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請求項使用"each"影響元件數量的解釋 - Accent Packaging, Inc. v. Leggett & Platt, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2013)
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- 專利用詞「each」、「respective one」與「mount」
Accent Packaging, Inc. v. Leggett & Platt, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2013)

本案資訊:
原告/上訴人:ACCENT PACKAGING, INC.
被告/被上訴人:LEGGETT & PLATT, INC.
系爭專利:US7,373,877、US7,412,992

CAFC判決地方法院"錯誤"解釋範圍時對於請求項用語「each」與「respective one」,因此否決部分侵權不成立的決定,另確認地院否決原告提出額外探索程序與營業秘密的請求。

系爭專利關於廢料打包機:


Claim 1 of '877:

1. In a knotting device including a knotting assembly having a gripper for selectively gripping one of two adjacent wire sections, a rotatable knotter operable to twist-knot the two adjacent wire sections, a cutting element for cutting of the other of said adjacent wire sections after twist-knotting of the sections and a shiftable cover located adjacent said knotter for maintaining the wire sections within the knotter during feeding said twist-knotting and thereafter movable to a wire-clearing position permitting passage of the twist-knotted wire sections from the knotter, the improvement which comprises an operator assembly for timed operation of said gripper, knotter, cutting element and cover, and a single drive assembly coupled with said operator assembly for effecting said timed operation,
said operator assembly including a pivotal shaft assembly and elongated operator bodies, with each of the operator bodies being operably coupled with a respective one of said gripper, knotter, cutting element and cover so as to supply driving power from the single drive assembly thereto,
each of said operator bodies projecting radially from and being fixed to the shaft assembly such that rotational movement of the shaft assembly causes the operator bodies to swing about a shaft axis,
said shaft assembly effecting said timed operation by rotating in a single direction about the shaft axis,
each of said operator bodies including an interacting element associated therewith,
each of said interacting elements being drivingly connected to a respective one of the gripper, knotter, cutting element, and cover wherein swinging of the operator bodies in the single direction effects said timed operation.

補充:訴訟眾也涉及一個議題「Missouri Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“MUTSA”)」,此法案定義商業活動中的「不正當手段」,如盜竊、賄賂、虛假陳述、違反保密義務、間諜活動等行為,也就原告Accent主張被告Leggett仿冒,資料可參考:http://tsi.brooklaw.edu/cases/location/missouri/statute

地院解釋專利範圍時,如上列舉Claim 1 of '877中有4個「elongated operator bodies」,而每一個("each")應耦接到4個("coupled to "a respective one"")個別的"4個"特定項目(gripper 218, knotter 56, cutting element 224, cover 266)。

地院認為被告產品僅包括2個「elongated operator bodies」,因此侵權不成立。

CAFC階段:

用語「each」、「respective one」:
CAFC法官解釋專利範圍時,採用相關技術領域一般技術人員水平的通常意義,針對請求項「each of the operator bodies being operably coupled with a respective one of said gripper, knotter, cutting element and cover 」中使用「each」與「respective one」等決定數量的用語時,認為:

"“each” operator body must be coupled to “a respective one” of the gripper, knotter, cutter, and cover."

這裡也提到發明人的意圖也影響著專利範圍的解釋:


這裡提到發明人的意圖,其中引用案例,認為不定冠詞'a'或'an'在開放式申請專利範圍中解釋為"one or more",除非專利權人有明確的意圖才會解釋為'one'。
"“an indefinite article ‘a’ or ‘an’ in patent parlance carries the meaning of ‘one or more’ in openended claims containing the transitional phrase comprising” unless a patentee has “‘evidence[d] a clear intent’ to limit ‘a’ or ‘an’ to ‘one’”"

因此解釋為:
each of the elongated operator bodies correspond to one and only one of the gripper, knotter, cutter, and cover」(中文:"每個長條操作器本體對應於夾持器,打結器,切割器和蓋子中的其中的唯一的一個")。

於是,法官認為申請專利範圍(如claim 1 of '877)沒有限定數量是4個,也就是沒有一定是「4個elongated operator bodies」。

同時也與專利說明書的實施例有關,法官提到說明書中的較佳實施例顯示「two elongated operator bodies are operably coupled to both the knotter and the cover」,因此認為解釋專利範圍而"排除說明書描述的較佳實施例"是少見的(案例:On-Line Techs., Inc. v. Bodenseewerk Perkin-Elmer GmbH, 386 F.3d 1133, 1138 (Fed. Cir. 2004))。

"We have held that “a claim interpretation that excludes a preferred embodiment from the scope of the claim is rarely, if ever, correct.”"

然而,在此案審理時,被告Leggett並未對Accent的聲明(未限制4個elongated operator bodies)提出抗辯,因此就CAFC解釋來看,被告侵權物對'877的Claims 1-4侵權成立。

用語「mount」:
另針對申請專利範圍中「mount」用語,如Claim 3或Claim 5 of '877中的「cover attached to a mount for pivotal movement of the cover between said wire-maintaining position and said wire-clearing position」,這裡提到在導線位置之間的蓋子的樞紐轉動置架,可以通過電弧(arc)轉動至少90度。

地院認為被告侵權物的置架(mount)樞紐不能轉動90度,因此對相關請求項侵權不成立。

對於「MUTSA」營業秘密法,CAFC本案不滿足營業秘密法,因為相關產品已經商業販售、也被系爭專利所涵蓋,相關資訊可以從公眾領域取得,並不構成營業秘密

因此CAFC作出部分侵權成立、部分侵權不成立、不予額外探索程序,以及否決原告提出違反營業秘密的主張的判決。

判決文:
https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/cafc/12-1011/12-1011-2013-02-04.html(備份:https://app.box.com/s/7sm6dja2adjyh1pzk9195zmu57sm6pcc

my two cents:
本案例的資訊是來自工業技術研究院「從美國訴訟淺談專利撰寫答辯及請求項用語解釋研討會」的議程所揭示的內容。

從此案例可知,而且很重要,「each」、「respective one」等決定數量的用語(或是只是規範連接數量關係),使用上影響解釋專利範圍的「廣度」。

還有,我覺得,從法官解釋專利範圍的態度可知,「申請專利範圍語言」、「實施例」與「發明人意圖(審查程序中的證據)」都會影響法官解釋的專利範圍。

我想到有關「each」用語的解釋有一案例:禁令條件與專利用詞"each"的討論(專利用詞討論五) - Apple v. Samsung (Fed. Cir. 2012)(有關"each"用詞,http://enpan.blogspot.tw/2015/12/each-apple-v-samsung-fed-cir-2012.html,其中有段話成為我寫「each」這個字的想法:

「plurality」解釋為「至少兩個(at least two)」。
「each of a plurality of」解釋為「至少兩個的每一個」。
「each field」指的是「全部的fields」的每一個。
「each of a plurality of fields」指的是「至少兩個fields」的每一個。

最後,Accent Packaging, Inc. v. Leggett & Platt, Inc. 似乎很多訴訟進行中,所以在google尋找本案判決的過程稍微有點需要查證。
 

資料參考:
http://www.sughrue.com/Summary-of-Accent-Packaging-Inc-v-Leggett--Platt-Inc-2012-1011-02-04-2013/
https://www.finnegan.com/en/tools/accent-packaging-v-leggett-platt-opinion/analysis.html

Ron