CAFC: No Disclaimer of Claim Scope When Patentee Makes Contradictory Statements.

PatentlyOImage005Outlast Technologies v. Frisby Technologies (Fed. Cir. 2005)(Nonprecedential).

Most of you arrived at this post looking for information on patents on Frisbee discs and disc golf.  Unfortunately this is not a Frisbee case.  

However, it does involve temperature-resistant, phase changing materials that resist temperature change by changing between their solid and liquid state. (Remember latent heat from physics 101).

After claim construction, the district court awarded summary judgment of noninfringement to the defendant Frisby.  Specifically, the court found that the patentee had, during prosecution, clearly disclaimed certain ‘impregnated materials’ from the claim scope.  On Rule 54(b) certified appeal, Outlast argued for an alternative claim construction.

The Appellate Panel found that the district court had erred by finding disclaimer.  The rule, of course, is that a disclaimer must be unequivocal and unambiguous.  In this case, the patentee made one statement that is easily read as a disclaimer, but also made another statement that tends to contradict a disclaimer. 

The Panel found that such contradictory statements are ambiguous of the patentee’s desire to disclaim the subject matter, and thus cannot serve as such a disclaimer.

These seemingly contradictory statements do not unequivocally or unambiguously disclaim articles in which the microcapsules are impregnated within the interstices of the substrate. On the contrary, such contradictory statements are indicative of ambiguity.

The court remanded for a determination of infringement under its newly constructed claim construction using an ordinary meaning approach.