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Dictionary Definition Does Not Trump Intrinsic Record for Claim Construction

October 29, 2004

Decision icon Decision

Last Month at the Federal Circuit - November/December 2004

Judges: Michel (author), Newman, and Prost

In C.R. Bard, Inc. v. United States Surgical Corp., No. 04-1135 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 29, 2004), the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s claim construction and judgment of noninfringement.

C.R. Bard, Inc. and its subsidiary (collectively “Bard”) asserted U.S. Patent No. 4,356,432 (“the ‘432 patent”) against United States Surgical Corporation (“U.S. Surgical”). The ‘432 patent relates to an implantable prosthesis for repairing a tissue or muscle wall, typically a hernia defect.

The infringement dispute centered around the proper claim construction of a claimed hollow plug. U.S. Surgical argued that the hollow plug implant must include a pleated surface. Because its accused implants did not include any pleated surfaces, U.S. Surgical reasoned, its implants did not infringe. The district court agreed.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit rejected Bard’s arguments that standard dictionary definitions should trump the intrinsic evidence. The Court observed that the Summary of the Invention and the Abstract of the Invention in the ‘432 patent both require the implant to include a pleated surface. Moreover, each embodiment in the specification referred to a pleated plug. Accordingly, although the term “pleated” did not occur in the claims, the Court concluded that properly construed, the claim should include pleats. The Court also observed that during reexamination of the patent, Bard stated that “the surface of the inventive plug is pleated,” which constituted a clear disclaimer of scope.