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Summary Judgment of Noninfringement Vacated and Case Remanded for Consideration of Extrinsic Evidence on Claim Construction

August 06, 2001

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Last Month at the Federal Circuit - September 2001

Judges: Judges: Schall (author), Michel, and Archer

In Advanced Cardiovascular Systems, Inc. v. Scimed Life Systems, Inc., No. 00-1454 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 6, 2001), the Federal Circuit vacated a district court’s grant of SJ of noninfringement with respect to certain asserted claims, given several erroneous claim constructions, but affirmed SJ of noninfringement with respect to certain other claims. The patents at issue, U.S. Patent Nos. 5,421,955 (“the ‘955 patent”); 5,514,154 (“the ‘154 patent”); 5,603,721 (“the ‘721 patent”); 5,728,158(“the ‘158 patent”); and 5,735,893 (“the ‘893 patent”) relate to a flexible coronary stent that is adapted to be placed in a patient’s blood vessel and expanded to keep the vessel open.

Advanced Cardiovascular Systems, Inc. and Guidant Sales Corporation (collectively “ACS”) had sued Scimed Life Systems, Inc. and Boston Scientific Corporation (collectively “Scimed”) for patent infringement of these patents. The accused device made by Scimed is called an NIR stent.

The SJ decision turned on the claim construction of several limitations in numerous asserted claims. The district court had construed the term “connecting elements” in two of the patents to be generally parallel both to each other and to the longitudinal axis of the stent. This construction also applied to the term “interconnected,” “connecting members,” and “struts for connecting” in the other patents. The Federal Circuit found error with the construction because it was inconsistent with the intrinsic evidence. The Court found that the plain claim language itself had no express structural limitations. Moreover, the specification did not require such structural limitations. The mere fact that all of the drawings depicted the connecting elements in parallel alignment was not compelling.

Moreover, the applicants’ arguments during prosecution did not so limit the claims.

The Federal Circuit concluded that the district court had also erred in construing certain other claims that expressly recited “generally parallel connecting elements” to require connecting elements that run parallel to the longitudinal axis of the stent. Here again, the Court saw no intrinsic evidence to restrict the plain claim language. The parties disputed the manner in which the connecting elements are required to be parallel. ACS argued that the connecting elements need only be parallel to each other when they are compared by looking around the cylindrical surface of the stent. Scimed and the district court, however, compared connecting elements by looking through the side of the stent.

The Federal Circuit found that nothing in the intrinsic evidence of record suggests one method of determining parallelism over the other. The claims simply recite “a plurality of generally parallel connecting elements,” providing no indication of the frame of reference in which the connecting elements should be parallel to each other. The drawings show parallelism in both directions. Accordingly, the Court vacated the SJ of noninfringement with instructions for the district court to consider extrinsic evidence on the issue.