Means Plus Function Disavowal of Equivalents?

Patentlyo004Cross Medical v. Medtronic (Fed. Cir. 2005).

After an award of summary judgment of infringement, the Central District of California District Court issued a permanent injunction against Medtronic’s use of Cross’s patented spinal implants.  After determining that it had jurisdiction, the CAFC reversed the claim construction and remanded for a new determination of infringement based on the corrected construction.

Jurisdiction: Cross argued that, the injunction had no coercive effect because had Medtronic pulled its products from the market prior to the injunction, and thus, that there was no jurisdiction for an appeal.  The CAFC disagreed, highlighting their clear rule that: “if the district court’s order expressly grants an injunction, the order is appealable under § 1292(a)(1), without regard to whether the appellant is able to demonstrate serious or irreparable consequences.”

Claim Construction: The appellate panel began its claim construction analysis by referring to Webster’s definition of an “interface.” This was permissible under Phillips because the dictionary definition did not “contradict any definition found in or ascertained by a reading of the patent documents. Using the new definition, the CAFC modified the district court’s construction.

Means Plus Function: In an office action, the applicant referred to the claimed “securing means” as “i.e., the nut.”  Despite this reference to the a specific securing structure, the CAFC found that there had been no disavowal of scope in the means plus function element.  In dicta, the court noted that it had not decided whether there could ever be “a disavowal of § 112, ¶ 6 equivalents.”

The court then conducted a thorough analysis of infringement and validity, eventually vacating the summary judgment and remanding for further proceedings.

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