412 F.2d 756 (5th Cir. 1969), 26007, American Seating Co. v. Southeastern Metals Co.

Docket Nº:26007.
Citation:412 F.2d 756, 162 U.S.P.Q. 329
Party Name:AMERICAN SEATING COMPANY, Appellant, v. SOUTHEASTERN METALS COMPANY, Inc., Appellee.
Case Date:June 11, 1969
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 756

412 F.2d 756 (5th Cir. 1969)

162 U.S.P.Q. 329

AMERICAN SEATING COMPANY, Appellant,

v.

SOUTHEASTERN METALS COMPANY, Inc., Appellee.

No. 26007.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

June 11, 1969

Page 757

Douglas Arant, Macbeth Wagnon, Jr., Bradley, Arant, Rose & White, Birmingham, Ala., Jerome F. Fallon, Chicago, Ill., Dawson, Tilton, Fallon & Lungmus, Chicago, Ill., for defendant-appellant.

Hugh P. Carter, Jennings, Carter & Thompson, Birmingham, Ala., for appellee.

Before WISDOM and GODBOLD, Circuit Judges, and HUGHES, District Judge.

GODBOLD, Circuit Judge:

This is a patent infringement suit involving two school chair patents obtained by appellant, American Seating Company. 1 The district judge found that American Seating's chair back patent (3,111,344) is invalid and that its chair seat patent (3,173,723) is valid but not infringed by appellee, Southeastern Metals. American Seating appeals from both of these determinations.

The '344 Patent

The district court held the chair back patent is invalid because it was anticipated by the prior art under 35 U.S.C.A. § 102 and failed to meet the requirement of non-obviousness under 35 U.S.C.A. § 103.

The precise matter under consideration is Claim 2 2 of the '344 patent which reads as follows:

In a chair: a supporting frame; and an integral, hollow, resilient plastic chair back mounted on the frame.

American Seating's vice president for research and development virtually conceded, 3 and the evidence clearly indicates, that all of the elements mentioned in the above claim were present in the prior art with the possible exception of integral. Thus at the threshold we are met with the issue of what integral means. The trial judge concluded that an integral chair back is 'any hollow, resilient chair back regardless of material,

Page 758

put together in such fashion that as a permanent, definable section, portion or part, it exists as a chair back and functions as a chair back.'

Appellant insists that the court's definition is too broad and too simple, that it necessarily leads to a conclusion of invalidity, that it is inconceivable for this to have been the basis for the grant of the '344 patent. 4 It says that integral is an uncommon word the meaning of which the court should have sought in the specifications instead of in the dictionary or in ordinary experience. Appellant asserts that in the furniture art an integral chair back can only mean one that is formed by a process known as blow-molding out of one piece of material whereby it comes into being all at once with only one definable constituent part.

For several reasons we conclude that the trial judge's definition of integral is not erroneous and that the appellant's contention that integral has the narrow meaning just above described must be rejected. The trial judge's definition of integral in the furniture art was based on his evaluation of the conflicting scientific testimony in this case. When there is a marked conflict among expert witnesses, the case is clearly one which calls for the application of Rule 52(a) of the Fed.R.Civ.P. 5 University of Illinois Foundation v. Block Drug Co., 241 F.2d 6, 10 (7th Cir.1957). See also Graver Tank & Mfg. Co. v. Linde Air Prod. Co., 336 U.S. 271, 274, 69 S.Ct. 535, 93 L.Ed. 672, 676 (1949).

The construction of integral urged by appellant is limited by appellant's theory that blow-molding is restricted in its meaning to a process employing only one piece of plastic material so that the molded item comes into being at once with only a single definable constituent part. Blow-molding has been known for years. In the process plastic material is positioned between two halves of a mold, and the mold halves are brought together. Compressed air is injected into the mold to force the material to conform to the mold interior. Appellant claims that blow-molding can only mean a process in which a single cylindrical tube of plastic material is positioned in the mold. But there was testimony which the trial court was entitled to accept, and did accept, that the process also includes the use of two sheets of plastic positioned in the mold.

The word 'integral' does not appear in the specifications. It was not included in the original application filed February 5, 1962, and did not appear until an amendment was submitted April 5, 1963, after two almost wholesale rejections of the application. Appellant asks the court to find patentability by reading the reference in the specifications to the blow-molding...

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