Dawn Equipment Co. v. Kentucky Farms Inc., No. 97-1042.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Writing for the CourtPlager
Citation140 F.3d 1009
PartiesDAWN EQUIPMENT COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. KENTUCKY FARMS INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 97-1042.
Decision Date24 March 1998
140 F.3d 1009
DAWN EQUIPMENT COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
KENTUCKY FARMS INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 97-1042.
United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit.
March 24, 1998.

[140 F.3d 1010]

Stephen G. Rudisill, Arnold, White & Durkee, Chicago, IL, argued for plaintiff-appellee. On the brief was Edward L. Foote, Winston & Strawn, Chicago, IL.

Keith V. Rockey, Rockey, Milnamow & Katz, Ltd., Chicago, IL, argued for defendant-appellant. On the brief was Kathleen A. Lyons.

Before NEWMAN, MICHEL, and PLAGER, Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the court filed by Circuit Judge PLAGER. Additional views filed by Circuit Judges PLAGER, NEWMAN, and MICHEL.

PLAGER, Circuit Judge.


In this patent infringement case, the jury determined that the accused device, although not literally infringing, infringed under the doctrine of equivalents. The trial judge gave judgment accordingly, and denied defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law ("JMOL"). Because on these facts no reasonable jury could have found infringement, we reverse the denial of defendant's motion for JMOL and order judgment for the defendant.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Dawn Equipment Company ("Dawn Equipment") sued defendant Kentucky Farms Incorporated ("Kentucky Farms") for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 5,129,282 ("'282 patent"), entitled "Mechanism for Selectively Repositioning a Farm Implement." Shortly before holding a jury trial, the trial judge held a Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 975-76, 34 USPQ2d 1321, 1325-26 (Fed.Cir. 1995) hearing to construe the only asserted patent claim. The trial judge instructed the jury on his claim construction and thereafter submitted the issues of literal infringement and infringement under the doctrine of equivalents to the jury. The issues were submitted by way of two special interrogatories that asked the jury to answer with a simple yes or no whether there was literal infringement and whether there was infringement under the doctrine of equivalents. The jury returned its verdict, answering "no" to literal infringement and "yes" to infringement under the doctrine of equivalents. Kentucky Farms filed a motion for JMOL on the doctrine of equivalents infringement verdict. The trial judge denied the motion, and this appeal followed.

The '282 patent discloses a device for adjusting the height of a farm implement such as a row cleaning device. A row cleaning device, which frequently consists of a pair of wheels having sharp teeth, is often attached to a planter to clear residue from the planter's path. In pointing out problems in the prior art, the '282 patent describes prior art "multi-hole pinned height adjustment" mechanisms. '282 patent, col. 1, 1. 55, to col. 2, l. 29. The patent explains that raising or lowering such prior art mechanisms can be very time-consuming, tedious, and repetitive. Adjusting the height of such mechanisms requires the operator to manually elevate and shift the farm implement to align holes and insert pins. The patent also explains that the loose pins used in the prior art mechanisms are easily lost. Moreover, when adjusting the height of such a prior art mechanism, the operator is required to place himself beneath the farm implement, which increases the risk of accidents and injuries.

The '282 patent explains that these problems are avoided by using an improved mechanism, illustrated in Figures 1 and 2 of the patent, reproduced below.

140 F.3d 1011

NOTE: OPINION CONTAINING TABLE OR OTHER DATA THAT IS NOT VIEWABLE

Figure 1 shows the height adjusting mechanism in the lowered position; Figure 2 shows the same device in the raised position. The device includes a control/locking means 46 for alternating the implement between the raised and lowered positions. The control/locking means includes a handle 48, cylindrical rods 50 and 56, a cylindrical shaft 52, and a transverse pin 54 carried on the cylindrical shaft 52. A spring 68 biases the mechanism in the raised position, as shown in Figure 2. In the lowered position, the pin 54 is engaged in the slot 72, against the bias of the spring 68. To move the implement from the lowered position to the raised position, the operator presses down on and turns the handle 48 to rotate the pin 54 out of the slot 72. The spring 68 then overcomes the weight of the farm implement and pushes the implement into the raised position. The patent explains that this operation can be performed safely and quickly from above the farm implement.

Claim 9 of the patent, the only claim at issue, provides (emphasis added):

140 F.3d 1012

A mechanism for adjusting the height of a farm implement/tool of the type to be carried by a drawing vehicle, said adjusting mechanism comprising:

a connecting means for supporting a farm implement/tool in an operative position;

means for guiding sliding movement of the connecting means selectively between first and second positions corresponding to raised and lowered positions for a farm implement/tool carried by the connecting means;

means for mounting the guiding means to one of a drawing vehicle and a support to be carried by a drawing vehicle;

means for locking the connecting means in one of the first and second positions and for selectively releasing the connecting means to allow the connecting means to be slid into the other of the first and second positions therefor,

means for limiting sliding movement of the connecting means with the connecting means released; and

means for normally spring biasing the connecting means to one of the first and second positions therefor.

The accused Kentucky Farms device, illustrated below, includes a connecting bar 10, which telescopes within a rectangular sleeve 12.

140 F.3d 1013

NOTE: OPINION CONTAINING TABLE OR OTHER DATA THAT IS NOT VIEWABLE

A row cleaning device, or other farm implement, is attached to the connecting bar 10 at a pair of axes 14. The sleeve 12 is bolted onto a mounting bracket 16, which is attached to a planter. The connecting bar 10 is inserted in sleeve 12, and a bolt 20 is inserted in the uppermost opening in the connecting bar 10, to prevent the connecting bar from slipping down through the sleeve 12. A spring 22, attached at its upper end to the sleeve 12, and at its lower end to the connecting bar 10, supports a portion of the weight of the connecting bar and attached row cleaning device.

The Kentucky Farms device has a multiple-hole, pinned height adjustment mechanism. In that mechanism, a removable angled pin 30 is used to secure the connecting

140 F.3d 1014

bar 10 within the sleeve 12 at a desired height, thereby setting the height of the attached row cleaning device. In particular, the connecting bar 10 is adjusted to the desired height, and then the pin 30 is inserted through one set of holes 26 in the sleeve and one set of holes 28 in the connecting bar. A retaining clip (not shown in the above diagram) is then placed through a hole in the straight end of the pin 30, to prevent the pin 30 from sliding out. The retaining clip must first be removed before the height can be readjusted.

On appeal, Kentucky Farms contends that the trial judge erred by construing claim 9 too broadly. However, Kentucky Farms contends that, even under the trial judge's claim construction, the jury verdict of infringement under the doctrine of equivalents cannot stand, and that the trial judge therefore erred in not granting Kentucky Farms' motion for JMOL. In the alternative, Kentucky Farms asserts that, in the event we do not order judgment in its favor, it is entitled to a new trial in view of the alleged erroneous claim construction. Dawn Equipment, in response, argues that the trial judge properly construed claim 9 and that the jury's verdict is supported by substantial evidence and therefore should not be disturbed.

DISCUSSION
1.

In reviewing the trial judge's denial of Kentucky Farms' motion for JMOL, we keep in mind our standard of review, which is the same standard that was applicable at the trial court level. See Texas Instruments Inc. v. Cypress Semiconductor Corp., 90 F.3d 1558, 1563, 39 USPQ2d 1492, 1496 (Fed.Cir. 1996) (noting that a district court's JMOL ruling is reviewed by reapplying JMOL standard), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 117 S.Ct. 1818, 137 L.Ed.2d 1027 (1997). Legal standards given to the jury are reviewed without deference to the trial court, whereas the jury's resolution of factual disputes are reviewed to determine whether there is substantial evidence to support them. See Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 975-76, 34 USPQ2d 1321, 1325-26 (Fed.Cir.1995) (in banc), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370, 116 S.Ct. 1384, 134 L.Ed.2d 577, 38 USPQ2d 1461 (1996). In reviewing factual issues for substantial evidence, the inquiry is whether a reasonable jury, given the record before it viewed as a whole, could have arrived at the conclusion it did. See Texas Instruments, 90 F.3d at 1563, 39 USPQ2d at 1496.

2.

It is standard doctrine that determining infringement is a two-step process. See id., 39 USPQ2d at 1497. First, the court must construe the asserted claims as a matter of law to ascertain their meaning and scope. See id. Second, the claims as construed are compared to the allegedly infringing device. See id. To infringe a claim, each claim limitation must be present in the accused product, literally or equivalently. See Sofamor Danek Group, Inc. v. DePuy-Motech, Inc., 74 F.3d 1216, 1220, 37 USPQ2d 1529, 1531 (Fed.Cir.1996). Thus, the construction of each claim limitation is crucial to the infringement determination.

We begin with the first step, claim construction. The pertinent claim limitation here is the means for locking and releasing, recited specifically as:

means for locking the connecting means in one of the first and second positions and for selectively releasing the connecting means to allow the connecting means to be slid into the other of the first and second positions therefor;

'282 patent,...

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224 practice notes
  • Discovision Associates v. Disc Mfg., Inc., Civil Action No. 95-21-SLR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Delaware)
    • 26 octobre 1998
    ...structure, material, or acts described in the specification and equivalents thereof.'" Dawn Equip. Co. v. Kentucky Farms Inc., 140 F.3d 1009, 1018 (Fed.Cir. 1998) (J. Plager, additional views) (quoting 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6) (emphasis in "To determine whether a claim limitation is met litera......
  • Versata Software, Inc. v. Internet Brands, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:08–cv–313–WCB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • 9 octobre 2012
    ...jury, given the record before it viewed as a whole, could have arrived at the conclusion it did.” Dawn Equip. Co. v. Ky. Farms, Inc., 140 F.3d 1009, 1014 (Fed.Cir.1998). The Court concludes that Autodata presented sufficient evidence to support the jury's finding of anticipation as to all t......
  • MICROAIRE SURGICAL INSTRUMENTS LLC. v. ARTHREX INC., Case No. 3:09-cv-00078.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
    • 3 juin 2010
    ...can show “that the accused device contains an equivalent for each limitation not literally satisfied,” Dawn Equip. Co. v. Kentucky Farms, 140 F.3d 1009, 1015 (Fed.Cir.1998). Claim construction is a question of law, Cybor, 138 F.3d at 1456, whereas the Court's comparison of the patent claims......
  • Jeneric/Pentron, Inc. v. Dillon Company, Inc., No. 3:98cv818(EBB) (D. Conn. 8/27/2001), No. 3:98cv818(EBB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • 27 août 2001
    ...process "must be shown to include an equivalent for each literally absent claim limitation." See Dawn Equip. Co. v. Kentucky Farms Inc., 140 F.3d 1009, 1015 (Fed. Cir. 1998); Hughes Aircraft Co. v. United States, 140 F.3d 1470, 1474 (Fed. Cir. 1998). To determine equivalency, "the role play......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
222 cases
  • Discovision Associates v. Disc Mfg., Inc., Civil Action No. 95-21-SLR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Delaware)
    • 26 octobre 1998
    ...structure, material, or acts described in the specification and equivalents thereof.'" Dawn Equip. Co. v. Kentucky Farms Inc., 140 F.3d 1009, 1018 (Fed.Cir. 1998) (J. Plager, additional views) (quoting 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6) (emphasis in "To determine whether a claim limitation is met litera......
  • Versata Software, Inc. v. Internet Brands, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:08–cv–313–WCB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • 9 octobre 2012
    ...jury, given the record before it viewed as a whole, could have arrived at the conclusion it did.” Dawn Equip. Co. v. Ky. Farms, Inc., 140 F.3d 1009, 1014 (Fed.Cir.1998). The Court concludes that Autodata presented sufficient evidence to support the jury's finding of anticipation as to all t......
  • MICROAIRE SURGICAL INSTRUMENTS LLC. v. ARTHREX INC., Case No. 3:09-cv-00078.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
    • 3 juin 2010
    ...can show “that the accused device contains an equivalent for each limitation not literally satisfied,” Dawn Equip. Co. v. Kentucky Farms, 140 F.3d 1009, 1015 (Fed.Cir.1998). Claim construction is a question of law, Cybor, 138 F.3d at 1456, whereas the Court's comparison of the patent claims......
  • Jeneric/Pentron, Inc. v. Dillon Company, Inc., No. 3:98cv818(EBB) (D. Conn. 8/27/2001), No. 3:98cv818(EBB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • 27 août 2001
    ...process "must be shown to include an equivalent for each literally absent claim limitation." See Dawn Equip. Co. v. Kentucky Farms Inc., 140 F.3d 1009, 1015 (Fed. Cir. 1998); Hughes Aircraft Co. v. United States, 140 F.3d 1470, 1474 (Fed. Cir. 1998). To determine equivalency, "the role play......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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