“Floral Holding Material” Not Properly Construed
February 05, 2003
Last Month at the Federal Circuit - March 2003
Judges: Gajarsa, Plager, Prost
In Prima Tek II, LLC v. Polypap, S.A.R.L., No. 02-1164 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 5, 2003), the Federal Circuit vacated a SJ of noninfringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,410,856 (“the ‘856 patent”) and 5,615,532 (“the ‘532 patent”), because the district court had based the judgment on an erroneous construction of the phrase “floral holding material.”
Southpac Trust International, Inc. owns the two patents-in-suit, and Prima Tek II, LLC is a licensee of the patents, which describe a decorative assembly for flowers, comprising a floralholding material and a decorative sheet of material. Each claim in question contains a limitation calling for “floral holding material.” The district court construed this phrase to mean a three-dimensional solid, semisolid, or granular material capable of giving support to individual flowers when their stems are inserted into the material. Based on this construction, the district court concluded that the accused product did not infringe, because its flowers and stems are not actually inserted into and through the floral-holding material but, rather, are inserted into a hole formed at the top of the material.
The Federal Circuit concluded that this construction was wrong because the claims at issue only require that the floral-holding material be material capable of receiving a portion of the floral grouping and supporting the floral grouping without any pot means. The claim language does not require that the stem end of the flower be inserted into and through the floral-holding material. The Federal Circuit rejected Polypap, S.A.R.L.’s (“Polypap”) argument that statements made by the Examiner during prosecution history ascribed a special meaning to the phrase, concluding that the Examiner never made a conclusive statement and that drawing inferences from an Examiner’s silence is not a proper basis on which to construe a patent claim.
Polypap also argued that the district court had erred in construing the claim term “substantially bonded.” Polypap argued that, under common dictionary definitions, the term “substantially bonded” means “composed of two or more layers or the same or different fabrics held together by an adhesive.” The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s construction, however, because the claim language required that the bonding occur via a means for forming a crimped portion and not an adhesive.
Having reversed the district court on one claim-construction limitation, the Federal Circuit also vacated the SJ of noninfringement and remanded for further proceedings.