by Dennis Crouch
Maxill, Inc. v. Loops, LLC (Fed. Cir. 2020)f [Maxill v. Loops]
The Loops patent covers a flexible toothbrush — and the claims require “an elongated body being flexible throughout the elongated body.” US8448285 (Claim 1). Apparently, these brushes are sold primarily to “institutional” settings such as prisons.
Early in the case, the patentee moved for summary judgment of infringement. The district court denied the motion, and acted sua sponte to enter summary judgment of non-infringement. Apparently, the judge had inspected the accused product and found that the head-portion of the elongated body wasn’t flexible. Although the body was made of flexible rubber, once the stiff head (with bristles) was molded-in, the body was no longer flexible.
On appeal, the Federal Circuit has reversed and remanded — finding that the district court erred in its claim construction of “elongated body being flexible throughout the elongated body.” The appellate court found that the flexibility requirement does not require the whole assembly to be flexible, but rather only that the elongated itself be flexible.
Loops argues that the accused toothbrush’s elongated body is made of orange flexible material that is flexible throughout (a position that Maxill does not dispute) and that this component is separate from the more-rigid head component. . . . We agree with Loops and conclude that, based on the claim language and structure, as well as the specification, the district court misunderstood the flexibility limitation to pertain to the elongated body when combined with the head as opposed to the elongated body alone. . . . Reversed.
Slip. Op. Read the claim and tell me what you think? Does the body need to be flexible when assembled, or only pre-assembly?
1. A toothbrush, comprising:
an elongated body being flexible throughout the elongated body and comprising a first material and having a head portion and a handle portion;
a head comprising a second material, wherein the head is disposed in and molded to the head portion of the elongated body; and
a plurality of bristles extending from the head forming a bristle brush, wherein the first material is less rigid than the second material.
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The appellate panel also took issue with the sua-sponte summary judgment without first providing the party with a “full and fair opportunity to present its case.” Here, although Loops had presented its summary-judgment argument of infringement, the appellate panel found that summary-judgment of non-infringement to be an entirely different matter. “Under the circumstances, we conclude, Loops did not have a full and fair opportunity to respond to Maxill prior to the district court’s sua sponte grant of summary judgment.”
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I was researching old inventors, but couldn’t find the burial place of William Addis, the toothbrush inventor. . . No plaque.