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Omega Flex, Inc. v. Ward Manufacturing, LLC

United States District Court, D. Delaware

July 19, 2019

OMEGA FLEX, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
WARD MANUFACTURING, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          HONORABLE MARYELLEN NOREIKA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         At Wilmington this 19th day of July 2019:

         As announced at the hearing on July 15, 2019, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the disputed claim terms of U.S. Patent No. 7, 004, 510 (the “'510 patent”) are construed as follows:

1. “A plurality of longitudinal, spaced ribs” means “a plurality of ribs running in a lengthwise direction and having spaces between them.”
2. “Threads” means “ridges that may be helical or non-helical.”
3. “Interior threads engaging an unthreaded outer surface of said sleeve” means “interior ridges that may be helical or non-helical that grab into an outer surface of the sleeve that does not have ridges.”
4. “A vent opening in fluid communication with said sleeve and an exterior surface of said sleeve” means “a vent opening in fluid communication with said interior of said sleeve and an exterior surface of said sleeve.”
5. “Coupled to an interior surface of said coupling” is given its plain and ordinary meaning.
6. “A shoulder to form a stop against said sleeve” means “a shoulder serving as a stop against said sleeve.”
7. “Has a higher durometer” means “is made from a harder polymer.”
8. “A threaded extension” means “an extension having ridges that may be helical or non-helical.”

         The parties briefed the issues (see D.I. 66), submitted an appendix containing both intrinsic and extrinsic evidence (see D.I. 67), including expert declarations[1] (see id., Exs. B, O, NN), and provided a tutorial describing the relevant technology[2] (see D.I. 64). The Court carefully reviewed all submissions in connection with the parties' contentions regarding the disputed claim terms, heard oral argument, and applied the following legal standards in reaching its decision:

         I. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Claim Construction

         “[T]he ultimate question of the proper construction of the patent [is] a question of law, ” although subsidiary fact-finding is sometimes necessary. Teva Pharms. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 831, 837-38 (2015). “[T]he words of a claim are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning [which is] 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, 1312-13 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Although “the claims themselves provide substantial guidance as to the meaning of particular claim terms, ” the context of the surrounding words of the claim also must be considered. Id. at 1314. “[T]he ordinary meaning of a claim term is its meaning to the ordinary artisan after reading the entire patent.” Id. at 1321 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         The patent specification “is always highly relevant to the claim construction analysis . . . [as] it is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term.” Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996). It is also possible that “the specification may reveal a special definition given to a claim term by the patentee that differs from the meaning it would otherwise possess. In such cases, the inventor's lexicography governs.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1316. “Even when the specification describes only a single embodiment, [however, ] the claims of the patent will not be read restrictively unless the patentee has demonstrated a clear intention to limit the claim scope using words or expressions of manifest exclusion or restriction.” Hill-Rom Servs., Inc. v. Stryker Corp., 755 F.3d 1367, 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Liebel-Flarsheim Co. v. Medrad, Inc., 358 F.3d 898, 906 (Fed. Cir. 2004)).

         In addition to the specification, a court “should also consider the patent's prosecution history, if it is in evidence.” Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 980 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (en banc), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370 (1996). The prosecution history, which is “intrinsic evidence, . . . consists of the complete record of the proceedings before the PTO [Patent and Trademark Office] and includes the prior art cited during the examination of the patent.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. “[T]he prosecution history can often inform the meaning of the claim language by demonstrating how the inventor ...


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