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Indratech, LLC v. Fibrix, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

January 18, 2018

INDRATECH, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
FIBRIX, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER

          David C. Keesler United States Magistrate Judge.

         THIS MATTER IS BEFORE THE COURT

         regarding the “Joint Claim Construction Statement” (Document No. 25) filed July 3, 2017; “Plaintiff Indratech, LLC's Opening Claim Construction Brief” (Document No. 27) filed August 14, 2017; “Defendant Fibrix, LLC's Responsive Claim Construction Brief” (Document No. 28) filed August 28, 2017; “Plaintiff Indratech, LLC's Reply Claim Construction Brief” (Document No. 30) filed September 4, 2017; and “Defendant Fibrix, LLC's Sur-Reply Claim Construction Brief” (Document No. 33) filed September 13, 2017. The parties have consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and review and construction of the parties' disputed terms is now appropriate.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Indratech, LLC, (“Plaintiff” or “Indratech”) initiated this action with the filing of its “Complaint & Jury Demand” (Document No. 1) (the “Complaint”) on September 30, 2016. The Complaint asserts that Defendant Fibrix, LLC (“Defendant” or “Fibrix”) has contributed to and continues to contribute to the infringement of United States Patent No. 9, 392, 877 (the “877 patent”), entitled “Turntable Spring Mattress and Method of Making Same, ” issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on July 19, 2016. (Document No. 1, pp.2-5). Patent ‘877 relates to the field of mattresses, particularly mattresses having innersprings or a spring core assembly. (Document No. 27, p.7). Plaintiff contends that Defendant's “customers directly infringe the ‘877 patent by using the Fibrix rail to manufacture, sell, offer to sell, or import mattresses comprising a spring core assembly with the fixed Fibrix rail around its perimeter.” (Document No. 1, p.5). “Defendant Fibrix, LLC's Answer, Affirmative Defenses, Counterclaim” (Document No. 15) was filed on December 5, 2016.

         On January 13, 2017, the parties filed their “Utility Patent Certificate Of Initial Attorneys' Conference” (Document No. 19) and “Joint Stipulation Of Consent To Exercise Jurisdiction By A U.S. Magistrate Judge” (Document No. 20). The Court issued the “Utility Patent Claim Construction Scheduling Order” (Document No. 21) on January 21, 2017.

         Based on the parties' briefs referenced above, and the presentations by counsel at a Markman, or claim construction, hearing held on December 12, 2017, this matter is now ripe for review and a determination by the Court regarding the six (6) disputed terms in the underlying ‘877 patent. See (Document Nos. 25 and 35); see also Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967 (Fed. Cir. 1995) aff'd, 517 U.S. 370 (1996).

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         Claim construction is a matter of law, to be decided by the Court. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 387-88 (1996). “The purpose of a Markman hearing is to ascertain the meaning of a patent's claims so that it is clear precisely what has been patented and, by consequence, the protections the patent therefore affords the patent holder.” Ohio Willow Wood Co. v. Daw Industries, Inc., 2006 WL 462364 at *2 (S.D.Ohio, Feb. 22, 2006). Claims should be construed with a focus “on the objective test of what one of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention would have understood the term to mean.” Markman, 52 F.3d 967, 986 (Fed.Cir.1995). “Importantly, the 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 v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d at 1313 (Fed.Cir. 2005).

         “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 at 1312 (quoting Innova/Pure Water, Inc. v. Safari Water Filtration Systems, Inc., 381 F.3d 1111, 1115 (Fed.Cir. 2004)); see also Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed.Cir. 1996) (“we look to the words of the claims themselves . . . to define the scope of the patented invention.”). The words of a claim are “generally given their ordinary and customary meaning” unless a patentee has clearly stated in the patent specification or file history that a different meaning should be applied. Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582. “In some cases, the ordinary meaning of claim language as understood by a person of skill in the art may be readily apparent even to lay judges, and claim construction in such cases involves little more than the application of the widely accepted meaning of commonly understood words.” Applied Material, Inc. v. Tokyo Seimitsu, Co., Ltd., 446 F.Supp.2d 525, 529 (E.D.Va. 2006) (citing Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1315). “Although words in a claim are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning, a patentee may choose to be his own lexicographer and use terms in a manner other than their ordinary meaning, as long as the special definition of the term is clearly stated in the patent specification or file history.” Vitronics Corp., 90 F.3d at 1582 (citing Hoechst Celanese Corp. v. BP Chems. Ltd., 78 F.3d 1575, 1578 (Fed.Cir. 1996).

         After careful consideration of the intrinsic evidence - the claim language, the specification, and the prosecution history - the undersigned is prepared to construe the disputed terms of the ‘877 patent.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The parties dispute the proper construction of six (6) terms or phrases in the ‘877 patent: five (5) terms in Claim 1, and one (1) term in Claim 4. See (Document No. 25 and Document No. 1-1). Plaintiff Indratech proposes that each of the disputed terms be construed as having its “plain and ordinary meaning.” See (Document Nos. 25, 27, 30 and 35). Defendant Fibrix, however, proposes new language to define those terms and/or argues that the terms are “indefinite.” See (Document Nos. 25, 28, 33, and 35). The undersigned will address and attempt to construe each disputed term/phrase below.

         A. Claim 1

         Plaintiff's first claim of the ‘877 patent states the following:

1. A mattress comprising:a spring core assembly including a plurality of coil springs, the spring core assembly having a length, width, and a height, wherein the outermost coil springs provide a spring core assembly perimeter, wherein the coil springs provide a first spring rate in a direction of a height of the spring core assembly; and a polymer structure comprising polyester fibers interlinked with one another, wherein the polymer structure is arranged outside of the outermost coil springs, wherein the polymer structure provides a second spring rate in the direction of the height of the spring core assembly, wherein the second spring rate is an increased spring rate in the direction of the height of the spring core assembly relative to a polymer structure comprising only randomly oriented fibers, wherein, when the mattress is in an assembled condition, the polymer structure is arranged at the spring core assembly perimeter to provide a monolithic perimeter rail without any of the plurality of coil springs.

(Document No. 1-1, p.11; Document No. 35) (emphasis added to disputed terms).

         1. outermost coil springs

         As noted above, for this term and all terms in dispute, Plaintiff proposes a claim construction of the “plain and ordinary meaning.” Plaintiff contends that “[a]ll claim 1 requires is that the spring core assembly's perimeter is ...


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