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Archived updates for Friday, November 04, 2005

Why Judges Hate Patents?

In Fisher-Price, Inc. v. Graco Children's Products, Inc., et al. (Fed. Cir., November 4, 2005, not citeable as precedent) the court overruled the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by holding that the following limitations of claim 6 of U.S. Patent No. 6,520,862 are not indefinite:
  • a seat coupled to said swing arm and having an upper seating surface;
  • said swing arm and said frame support post defining a reconfigurable swing area therebetween; and
  • a shield coupled to said seat and extending upwardly from said seat and disposed between said reconfigurable swing area and said seating area.
With regard to the first limitation, the appellate court noted that "the district court’s concern about differentiating between upper and [an inherent] lower seating surfaces is misplaced. In our view, whether 'the patent distinguishes the swing as having an upper seating surface, thus implying that not every seat would have an upper seating surface,' is a consideration not relevant to determining whether the limitation is so unclear that "a person of ordinary skill in the art could [not] determine whether the [accused device] infringes or not." Geneva Pharm., 349 F.3d at 1384.

With regard to the second limitation, the court was not persuaded by Graco's confusion over the inconsistent labelling of the area "A" in FIGs. 6-7 (above) between the swing arm (252) and the frame support post (210).

Finally, with regard to the last element, the district court found two parts of this claim limitation indefinite. The court first stated:

"[A] shield coupled to said seat and extending upwardly from said seat" is
indefinite. It is unclear whether the shield is to be coupled with the seat
itself, the (undefined) "seating area", or the padded seat cover (if that is
what is meant by "upper seating surface.")

"[A]nd disposed between said reconfigurable swing area and said seating area" is indefinite. Seating area is nowhere defined in the patent. Fisher-Price's attempts to define the "upper seating surface" as the entire padded area and the "lower seating surface" as the underside of the swing was unconvincing and against the ordinary meaning of the terms.

In order to foreclose any further confusion, the Federal Circuit kindly clarified "that 'upper seating surface' is by implication the antecedent basis for 'seating area.'"

Where does a patent attorney voluteer to become a Special Master in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania?
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