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Archived updates for Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Unitary Material Strap Not Equivalent to Sectioned Stretchability

In Wleklinski v. Targus (December 18, 2007, nonprecedential), the Federal Circuit held that there was no infringement under the doctrine of equivalents for a single unitary piece of inherently stretchable fabric where the claim requiring "auxiliary strap means" (left) with end sections (22, 24) "made of a relatively non-stretchable material" and the center section (20) "made of material which is longitudinally stretchable."

According to Circuit Judge Schall,
Neither did the district court err in granting summary judgment of no infringement under the doctrine of equivalents. We agree that there exist more than "insubstantial differences" between the accused products and the claimed
invention; this precludes a finding of infringement under the doctrine of
equivalents. See Graver Tank & Mfg. Co. v. Linde Air Products Co., 339 U.S.
605, 610 (1950) (requiring mere insubstantial" differences for the doctrine of equivalents to apply). As the district court found, the Targus strap, which has
an auxiliary strap means composed of a single unitary material made of the same
fabric, is the fundamental opposite of the claimed invention, in which the
auxiliary strap means requires separate sections made of different materials.
Likewise, a finding of infringement under the doctrine of equivalents would
impermissibly vitiate claim limitations. See Freedman Seating Co. v. Am. Seating
Co., 420 F.3d 1350, 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2005) ("[A]n element of an accused product
or process is not, as a matter of law, equivalent to a limitation of the claimed
invention if such a finding would entirely vitiate the limitation."). Here,
Claim 1 requires separate center and end sections that are made of different
materials; finding equivalence with a single strap lacking separate sections and
different materials would impermissibly vitiate this limitation.
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