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Marking Not Required for Notice in Process or Method Claims

In Crown Packaging Technology, Inc. v.  Reexam Beverage Can Co. (March 17, 2009) the Federal Circuit reiterated that the notice provisions of §287 do not apply where the patent is directed to a process or method. 

[A] party that does not mark a patented article is not entitled to damages for infringement prior to actual notice. Although Rexam asserted only the method claims of the '839 patent against Crown, the district court dismissed Rexam's counterclaim because the '839 patent also includes unasserted apparatus claims. The district court erred.

The law is clear that the notice provisions of §287 do not apply where the patent is directed to a process or method. Bandag, Inc. v. Gerrard Tire Co., 704 F.2d 1578, 1581 (Fed.Cir.1983). In Hanson, 718 F.2d at 1082-83, we held that 35 U.S.C. §287(a) did not apply where the patentee only asserted the method claims of a patent which included both method and apparatus claims. Hanson is factually identical to this case, and we are therefore bound by the rule of Hanson.

 

In American Medical Systems, Inc. v. Medical Engineering Corp., 6 F.3d 1523 (Fed.Cir.1993), we explained:

 

The purpose behind the marking statute is to encourage the patentee to give notice to the public of the patent. The reason that the marking statute does not apply to method claims is that, ordinarily, where the patent claims are directed to only a method or process there is nothing to mark. Where the patent contains both apparatus and method claims, however, to the extent that there is a tangible item to mark by which notice of the asserted method claims can be given, a party is obliged to do so if it intends to avail itself of the constructive notice provisions of section 287(a).

 

Id. at 1538-39. As the American Medical opinion goes on to explain:

 

In this case, both apparatus and method claims of the '765 patent were asserted and there was a physical device produced by the claimed method that was capable of being marked. Therefore, we conclude that AMS was required to mark its product pursuant to section 287(a) in order to recover damages under its method claims prior to actual or constructive notice being given to MEC.

 

Id. at 1539 (emphasis added). In this case and Hanson, the patentee only asserted method claims despite the fact that the patent contained both method and apparatus claims. In American Medical, in contrast, "both apparatus and method claims of the '765 patent were asserted." American Medical, 6 F.3d at 1523. Because Rexam asserted only the method claims of the '839 patent, the marking requirement of 35 U.S.C. § 287(a) does not apply Consequently, we reverse the district court's grant of Crown's motion for summary judgment dismissing Rexam's counterclaim for infringement of the ' 839 patent.
 
 
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