Tuesday, August 19, 2008

CAFC Finds Infringement Under Doctrine of Equivalents, but Limits Injunctive Relief

Voda v. Cordis Corp., 07-1297, August 18, 2008

After a jury trial, the district court found that Cordis infringed Voda's patent related to cardiac guide catheters. On appeal, Cordin argued, among other things, that the district court erred in finding infringement under the doctrine of equivalents (DOE). Voda appealed the district court's denial of a permanent injunction.

For the DOE, the CAFC reiterated that two tests for equivalence are used:

This court applies two articulations of the test for equivalence. See Warner-Jenkinson, 520 U.S. at 40 (explaining that different phrasings of the test for equivalence may be "more suitable to different cases, depending on their particular facts"). Under the insubstantial differences test, "[a]n element in the accused device is equivalent to a claim limitation if the only differences between the two are insubstantial." Honeywell Int’l Inc. v. Hamilton Sundstrand Corp., 370 F.3d 1131, 1139 (Fed. Cir 2004). Alternatively, under the function-way-result test, an element in the accused device is equivalent to a claim limitation if it "performs substantially the same function in substantially the same way to obtain substantially the same result." Schoell v. Regal Marine Indus., Inc., 247 F.3d 1202, 1209-10 (Fed. Cir. 2001).
Cordis took issue with a claim term that recited "a first substantially straight leg" and "a second substantially straight leg." According to Cordis, their curved catheter did not meet this limitation in certain claims. The CAFC disagreed:

[W]e conclude that Voda introduced substantial evidence establishing that the redesigned curve portion of the XB catheter meets the straight and substantially straight limitations under the doctrine of equivalents. One of Voda’s experts testified that the difference in shape between the redesigned curve portion and a straight portion was so insubstantial that cardiologists would have difficulty distinguishing the two during use. There was also testimony that the redesigned curve portion performed the same function as a straight portion, in the same way, to achieve the same result.
On the denial of a permanent injunction, Vordis, who is an individual inventor, argued that irreparable harm would come to his exclusive licensee. However, Vordis did not argue that he himself would suffer the same injury. The CAFC found this fatal to his argument:

We disagree with Voda that the denial of a permanent injunction in this case conflicts with eBay. The Supreme Court held only that patent owners that license their patents rather than practice them "may be able to satisfy the traditional four-factor test" for a permanent injunction. Id. (emphasis added). Nothing in eBay eliminates the requirement that the party seeking a permanent injunction must show that "it has suffered an irreparable injury." Id. (emphasis added). Moreover, we conclude that the district court did not clearly err in finding that Voda failed to show that Cordis’s infringement caused him irreparable injury. In addition, we find that the district court did not clearly err or abuse its discretion in finding that monetary damages were adequate to compensate Voda. Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s denial of Voda’s request for a permanent injunction.

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