The following is a summary of the precedential patent-related opinions issued by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit for the week ending March 13, 2015. Lindsey Yeargin and Wes Achey prepared this edition.
The Patent Application: Claims: Indefiniteness
Claim Interpretation: Intrinsic Evidence: Specification
Eidos Display, LLC, et al. v. AU Optronics Corp., et al., No. 14-1254 (Fed. Cir. (E.D. Tex.) Mar. 10, 2015). Opinion by Chen, joined by Wallach and Taranto.
In reversing the district court’s grant of summary judgment of indefiniteness, the Federal Circuit held that the disputed claim, when read in light of the specification and prosecution history, informed those of ordinary skill in the art as to the scope of the claimed invention with reasonable certainty.
Eidos Display, LLC and Eidos III, LLC sued AU Optronics Corporation, AU Optronics Corporation America, Chi Mei Innolux Corporation, Chi Mei Optoelectronics USA Inc., Chunghwa Picture Tubes, Ltd., Hannstar Display Corporation, and Hannspree North America, Inc. (collectively “Display Manufacturers”) for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 5,879,958 (“the ’958 patent”). The ’958 patent is directed to manufacturing processes for an electro-optical device, such as a liquid crystal display (“LCD”).
After the district court issued its Markman Order, the Display Manufacturers filed a motion for summary judgment asserting indefiniteness of Claim 1 of the ’958 patent (the only asserted claim). In their motion, the Display Manufacturers argued that the claim limitation “a contact hole for source wiring and gate wiring connection terminals” was indefinite. The district court granted Display Manufacturers’ summary judgment motion because there was no construction of the disputed limitation that would allow a person skilled in the art to determine what is claimed when the asserted claim is read in light of the specification.
On appeal, the Federal Circuit construed the “a contact hole for source wiring and gate wiring connection terminals” limitation to mean separate contact holes for the source wiring connection terminals and the gate wiring connection terminals. In reaching its construction, the Federal Circuit first held that because the manufacture of LCD panels had always required separate contact holes for each terminal, and because the specification did not provide a teaching of how to depart from the standard practice, the specification taught that each terminal would receive its own contact hole. The Federal Circuit further held that the prosecution history further informed those skilled in the art that the disputed limitation required separate, distinct contact holes for each terminal.
Additionally, because other claims in the ’958 patent contained the same limitation, the Federal Circuit ruled that a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand that the limitation would be given a consistent meaning across the claims. In connection with one of the other claims, the specification made clear that separate contact holes for each terminal were used. As such, the Federal Circuit held that the specification made clear that the disputed limitation required formation of separate contact holes.
Finally, the Federal Circuit rejected the Display Manufacturers’ argument that permitting separate contact holes to be covered by the disputed limitation would require impermissibly rewriting the limitation. The court held that determining how a person skilled in the art would understand the disputed limitation is not the same as rewriting the limitation. The Federal Circuit thus reversed the judgment of indefiniteness and remanded the case back to the district court.
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