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J&M Industries, Inc. v. Raven Industries, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 21, 2018

J&M INDUSTRIES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
RAVEN INDUSTRIES, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN W. BROOMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court for construction of patent claim terms pursuant to Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370 (1996). The parties have fully briefed their positions. (Docs. 113, 116, 118.) The court held an evidentiary hearing on the disputed terms on May 29, 2018, and is prepared to rule. The court adopts the construction of the disputed terms set forth herein. Additionally, because the court's construction of these terms renders moot Raven's pending Motion for Summary Judgment (see Docs. 129, 130, 135, 136), Raven's motion is hereby DENIED.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff is the holder of U.S. Patent No. 9, 347, 239 (“the ‘239 Patent”), which pertains to a storage system for covering a pile of bulk materials such as grain. (Doc. 1-1.) The Patent discloses an invention for using tarpaulins with an internal strapping system. The parties dispute the meaning of three terms within the Patent's claims: “lower edge, ” “upper edge, ” and “fastener” or “plurality of fasteners.” These terms appear in several claims of the ‘239 Patent, including Claims 1 and 9. Claim 1 is representative of the other claims containing these terms and is set forth in full below.

         Claim 1

         1. A storage system for covering a pile of bulk material, the system comprising:

a storage area surface having a storage perimeter defined at a ground surface within which the pile of bulk material is stored substantially on or proximate to the ground surface;
a retaining wall extending along the storage perimeter, the retaining wall having a lower edge positioned at the storage perimeter and an upper edge opposite the lower edge, the retaining wall angled away from the storage area;
a board securable to at least a portion of the upper edge of the retaining wall, the secured board and at least a portion of the upper edge of the retaining wall having a space there between, the space defining an opening;
a plurality of tarpaulins, each tarpaulin including
at least one adjacent edge, the plurality of tarpaulins joinable together at the adjacent edges by a plurality of fasteners,
at least one perimeter edge, each of the perimeter edges collectively defining a tarpaulin perimeter, a portion of each tarpaulin at or proximate to each perimeter edge positionable over the upper edge of the retaining wall, and
a plurality of tunnels, each tarpaulin including at least one tunnel integrally bonded to the tarpaulin;
a plurality of straps, each strap provided within and freely movable through one of the tunnels, at least one end of each strap extendable beyond the tarpaulin perimeter and beyond the board over the upper edge of the retaining wall; and
a tightening mechanism connected to at least one end of the each of the plurality of straps,
wherein at least one of the perimeter edges of the tarpaulins is insertable within or through the opening thereby securing at least one tarpaulin to the upper edge of the retaining wall as the board is secured to the upper edge.

(Doc. 1-1 at 17.)

         II. Legal Standards

         A patent must describe the exact scope of an invention so that the patentee secures his or her right to “all which he [or she] is entitled” and informs “the public of what is still open to them.” Capstan AG Systems, Inc. v. Raven Indust., Inc., No. 16-4132-DDC, 2018 WL 953112, * (D. Kan. Feb. 20, 2018) (quoting Markman, 517 U.S. at 373). Toward that end, a patent must have a specification with a written description of the invention, and the manner and process of making and using it, “in such full, clear, concise, and exact terms as to enable any person skilled in the art to which it pertains, … to make and use the same, and shall set forth the best mode contemplated by the inventor … of carrying out the invention.” 35 U.S.C. § 112(a). The specification must “conclude with one or more claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter which the inventor … regards as the invention.” Id. at § 112(b).

         “A patent's claims define the invention.” Capstan AG Systems, 2018 WL 953112, *1 (citing Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc)). The claims serve “to forbid not only exact copies of an invention, but [also] products that go to the heart of an invention but avoid[ ] the literal language of the claim by making a noncritical change.” Id. (citing Markman, 517 U.S. at 373-74). Infringement in a patent suit requires a finding that a patent claim “covers the alleged infringer's product or process.” Markman, 517 U.S. at 374. Resolution of that issue necessitates a determination of “what the words in the claim mean.” Id. (citation omitted). Pursuant to Markman, the court must construe the contested terms in a claim before a jury can determine whether accused products infringe on the claim.

         “Claim construction begins by considering the language of the claims themselves.” Capstan AG Systems, 2018 WL 953112, *2 (citing Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312). “The words of a claim should be given their ordinary and customary meaning as understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art in question at the time of the invention.” Sprint Commc'ns Co. L.P. v. Comcast Cable Commc'ns LLC, No. 11-2684-JWL, 2014 WL 5089402, *1 (D. Kan. Oct. 9, 2014) (citing Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312-13). The claims themselves provide substantial guidance as to the meaning of particular ...


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