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Fogg Filler Co. v. Closure Systems International, Inc.

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

September 12, 2017

FOGG FILLER COMPANY, Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant,
v.
CLOSURE SYSTEMS INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant/Counter-Claimant.

          AMENDED OPINION [1]

          JANET T. NEFF, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Fogg Filler Company filed this patent action against Defendant Closure Systems International, Inc., alleging infringement of a bottle capping device, Patent No. 6, 508, 046 (the '046 patent) entitled "Self-Adjusting Capping Chuck Assembly For Filler And/or Capper Device And Associated Method." The case is before the Court for a decision on claim construction following a hearing. See Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 372 (1996).

         I. Background

         On January 21, 2003, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued the '046 patent to Plaintiff (Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 1 at PageID.2). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant "makes or has made, uses, offers to sell and/or sells a capping chuck under the trademark Flex-Chuck that infringes one or more claims of the '046 patent, in violation of 35 U.S.C. §271" (id. ¶ 8).

         As described by Plaintiff, the '046 patent is directed to a self-adjusting capping chuck that is used with filler and/or capper devices (Pl's. Br., ECF No. 3 5 at PageID. 145). "In filler equipment and capping equipment, the capping chuck is the part that grasps and retains a cap that is then twisted onto a bottle that is being filled by the filler equipment" (id). "The invention of the '046 patent is a capping chuck that is self-adjusting so as to better capture and retain a cap of, for example, a beverage container" (id ). Prior to the invention, it was not uncommon for conventional capping chucks: (1) to inadvertently drop caps during the filling and capping process, leaving bottles uncapped; (2) to mar or scratch caps or damage their tamper bands during installation; and (3) to inadequately grip the cap for twisting onto the container, resulting in an inefficient capping process that potentially caused further damage to the cap (id at PageID. 145-146).

         According to Plaintiff, "[t]he invention of the '046 patent solved these problems with an adjusting jaw that is readily displaceable and expandable in a plurality of directions" (ECF No. 35 at PageID. 146). It "allow[s] caps with wider or narrower dimensional tolerances to still be properly positioned within the cap engaging jaw and properly installed on the bottles being filled" (id). "Because the invented chuck positively grasp[s] the caps about their circumference, slippage [is] substantially reduced, resulting in less marring and scratching of the caps, as well as less damage to their tamper bands" (id).

         At issue on claim construction are asserted claims concerning the structure of the capping chuck, claims 1-5 and 7-10 of the '046 patent (Jovanovic Decl. Ex. A, ECF No. 35-2 at PageID.166- 173), and terms and phrases therein (underlined/italicized) as follows.

         1. A capping chuck assembly for use in association with a capper device, comprising:

an outer cam having an aperture defined by an inner peripheral geometry; and
a cap engaging jaw displaced within the aperture of the outer cam, wherein the cap engaging jaw is smaller than the aperture of the outer cam, the cap engaging jaw being partially rotatable and translatable within the aperture relative to the outer cam, to in turn, float within the aperture, and further wherein the cap engaging jaw includes:
at least two displaceable jaw components; and means for biasing the at least two displaceable jaw components into a cap engaging configuration, wherein the biasing means is positioned such that, in the absence of a cap, the at least two displaceable jaw components remain biased toward each other, and the insertion of a cap serves to overcome the biasing means, thereby moving at least one of the at least two displaceable jaw components away from at least one other of the at least two displaceable jaw components,
whereupon rotation of the outer cam, rotates the cap engaging jaw having a cap therein, to, in turn, rotate a cap onto a container.
2. The capping chuck assembly according to claim 1, wherein the cap engaging jaw includes between two and approximately ten displaceable jaw components.
3. The capping chuck assembly according to claim 1, wherein the cap engaging jaw includes six displaceable jaw components.
7. The capping chuck assembly according to claim 1, wherein the outer cam includes a hexagonal aperture.
8. The capping chuck assembly according to claim 7, wherein the cap engaging jaw includes a hexagonal outer peripheral geometry.
9. The capping chuck assembly according to claim 8, wherein the cap engaging jaw consists of six displaceable jaw components and an o-ring positioned around an outer ...

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