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LLC v. Idea Village Products Corp.

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

September 29, 2017

CHOON'S DESIGN, LLC, Plaintiff and Counter-Defendant,
v.
IDEA VILLAGE PRODUCTS CORP., Defendant and Counter-Claimant.

          R. Steven Whalen, Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [187]

          LAURIE J. MICHELSON, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Choon's Design, LLC (Choon) makes the well-known Rainbow Loom, a device that helps link together small elastic bands to create bracelets or other wearable items. Choon also holds two patents directed to these types of looms: United States Patent No. 8, 485, 565 ('565 patent) and United States Patent No. 8, 684, 420 ('420 patent). Choon alleges that by selling and advertising a product called the FunLoom, Defendant IdeaVillage Products Corporation (IdeaVillage) has infringed claims 9 and 14 of the '565 patent and claim 3 of the '420 patent.

         IdeaVillage seeks summary judgment. (R. 187.) In particular, it argues that the FunLoom does not infringe claims 9 or 14 of the '565 patent because this Court limited the scope of those claims to devices with two detachable parts (pin bars and bases) and the FunLoom is a one-piece loom with no detachable parts. As for claim 3 of the '420 patent, which this Court construed to cover one-piece looms, IdeaVillage argues that the claim is invalid as anticipated by the FunLoom or because it lacks written-description support.

         This Court studied the parties' briefs and, on July 7, 2017, heard oral argument. For the reasons set forth below, the FunLoom does not infringe claims 9 or 14 of the '565 patent as a matter of law, but a jury must resolve factual disputes that are material to the validity of claim 3 of the '420 patent.

         I.

         A.

         The application for what matured as the '565 patent was filed on September 8, 2011. (See '565 patent.) That application, however, claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/410, 399 filed on November 5, 2010 (the “Provisional Application”). ('565 Patent, col. 1, ll. 5-6.)

         In claim 9 of the '565 patent, Choon claimed exclusive rights to “[a] kit for creating an item consisting of a series of links, the device comprising:”

a base; []
at least one pin bar supported on the base, the pin bar including a plurality of pins each including a top flared portion for holding a link in a desired orientation and an opening on a front side of each of the plurality of pins[; and]
a clip for securing ends of the series of links together.

('565 patent col. 5, ll. 10-16 (emphasis added); '565 patent col. 6, ll. 1-2.)

         Although claim 9's references to “a base, ” a “pin bar, ” “a plurality of pins, ” and “a clip” are rather abstract, the '565 patent provides concrete examples of these claim limitations. (A “limitation, ” as its name suggests, limits the scope of a claim because a product only falls within the claim's scope if it has the limitation or an equivalent.) In particular, the following picture shows example bases (12), example pin bars (14) mounted on three of the bases, example pins (26), and an example clip (18):

(Image Omitted)

('565 patent Fig. 1.) The '565 patent also provides an example of the claim limitation “at least one pin bar supported on the base”:

(Image Omitted)

('565 patent Figs. 5A, 5B.) In the above illustration, the bottom of the pins have openings (30) that fit snuggly on cylinders (28) such that the pin bar can be mounted on the base (Fig. 5B).

         In a prior opinion, this Court held that the “at least one pin bar supported on the base” limitation of claim 9 meant “at least one pin bar attached to but detachable from the base” and further defined “detachable” as “capable of being separated without damage.” Choon's Design, LLC v. Idea Vill. Prod. Corp., 125 F.Supp.3d 630, 648 (E.D. Mich. 2015) (emphasis added), reconsideration denied, 2016 WL 8261729 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 7, 2016).[1]

         B.

         The application for what ultimately became the '420 patent was filed on July 26, 2013. (See '420 patent.) But that application is a “continuation” of an application (App. No. 13/938, 717) that, in turn, is a continuation of the application for the '565 patent (App. No. 13/227, 638). ('420 patent col. 1, ll. 5-9.) As noted, the application for the '565 patent claims as its priority date the filing date of the Provisional Application. As such, the '420 patent also claims that priority date, i.e., November 5, 2010. (See '420 patent col. 1, ll. 8-9.)

         Claim 3 of the '420 patent is similar to claim 9 of the '565 patent, but it does not include a pin bar limitation. To be more specific, claim 3 defines the following exclusive territory:

A device for creating an item consisting of a series of links, the device comprising:
a base;
and a plurality of pins supported on the base, wherein each of the plurality of pins includes a top portion for holding a link in a desired orientation and an opening on at least one side of each of the plurality of pins, wherein the plurality of pins comprises rows of offset pins spaced apart and extending upward from the base[, ] [and wherein the top portion comprises a flared portion for holding a link in place on at least one of the plurality of pins].

('420 patent col. 5, ll. 18-33 (emphasis added).)

         In a prior opinion, this Court construed the “a plurality of pins supported on the base” limitation of claim 3 to mean “a plurality of pins integral with or attached to the base.” Choon's, 125 F.Supp.3d at 648 (emphasis added). In other words, while the scope of claim 9 of the '565 patent is limited to products with pin bars that are not permanently affixed to bases, the scope of claim 3 of the '420 patent includes devices with pins permanently affixed to a base.

         C.

         The allegedly infringing product in this lawsuit is IdeaVillage's FunLoom. The record reflects that the FunLoom was sold at least by June 2013 (see R. 81, PID 1691, 1723)-before the date that the application for the '420 patent was filed (July 26, 2013) but ...


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