Court settles term definition dispute in patent infringement case using claim construction. Cases of Interest >  IP >  Patent >  Claim Interpretation

Flo Healthcare Solutions v Rioux Vision, Inc.

Flo Healthcare Solutions v Rioux Vision, Inc. 2007 US Dist. LEXIS 85234
Decided November 16, 2007

Description: Court settles term definition dispute in patent infringement case using claim construction.

Facts: Flo Healthcare filed an infringement action against Rioux Vision alleging infringement of Flo’s patent of a “Mobile Clinical Workstation.” The workstation was essentially a roving cart designed for healthcare workers that contained a computer, a screen, and a power source. It was designed to make the transferring and input of data more convenient for medical workers.

PH: Flo filed this action in October, 2006. Rioux responded with an amended answer to the complaint and counterclaims. Rioux set forth various affirmative defenses that Flo’s patent is unenforceable because it does not meet the patentability requirements. In this opinion, the court examines the enforceability of Flo’s patent by determining the scope of its patent claims through claim construction.

Issues: The disputed terms in the patent claims are in all caps below in their context:
Claim 3—“a power unit supported on the chassis to supply power to the DEVICE and the display screen … wherein the DEVICE is a computing DEVICE.”
Claim 8—“a display screen ADJACENT to the work surface that is tiltable relative to the work surface.”
Claims 8 & 34—“a substantially horizontal TRAY supported by the chassis that defines a work surface.”
Claims 8, 26, & 40—“a MOVABLE chassis.”

Claim Construction: Claim construction is a matter of law for the court to determine looking first at intrinsic evidence (the patent itself, the claim terms, the specification, and the patent prosecution history) and then at extrinsic evidence (expert and inventor testimony, dictionaries, learned treatises) if needed. The court must focus first on the claims of the patent and read the terms as having their ordinary and customary meaning, the meaning that the term would have to a PHOSITA at the time of invention. The court notes that while the claims measure the inventions, the specification lends the PHOSITA context and definitions for the terms in the claims.

Discussion: “Tray”—Flo describes the “tray” as a “receptacle having a top surface, sides, and a bottom.” Rioux argues that this definition is too broad and that it should be replaced with a more conventional definition of a tray as “an open receptacle having a top surface, low sides, and a flat bottom.” The court concedes that the defendant’s definition resembles a more usual “lunch tray,” but the plaintiff’s definition is support in its specification, and in the context of the patent’s entirety, a PHOSITA would understand and accept Flo’s definition of tray. Although probably not necessary, the court cites extrinsic evidence in addition to the intrinsic, to support Flo’s definition in the form of a dictionary definition.

“Adjacent”—Flo’s definition of adjacent is “close to,” which would encompass a display screen that is near the work surface. Rioux seeks a narrower definition of adjacent, “contiguous, adjoining, abutting.” Although both parties agree that the intrinsic evidence is not helpful, and both cite conflicting dictionary definitions to support their arguments, the court finds that there is enough intrinsic evidence to support Flo’s definition. The court remarks that the word “adjacent” is used again in claim 8 to describe the relation between the input device tray and the work surface, and that usage is not in dispute here. Because the patent figures illustrate the input device being close to but not actually touching the work surface, Flo’s broader definition of adjacent is supported.

“Device”—Flo defines “device” as a computer. Rioux argues that this term is indefinite because it is dependent on another claim that does not describe “device,” and since the first claim is indefinite, the dependent claim is as well. However, the court cites Datamize, LLC v. Plumtree Software, Inc., 417 F.3d 1342, 1348 (Fed. Cir. 2005) and affirms that even when a claim is dependent on an invalid claim, that claim is presumed valid. The court goes on to require “clear and convincing evidence of indefiniteness” to overcome this presumption. The court finds that intrinsic evidence in the patent consistently refers to “device” as a computer, and that therefore the specifications override the indefiniteness of the depended-upon claim.

“Movable”—Flo’s definition of movable is “adapted for mobility.” Rioux makes the rather fussy argument that not everything that is movable is mobile and that many things are capable of being transported but are not necessarily adapted for mobility. Rioux’s argument for a broader definition of movable fails because, while the court is careful not to read limitations into the patent’s specifications, the court recognizes that the title of the invention, the description, and the specifications all clearly point out that the invention’s purpose is to make a workstation that is easily moved by a practitioner from room to room, and “wheeled chassis” is suggested and illustrated throughout the patent, and furthermore, any PHOSITA would see it that way.

Holding: For the purpose of this action, the court holds, “(1) ‘tray’ means ‘a receptacle having a top surface, sides and a bottom’; (2) ‘adjacent’ means ‘close to’; (3) ‘device’ means ‘computing device’; and (4) ‘moveable’ means ‘adapted for mobility.’”

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