5,486,000, entitled “Weighted Golf Iron Club Head,” brought a patent infringement lawsuit accusing Acushnet of infringing claims 1 and 2 of the ’000 patent by making, offering to sell, and selling its Cobra S9, Cobra S9 Second Generation, King Cobra UFi, and Cobra S2 clubs. The ’000 patent describes what it says is an improvement in the distribution of weight within the head of a golf club. The purpose of the invention is to achieve “sweet spot-enhancement, i.e. significant improvement in the ball-striking efficacy of the club head, while maintaining the same starting overall weight of the club head.”

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted summary judgment of non-infringement to Acushnet. On June 6, 2014, the Federal Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part and remanded after determining that, based on the district court’s claim interpretation, the only element found lacking from the accused device relative to claim 2 was in fact present in the accused device. See Nassau Precision Casting v. Acushnet Company, Inc.

Claim 1 of the ’000 patent reads:

1. In a golf iron club head of a type having a ball-striking body of weight-imparting construction material inclined at a selected angle for driving a struck golf ball a corresponding selected height during its trajectory, said body having spaced-apart top and bottom surfaces bounding a ball-striking surface therebetween, the method of improving weight distribution comprising removing construction material from said top surface, relocating said removed construction material from said top surface to clearance positions below said top surface located adjacent opposite ends of said bottom, surface whereby said removed construction material from a location not used during ball-striking service of said golf iron, is of no adverse consequence thereto and said removed construction material in said relocated positions contributes to increasing said height attained by a struck golf ball.

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CAFC Sends Dismissed Interference Back to Board

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently decided a case arising out of an interference proceeding before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) relating to drug treatments for spinal nerve injuries. See Tobinick v. Olmarker (Fed. Cir., May 19, 2014).

Kjell Olmarker and Bjorn Rydevik (collectively “Olmarker”) are the named inventors on U.S. Patent Nos. 7,708,995 and 7,811,990. In order to provoke an interference, Edward Tobinick copied claims from the ’995 patent and the ’990 patent into his patent application.

In the USPTO proceeding, the Board construed “administered locally” as administering the claimed therapeutic compound “directly to the site where it is intended to act, that is, to the location where the nucleus pulposus is causing the symptoms of the nerve disorder.” Based on this construction, the Board found that Edward Tobinick’s patent application did not contain written description support for the interference count. Therefore, without written description support for the count, the Board concluded that Tobinick lacked standing for the interference proceeding, and dismissed the interference.

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CAFC Vacates PTAB Because of New Ground of Rejection

lutz-biedermann-imageThe Federal Circuit recently issued a decision on an appeal from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board where the central question was whether the Board and the examiner properly relied on the same articulated reasoning and factual underpinnings in rejecting a claim, or whether instead the Board made new findings and adopted different reasons to support a new ground of rejection, thus depriving the applicant of both notice and an opportunity to respond. See In re Lutz Biedermann.

Lutz Biedermann and Jurgen Harms (collectively “Biedermann”) appealed a decision of the Board affirming the rejection of claims 32, 33, 35–37, 39, and 48 of U.S. Patent Application No. 10/306,057 (“’057 Application”) for obviousness, 35 U.S.C. § 103(a). Ultimately, the Federal Circuit, per Judge Linn (with Judges Moore and O’Malley agreeing), determined that the Board rejection did constitute a new grounds of rejection. Thus, the Board’s decision was vacated and remanded for further proceedings.

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CAFC Finds Promise Not to Infringe Insufficient in ANDA Litigation

LunestaOn September 26, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a panel decision in Sunovion Pharmaceuticals v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA et al.

Sunovion appealed from the decision of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey granting summary judgment that Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Ltd. and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Inc. (collectively “Reddy”) do not infringe claims 1, 2, and 8 of Sunovion’s U.S. Patent 6,444,673 (the “’673 patent”). The Federal Circuit panel, per Judge Lourie, with Judges Schall and Reyna joining in the decision, concluded that, although the district court did not err in construing the asserted claims, Sunovion was entitled to a judgment of infringement as a matter of law under 35 U.S.C. § 271(e)(2)(A).

Sunovion owns the rights to the ’673 patent, which is directed to pharmaceutical compositions of the single-enantiomer drug eszopiclone, the active ingredient in the chiral drug marketed as a sleep medication under the brand name LUNESTA®. Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 355(b)(1), the ’673 patent is listed as referenced to LUNESTA® in the FDA’s Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations publication (commonly known as the “Orange Book”). During the second quarter of 2013 alone, LUNESTA® had sales of nearly $200 million.

The dispute started when Reddy submitted an Abbreviated New Drug Application (“ANDA”) to the FDA, which included a so-called paragraph IV certification with respect to the ’673 patent under the Hatch-Waxman Act, 21 U.S.C. § 355(j)(2)(A)(vii)(IV), seeking approval to manufacture, use, and sell 1 mg, 2 mg, and 3 mg eszopiclone tablets as generic versions of Lunesta® prior to the expiration of the ’673 patent. As the Hatch-Waxman Act allows Sunovion to do, they then initiated a patent infringement lawsuit, asserting that Reddy’s ANDA submission constituted an act of infringement of claims 1, 2, and 8 of the ’673 patent according to 35 U.S.C. § 271(e)(2)(A).

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CAFC Reverses Summary Judgment on Doctrine of Equivalents

In The Charles Machine Works, Inc. v. Vermeer Manufacturing Co. (Fed. Cir., July 26, 2013), the patent in question was U.S. Patent 5,490,569 (the “’569 patent”), which generally relates to a two-pipe drill for boring underground holes in the horizontal direction. An inner pipe rotates the drill bit. An outer pipe, which includes a body and casing, is used for steering. The ’569 patent also discusses a structure called a “deflection shoe” as a steering mechanism. The deflection shoe is included on one side of the casing to create an asymmetry about the casing’s centerline axis. If the casing does not rotate, the deflection shoe causes the drill to deflect away from a straight path. When the casing rotates, however, the drill follows a straight horizontal path.

The Charles Machine Works (“CMW”) sued Vermeer for infringement of the ’569 patent. Asserted apparatus claims 1, 4–8, 10, 12, 18, 20–25, and 27 recite “a deflection shoe mounted on a first side of” either “the body” or “the casing.” Asserted method claims 30–31 recite “the casing having a deflection shoe thereon.”

CMW alleged infringement by two types of Vermeer drills: non-commercial prototypes and commercial products. Both types of drills include a structure called a bent sub, which CMW contends meets the “deflection shoe” and “mounted on” limitations. The prototypes include an additional structure called a wear pad. Vermeer moved for summary judgment of noninfringement, literal or under the doctrine of equivalents, of the asserted claims. The district court granted Vermeer’s motion as to all accused products. CMW appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

On appeal, CMW argued, among other things, that the court erred by granting summary judgment as to Vermeer’s accused prototypes. Furthermore, CMW argued that Vermeer’s motion for summary judgment covered only the accused commercial products. As a result, CMW asserted that it did not have notice that the district court was considering making a ruling relative to the prototypes, which CMW maintained are structurally different than the commercial products.

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