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Schmalz, Inc. v. Better Vacuum Cups, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

September 6, 2017

SCHMALZ, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
BETTER VACUUM CUPS, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER REGARDING CLAIM CONSTRUCTION

          GERSHWIN A. DRAIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court for claim construction relative to United States Patent No. 6, 364, 299 B1 (“the ‘299 patent'”). A Markman hearing was held on May 30, 2017. See Markman v. West View Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370 (1996). The ‘299 patent relates to a Vacuum Holding Apparatus and Plaintiff is the owner by assignment of all right, title and interest to the ‘299 patent. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has directly and/or indirectly infringed (by inducement and/or contributory infringement) the ‘299 patent by making, using, offering for sale, selling and distributing products that infringe at least claims 1, 8, 9, 10 and 12 of the subject patent.

         II. TECHNOLOGY BACKGROUND

         The ‘299 patent describes and claims a vacuum holding apparatus. The ‘299 patent specification contains one drawing of the patented invention.

(Image Omitted)

         The base is designated at 10 and is also referred to as a spreader beam at 12. The suction unit is designated at 14.The base has an upper gripping service at 16 onto which the suction until at 14 is placed and from which a vacuum connection at 18 opens. The suction unit at 14 has a first gripping surface at 20 on which a workpiece can be placed and a second gripping surface which engages the base at 10. The suction unit is provided with a mechanical holding means which allows it to mechanically connect to the base. The longitudinal sides of the spreader beam at 12 have a groove with which a catch at 30 of the holding means engages.

         Independent claim 1 of the ‘299 patent reads as follows (disputed terms in bold):

         1. Vacuum holding apparatus, comprising:

at least one base,
a suction unit, directly supported by the base, onto which a workpiece to be fastened can be placed and held thereon by the means of a vacuum, wherein the suction unit includes a first gripping service on a side facing the workpiece and a second gripping service on a side facing the base, wherein the suction unit is provided with at least one mechanical holding means for attachment to the base,
wherein the holding means includes a clamping lever.

         Dependent claims 8, 9 and 10 read as follows:

8. Vacuum holding apparatus in accordance with claim 1, wherein the clamping lever is hingedly attached to the suction unit.
9. Vacuum holding apparatus in accordance with claim 8, wherein the hinge is a film hinge.
10. Vacuum holding apparatus in accordance with claim 1, wherein the clamping lever is one piece.

         Independent claim 12 reads as follows:

         12. Vacuum holding apparatus, comprising:

at least one base,
a suction unit, directly supported by the base, onto which a workpiece to be fastened can be placed and held thereon by the means of a vacuum, wherein the suction unit includes a first gripping surface on a side facing the workpiece and a second gripping surface on a side facing the base, wherein the suction unit is provided with at least one mechanical holding means for attachment to the base,
wherein the two gripping surfaces are connected to each other with a pressure-control valve, wherein when a vacuum is applied at the second gripping surface, the pressure-control valve opens at a predetermined vacuum level.

         III. CLAIM CONSTRUCTION

         A. Standard of Review

         A determination of infringement requires a two-step analysis. Gentry Gallery, Inc. v. Berkline Corp., 134 F.3d 1473, 1476 (Fed. Cir. 1998). “First, the claim must be properly construed to determine its scope and meaning. Second, the claim as properly construed must be compared to the accused device or process.” Id. Claim construction is an issue of law. Markman, 517 U.S.at 388-90. In interpreting claims, a court “should look first to the intrinsic evidence of record, i.e., the patent itself, including the claims, the specification and, if in evidence, the prosecution history.” Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996). Absent an express intent to impart a novel meaning, “terms in a claim are to be given their ordinary and accustomed meaning.” Renishaw PLC v. Marposs Societa' per Azioni, 158 F.3d 1243, 1249 (Fed. Cir. 1998); CCS Fitness,Inc. v. Brunswick Corp., 288 F.3d 1359, 1366 (Fed. Cir. ...


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