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Composite Resources, Inc. v. Combat Medical Systems, LLC

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

April 12, 2018




         THIS MATTER is before the court on the parties' respective motions and briefs (#s 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83) for the construction of certain claim language in U.S. Patent Nos. 7, 842, 067 (“the '067 Patent'”) and 7, 892, 253 (“the '253 Patent'”). Plaintiff Composite Resources, Inc. (“CRI”) has alleged that Defendants Combat Medical Systems, LLC and Alphapointe (collectively, “defendants”) infringed these two patents. The court held a claim construction hearing on February 14, 2018. Having considered the briefing and arguments of counsel and reviewed the claims, specifications, and other relevant evidence, the court now construes the disputed terms at issue.

         I. Background

         Both the '067 Patent and the '253 Patent (collectively, the “patents-in-suit”) pertain to a tourniquet. The ‘067 Patent's invention is a tourniquet consisting of a pair of straps and a buckle that can be manipulated and tightened by a user (including a victim) with only one hand. The tourniquet also provides improved circulation stoppage through an inner tightening strap within a sleeve. The ‘253 Patent's invention is the same, except that it allows for modifications to the buckle, such as teeth and planar transition areas, that make it harder for the tourniquet to inadvertently loosen.

         a. The ‘067 Patent

         On November 30, 2010, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (the “PTO”) issued the '067 Patent, titled “Tourniquet and Method of Use, ” which names Mr. Mark Esposito as inventor. The patent describes a relatively small and lightweight tourniquet, comprised of a first elongated member including a buckle, and a second elongated member slidably connected to the first. In addition, a tensioning mechanism connected to the second member applies tension to create compressive force that restricts the flow of blood in the body part. The tensioning mechanism may be a windlass or a ratchet. The tourniquet is suited for emergency use, and may be applied, manipulated, and tightened by the wearer, even if the wearer is limited to using one hand.

         b. The ‘253 Patent

         On February 22, 2011, the PTO issued the '253 Patent, also titled “Tourniquet and Method of Use, ” which also names Mr. Esposito as inventor, along with Mr. Jonathan Bennett. This patent is for another tourniquet that is nearly identical to the one described in the ‘067 Patent. However, this tourniquet modifies the buckle to include one or more of a raised intermediate bar and one or more teeth attached to the bar, in order to better prevent the outer sleeve from inadvertently loosening and disengaging from the buckle.

         c. The infringing product

         CRI alleges that defendants infringed these two patents by making, using, importing, offering for sale, and selling its “Tactical Mechanical Tourniquet” (“the TMT Product”). Specifically, plaintiff alleges that defendant Combat Medical Systems, LLC, the primary distributor of defendant Alphapointe, offers for sale and sells the TMT Product in this district and throughout the United States. CRI alleges that the TMT Product is a tourniquet that restricts the flow of blood in a body part, via looping around and circumferentially surrounding the body part and compressing it through a slidably engaged mechanism. In doing so, CRI argues that the TMT Product violates at least claim 15 of the ‘067 Patent and at least claim 9 of the ‘253 Patent. CRI further argues that such sales of the TMT Product by defendants has ongoing costs to CRI in loss of sales, loss of profits, loss of royalties, and other irreparable injuries. Defendants argue that they have not infringed on any valid patent claims, but that the patent claims forming the basis of plaintiff's case are invalid. Further, defendants argue both patents are unenforceable due to fraud by the patentee in securing the patents.

         II. Legal Standards

         Patent infringement is the unauthorized production, use, sale, offer of sale, or importation of any patented invention during the term of the patent. 35 U.S.C. § 271(a). An infringement analysis entails two steps. In the first step, the court determines the meaning and scope of the patent claims asserted to be infringed. In the second step, the trier of fact compares the properly construed claims to the device accused of infringing. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 976 (Fed. Cir. 1995) aff'd, 517 U.S. 370 (1996). The purpose of claim construction is to determine the meaning and scope of the patent claims alleged to be infringed. O2 Micro Int'l Ltd. v. Beyond Innovation Tech. Co., Ltd., 521 F.3d 1351, 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2008). “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.” Innova/Pure Water, Inc. v. Safari Water Filtration Sys., 381 F.3d 1111, 1115 (Fed. Cir. 2004).

         Claim construction is a matter of law. Markman, 517 U.S. at 372. “It is well-settled that, in interpreting an asserted claim, the court should look first to the intrinsic evidence of record, i.e., the patent itself, including the claims, the specification and, if in evidence, the prosecution history. Such intrinsic evidence is the most significant source of the legally operative meaning of disputed claim language.” Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996) (citation omitted). While the Patent Office and patent examiners may give claims their broadest reasonable construction in reviewing patents and prospective patents, federal district courts are to give disputed claim terms their “ordinary and customary meaning, ” or “the meaning that the term would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art in question at the time of the invention, i.e., as of the effective filing date of the patent application.” Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312, 1313 (Fed. Cir. 2005); see also Cuozzo Speed Techs., LLC v. Lee, 136 S.Ct. 2131, 2143 (contrasting the patent office's use of “the broadest reasonable construction standard” with the district court's use of the “ordinary meaning standard”); Prima Tek II, L.L.C. v. Polypap, S.A.R.L., 318 F.3d 1143, 1148 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (holding that there is a “heavy burden” in favor of using “the ordinary meaning of claim language as understood by one of ordinary skill in the art”); Thorner v. Sony Computer Entm't Am. LLC, 669 F.3d 1362, 1365-67 (Fed. Cir. 2012) (holding that a claim's words “are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning as understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art when read in the context of the specification and prosecution history”).

         However, the preference for applying ordinary meanings in the district court may be overcome either “(1) where the patentee has chosen to be his or her own lexicographer by clearly setting forth an explicit definition for a claim term; or (2) where the term chosen by the patentee so deprives the claim of clarity that there is no means by which the scope of the claim may be ascertained from the language used.” Prima Tek II, 318 F.3d at 1148 (citing Johnson Worldwide Assocs., Inc. v. Zebco Corp., 175 F.3d 985, 990 (Fed. Cir. 1999)). The inventor's lexicography governs when the specification “reveal[s] a special definition given to a claim term by the patentee that differs from the meaning it would otherwise possess.” Allergan, Inc. v. Barr Labs., Inc., 501 Fed.Appx. 965, 969-70 (Fed. Cir. 2013) (citations and quotations omitted). The patentee must “clearly express an intent” to redefine the term, Helmsderfer v. Bobrick Washroom Equip., Inc., 527 F.3d 1379, 1381 (Fed. Cir. 2008), and the standard for determining whether an inventor has provided such clear intent is “exacting.” Thorner, 669 F.3d at 1366; see also Ancora Technologies, Inc. v. Apple, Inc., 744 F.3d 732 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (holding that “[p]assing references that do not amount to a redefinition or disclaimer” are insufficient to overcome ordinary meaning).

         With the ordinary meaning standard established, “[t]he starting point for any claim construction must be the claims themselves.” Pitney Bowes, Inc. v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 182 F.3d 1298, 1305 (Fed. Cir. 1999). “If the claim language is clear on its face, then . . . consideration of the rest of the intrinsic evidence is restricted to determining if a deviation from the clear language of the claims is specified.” Interactive Gift Exp., Inc. v. Compuserve Inc., 256 F.3d 1323, 1331 (Fed. Cir. 2001). That said, the rest of the intrinsic evidence always plays a key role in providing context for the ordinary meaning of the claims, as a person of ordinary skill in the art is deemed to read the claim terms not only in the context of the particular claims in which the disputed terms appear, but also in the context of the entire patent. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1313; see also Eon Corp. IP Holdings v. Silver Spring Networks, 815 F.3d 1314, 1320 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (holding that a claim term's ordinary meaning is not determined “in a vacuum” but “takes its definition from the context in which it was used by the inventor”) (citations and quotations omitted); Medrad, Inc. v. MRI Devices Corp., 401 F.3d 1313, 1319 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (holding that the court “must look at the ordinary meaning in the context of the written description and the prosecution history”) (citations and quotations omitted).

         Said context may be provided by the specification, as the specification of a patent “is always highly relevant to the claim construction analysis.” Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582. As such, the Federal Circuit has stated that it is “entirely appropriate for a court, when conducting claim construction, to rely heavily on the written description for guidance as to the meaning of the claims.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. In some cases, the inventor may provide within the specification a special definition of a claim term which differs from the term's usual meaning; if so, “the inventor's lexicography governs.” Id. at 1316. The inventor also may disclaim or disavow claim scope within the specification. Where “the inventor has dictated the correct claim scope . . . the inventor's invention, as expressed in the specification, is regarded as dispositive.” Id. Specifications are also key if a claim element is recited in means-plus-function format, as such a claim's specification “must contain sufficient descriptive text by which a person of skill in the field of the invention would know and understand what structure corresponds to the means limitation.” Enfish, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., 822 F.3d 1327 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (citations and quotations omitted).

         However, while a district court may read patent claims in light of the specification, the court may not read limitations from the specification into the claim itself or read the specification to replace the claim. See United States v. Adams, 383 U.S. 39, 48-49 (1966) (“While the claims of a patent limit the invention, and specifications cannot be utilized to expand the patent monopoly, it is fundamental that claims are to be construed in the light of the specifications and both are to be read with a view to ascertaining the invention.”) (internal citations omitted); see also Prima Tek II, 318 F.3d at 1148 (holding that “limitations may not be read into the claims from the written description”) (citation omitted); SanDisk Corp. v. Memorex Prod., Inc., 415 F.3d 1278, 1286 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (holding that “it is axiomatic that without more the court will not limit claim terms to a preferred embodiment described in the specification”); Tempo Lighting, Inc. v. Tivoli, LLC, 742 F.3d 973, 977 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (holding that “[i]n claim construction, this court gives primacy to the language of the claims, followed by the specification”). Even if every depicted embodiment of an invention shows a limitation, that alone is insufficient to overturn a claim's plain meaning. See Unwired Planet, LLC v. Apple Inc., 829 F.3d 1353, 1359 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (holding that it is “not enough that the only embodiments, or all of the embodiments, contain a particular limitation to limit claims beyond their plain meaning”) (quotations and citations omitted). Admittedly, “there is sometimes a fine line between reading a claim in light of the specification, and reading a limitation into the claim from the specification.” Comark Communications, Inc. v. Harris Corp., 156 F.3d 1182, 1186 (Fed. Cir. 1988). But while the specification may be able to supply understanding of unclear terms, it can never override the clear meaning of the claim terms. See E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 849 F.2d 1430, 1433 (Fed. Cir. 1988).

         In addition to the specification, the court also may examine the patent's prosecution history for context when construing claim terms. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 980 (Fed. Cir. 1995), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370 (1996). “Like the specification, the prosecution history provides evidence of how the [Patent and Trademark Office] and the inventor understood the patent.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317; see also Tempo Lighting, Inc., 742 F.3d at 977 (holding that “the prosecution history, while not literally within the patent document, serves as intrinsic evidence for purposes of claim construction”). The prosecution history also may be helpful in determining whether the inventor disclaimed any particular interpretation during the prosecution of the patent. See Chimie v. PPG Indus., Inc., 402 F.3d 1371, 1384 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (holding that the prosecution history's purpose “is to exclude any interpretation that was disclaimed during prosecution” in order to prevent a term from being construed one way in the application and a different way against an accused infringer); see also DeMarini Sports, Inc. v. Worth, Inc., 239 F.3d 1314, 1323 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (holding that the prosecution history “is considered to determine whether or not there were any express representations made in obtaining the patent regarding the scope and meaning of the claims”). When determining whether a party has disclaimed a particular interpretation, the court inquires “whether a competitor would reasonably believe that the applicant had surrendered the relevant subject matter.” PODS, Inc. v. Porta Stor, Inc., 484 F.3d 1359, 1368 (Fed. Cir. 2007). That said, while it can be helpful in that respect, the prosecution history “often lacks the clarity of the specification and thus is less useful for claim construction purposes.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. For example, while prior art may be cited as part of the prosecution history and thus qualify as intrinsic evidence, it merits little weight if “it was not created by the patentee in attempting to explain and obtain the patent.” Acumed LLC v. Stryker Corp., 483 F.3d 800, 809 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (quotations and citations omitted). Finally, the prosecution history also may not “enlarge, diminish, or vary” the claims themselves. Chimie, 402 F.3d at 1380-82 (quotation omitted).

         In addition to examining the intrinsic evidence, the court may also consider certain extrinsic evidence, “including expert and inventory testimony, dictionaries, and learned treatises.” Markman, 52 F.3d at 980. While extrinsic evidence can shed light on claim meaning, it is “less significant than the intrinsic record in determining the legally operative meaning of claim language” and “is unlikely to result in a reliable interpretation of patent claim scope unless considered in the context of the intrinsic evidence.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317, 1319. Indeed, while dictionaries, treatises, and industry practice “are often important in interpreting claims, ” they may not “contradict claim meaning that is unambiguous in light of the intrinsic evidence.” ArcelorMittal France v. AK Steel Corp., 700 F.3d 1314, 1320 (Fed. Cir. 2012) (citations and quotations omitted); see also Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1322-23 (holding that courts may “rely on dictionary definitions when construing claim terms, so long as the dictionary definition does not contradict any definition found in or ascertained by a reading of the patent documents”) (quoting Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1584 n. 6).

         Additionally, expert testimony “can be useful to a court for a variety of purposes, such as to provide background on the technology at issue, to explain how an invention works, to ensure that the court's understanding of the technical aspects of the patent is consistent with that of a person of skill in the art, or to establish that a particular term in the patent or the prior art has a particular meaning in the pertinent field.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1318. However, “conclusory, unsupported assertions by experts as to the definition of a claim term are not useful to a court.” Id. Further, the court must disregard any expert testimony “that is clearly at odds with . . . the written record of the patent.” Key Pharms. v. Hercon Labs. Corp., 161 F.3d 709, 716 (Fed. Cir. 1998).

         Claims may also require analysis for indefiniteness, as indefiniteness is “inextricably intertwined with claim construction.” Energizer Holdings, Inc. v. International Trade Com'n, 435 F.3d 1366, 1368 (Fed. Cir. 2006). “[A] patent is invalid for indefiniteness if its claims, read in light of the specification delineating the patent, and the prosecution history, fail to inform, with reasonable certainty, those skilled in the art about the scope of the invention.” Dow Chemical Co. v. Nova Chemicals Corp. (Canada), 803 F.3d 620, 625 (Fed. Cir. 2015), cert. denied, 136 S.Ct. 2452 (2016) (citing Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 2120, 2124 (2014)); see also Interval Licensing, LLC v. AOL, Inc., 766 F.3d 1364, 1371-73 (Fed. Cir. 2014), cert. denied, 136 S.Ct. 59 (2015) (holding that a single example of the term “unobtrusive manner” in the specification did not outline the claims to a skilled artisan with reasonable certainty). Definiteness requires the court to weigh “inherent limitations of language, ” the fact that patents are addressed to people who are “skilled in the relevant art” instead of lawyers or the public, and “some modicum of uncertainty” against the precision required to “afford clear notice of what is claimed” and thereby allow the public to determine what inventions are still possible. Nautilus, 134 S.Ct. at 2128-29 (internal citations and quotations omitted). As such, the standard “mandates clarity, while recognizing that absolute precision is unattainable.” Id. at 2129; see also Minerals Separation, Ltd. v. Hyde, 242 U.S. 261, 270 (1916) (“the certainty which the law requires in patents is not greater than is reasonable, having regard to their subject-matter”). Also, indefiniteness is often analyzed prior to construing claims, since “[i]f a claim is indefinite, the claim, by definition, cannot be construed.” Enzo Biochem, Inc. v. Applera Corp., 599 F.3d 1325, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 2010).

         Finally, claims may be specifically analyzed for construction under the Patent Act as “means-plus-function” claims. Specifically, “[a]n element in a claim for a combination may be expressed as a means or step for performing a specified function without the recital of structure, material, or acts in support thereof, and such claim shall be construed to cover the corresponding structure, material, or acts described in the specification and equivalents thereof.” 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6. Thus, patentees may “express a claim limitation by reciting a function to be performed rather than by reciting structure for performing that function, ” subject to “specific constraints on how such a limitation is to be construed, namely, by restricting the scope of coverage to only the structure, materials, or acts described in the specification as corresponding to the claimed function and equivalents thereof.” Williamson v. Citrix Online, LLC, 792 F.3d 1339, 1347 (Fed. Cir. 2015) (citing Northrop Grumman Corp. v. Intel Corp., 325 F.3d 1346, 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2003)).

         Constructing a means-plus-function claim is a two-step process. “First, the court must determine the claimed function. Second, the court must identify the corresponding structure in the written description of the patent that performs that function.” Noah Sys., Inc. v. Intuit Inc., 675 F.3d 1302, 1311 (Fed. Cir. 2012) (citing Applied Med. Res. Corp. v. U.S. Surgical Corp., 448 F.3d 1324, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 2006)). Courts construct the function based on claim language. Cardiac Pacemakers, Inc. v. St. Jude Medical, Inc., 296 F.3d 1106, 1113 (Fed. Cir. 2002). It is improper to narrow the scope of the function beyond what the claim language says, and equally improper to broaden the scope by ignoring clear limitations in the claim language. Id. (citation omitted). Ordinary claim construction principles govern interpreting the claim language used to describe the function. Id. When determining corresponding structures, a structure qualifies if the specification or prosecution history “clearly links or associates that structure to the function recited in the claim.” B. Braun Med., Inc. v. Abbott Labs., 124 F.3d 1419, 1424 (Fed. Cir. 1997); see also Atmel Corp. v. Info. Storage Devices, Inc., 198 F.3d 1374, 1382 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (holding that “[a]ll one needs to do in order to obtain the benefit of [Section 112] is to recite some structure corresponding to the means in the specification . . . so that one can readily ascertain what the claim means and comply with the particularity requirement” of Section 112); Johnston v. IVAC Corp., 885 F.2d 1574, 1580 (Fed. Cir. 1989) (holding that Section 112 “operates to cut back on the types of means which could literally satisfy the claim language” and thereby “restricts the scope of the literal claim language” by requiring the structures to appear in the specification) (emphasis in original).

         III. Disputed Terms

         Pursuant to the Local Patent Rules, the parties have both identified the following terms for construction for the ‘067 Patent: means for circumferentially surrounding; means for compressing; slidably engaging; means for tensioning; means for looping; connected to; upon passing the means for circumferentially surrounding through the means for looping, a portion of the means for compressing also passes through the means for looping; a gap is located between portions of the means for compressing at the means for looping when the means for circumferentially surrounding is applied to the body part; means for fastening; and means for securing. The parties have also both idenitifed the following terms for construction for the ‘253 Patent: outer sleeve; first end (of outer sleeve); second end (of outer sleeve); connected to; second end of the outer sleeve; first lateral side; second lateral side; intermediate bar; first sidewall; second sidewall; top surface; bottom surface; first end (lateral side); second end (lateral side); interconnecting; first elevation transition areas; second elevation transition areas; first end of the outer sleeve; inner strap; through; slidable engagement; first elongated member; looped around the body part; and elevation transition areas.

         IV. Claim Construction of Disputed Terms in the ‘067 Patent

         The court will first consider the terms identified for construction in the ‘067 Patent.

         1. Means for circumferentially

         surrounding Plaintiff argues for a construction of having a function “to entirely wrap around a body part or limb; wholly surround or encircle a limb or body part, ” while having a corresponding structure of “first elongated member/outer sleeve/strap and equivalents thereof.” Defendants argue for a construction of a function “of circumferentially surrounding a body part” and a second function of “passing through the means for looping and attaching to itself, ” and a corresponding structure of “an outer sleeve formed either from two panels comprising an upper panel and a lower panel where the edges of the panels are connected (e.g. by sewing, etc.) to form a pocket or from a single piece of material that is folded over and seamed thereby forming a pocket.”

         As for the first function, plaintiff and defendants' definitions are relatively similar. After reviewing the claims, the court will construe a function of “to completely encircle a body part.” This is consistent with the plain meaning of “circumferentially surrounding, ” as well as the context of the claims themselves, as they repeatedly reference completely encircling all of a body part with straps, elongated members, and equivalent mechanisms.

         The court has considered defendants' argument for a second function of “passing through the means for looping and attaching to itself.” Defendants' argument appears to be based on the language in the claims talking about how the means for circumferentially surrounding can be looped and attach to itself via the means for looping and means for fastening discussed later, and in the specification, where the means for circumferentially surrounding can be portrayed as passing through the means for looping and attaching to itself. However, adding a second function appears to be expanding the function of the means for circumferentially surrounded beyond the single definition in the claims and improperly mingling with the functions of the means for looping and means for fastening. Further, defining a function based on the specification instead of the language of the claims is improper. See Cardiac Pacemakers, 296 F.3d at 1113 (holding that it is improper to limit a function beyond what is stated in the claim); In re Teles AG Informationstechnologien, 747 F.3d 1357, 1367-68 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (“When construing functional claims under § 112 ¶ 6, the statute does not permit limitation of a means-plus-function claim by adopting a function different from that explicitly recited in the claim”) (citation and quotation omitted); Gemstar-TV Guide Intern., Inc. v. International Trade Com'n, 383 F.3d 1352, 1361 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (“We consult the claim language to determine the function of the limitation”). As a result, the court finds that the sole function described in the claims is the plain meaning of “to completely encircle a body part.”

         As for the corresponding structure, the court finds several corresponding structures in the written description and figures, including a strap, a sleeve, and an elongated member (with accompanying examples listed that include a belt, rope, tubing, etc.). The ‘067 Patent, Doc. #78-1, pg. 12-13, 16. These structures have thus been clearly linked to the means for circumferentially surrounding, and they sharply contrast with defendants' proposed specific structure of “an outer sleeve formed either from two panels comprising an upper panel and a lower panel where the edges of the panels are connected (e.g., by sewing, etc.) to form a pocket or from a single piece of material that is folded over and seamed thereby forming a pocket.” Indeed, nowhere in the claims is a structure described with such specificity as what defendants provide; only by reading limitations in from the specification could the court arrive at such a construction, and the court declines to do so. As such, the court finds that the proper corresponding structure is “first elongated member, outer sleeve, strap, or equivalents thereof.”

         2. Means for compressing

         Plaintiff argues for a construction of having a function “to apply compressive force, pressure; to squeeze or constrict” with a corresponding structure of “second elongated member/inner tightening member/inner strap and equivalents thereof.” Defendants argue for a construction of having a function “of compressing a body part” and a corresponding structure of “elongated material predominantly within the outer sleeve/first elongated member and exposed at least partially at the upper surface of the outer sleeve/first elongated member before the restraining mechanism and anchored to the outer sleeve at or proximate to the tip of the outer sleeve.”

         For the function analysis, plaintiff and defendants' definitions appear to be similar to one another. After reviewing the claims and specification, the court shall construe a function of “to apply compressive force to a body part.” This is in keeping with the plain and ordinary meaning of compressing, and with the context of the patent itself which repeatedly describes applying said compressive force to a body part for the purpose of restricting blood flow to limit blood loss. As for a corresponding structure, the specification clearly links the means for compressing to an inner strap, a second elongated member, and other similar structures. The ‘067 Patent, Doc. 78-1, pg. 12-13. Again, defendants' construction is unsupported by the claims, and only by reading limitations in from the specification could the court arrive at such a construction As such, the court finds the corresponding structure to be “an inner strap, second elongated member, or equivalents thereof.”

         3. Means for tensioning

         Plaintiff argues for a construction of having a function “to apply a tensile force; to tighten, strain, or stretch tight” and a corresponding structure of “a wind lass (74) or ratchet mechanism (106) and equivalents thereof.” Defendants argue for a construction of a function “of tensioning the inner strap” and corresponding structure of “windlass or ratchet.”

         Once again, plaintiff and defendants' functions are quite similar. After consulting the claims, the court finds the appropriate construction for function is “to apply tensile force to tighten.” Such definition is consistent with the plain and ordinary meaning of tensioning and with the purpose of the means for tensioning in the context of the claim language, as tightening is needed to properly apply the aforementioned compressive force. As for the corresponding structure, plaintiff and defendants again offer similar constructions that include a windlass or ratchet. The patent explicitly and clearly links the use of either a windlass or ratchet “to apply a tensile force” and “thus tighten[] the tourniquet.” The ‘067 Patent, Doc. 78-1, pg. 15. Defendants agree that a windlass or ratchet is appropriate, but object to including “equivalents thereof” in the construction, arguing that it is overly broad and adds far too much to the scope of the invention. The court disagrees, as precedent and Section 112 both show that “equivalents thereof” is perfectly acceptable for means-plus-function construction, and whether a device qualifies as an “equivalent thereof” is not an issue for this stage of the proceedings. See Media Rights Technologies, Inc. v. Capital One Financial Corp., 800 F.3d 1366, 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2015) (holding that means-plus-function claims are construed to cover corresponding structures “and equivalents thereof”); Williamson, 792 F.3d at 1359 (citing 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6). Thus, the court finds the appropriate corresponding structure for this means is “a windlass, ratchet, or equivalents thereof.”

         4. ...

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