DuraSystems Barriers, Inc. v. Van-Packer Co., 1:19-cv-01388-SLD-JEH

CourtU.S. District Court — Central District of Illinois
PartiesDURASYSTEMS BARRIERS INC., a Canadian corporation, Plaintiff, v. VAN-PACKER CO., an Illinois corporation, and JEREMIAS, INC., a Georgia corporation, Defendants.
Decision Date03 September 2021
Docket Number1:19-cv-01388-SLD-JEH

DURASYSTEMS BARRIERS INC., a Canadian corporation, Plaintiff,

VAN-PACKER CO., an Illinois corporation, and JEREMIAS, INC., a Georgia corporation, Defendants.

No. 1:19-cv-01388-SLD-JEH

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division

September 3, 2021



Plaintiff DuraSystems Barriers Inc. (“DuraSystems”) accuses Defendants Van-Packer Co. (“Van-Packer”) and Jeremias, Inc. (“Jeremias” and together with Van-Packer, “Defendants”) of infringing U.S. Patent No. 10, 024, 569 (the “'569 Patent”). Now before the Court are the parties' respective claim construction briefs, ECF Nos. 31, 36, 41, as well as their respective motions for leave to file under seal various materials in support thereof, ECF Nos. 33, 37. For the reasons that follow, the Court DEFERS consideration of the claim terms Defendants assert are indefinite, ADOPTS the constructions identified below, and DENIES the motions for leave to file under seal.


I. Procedural History

On December 3, 2019, DuraSystems filed its original complaint, which alleged two claims for patent infringement against Van-Packer, one with regard to the '569 Patent and another to a patent no longer at issue. See generally Compl., ECF No. 1. The day before, DuraSystems brought a materially identical lawsuit against Jeremias in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. See Compl., 4:20-cv-04069-SLD-JEH, ECF No. 1. On March 25, 2020, that action was transferred to this Court, see Order Transferring Case, 4:20-cv-04069-SLD-JEH, ECF No. 8, and on April 16, 2020, it was consolidated with this case, see Apr. 16, 2020 Text Order. The Clerk then filed DuraSystems's amended complaint, ECF No. 17, which names both Van-Packer and Jeremias. See Apr. 16, 2020 Text Order (directing the Clerk to file DuraSystems's proposed amended complaint, which was attached to the parties' motion to consolidate, ECF No. 16). Defendants' amended answer was filed on November 2, 2020, ECF No. 30. The Court issued a scheduling order on April 13, 2020. See Apr. 13, 2020 Text Order; Disc. Plan, ECF No. 14.[1] Fact discovery closed on December 11, 2020, and expert discovery (which shall include the exchange of expert reports and expert depositions) has not yet occurred. See Apr. 13, 2020 Text Order; Disc. Plan 2-3.

Defendants filed their opening claim construction brief, ECF No. 31, and motion to seal, ECF No. 33, on December 23, 2020, as well as the parties' joint appendix, ECF No. 32. DuraSystems filed its answering brief, ECF No. 36, and motion to seal, ECF No. 37, on February 5, 2021, and Defendants filed their reply brief, ECF No. 41, on March 3, 2021. DuraSystems filed the parties' status report and joint claim construction chart, ECF No. 42, on March 10, 2021. The Court conducted a Markman hearing on June 21, 2021. See June 21, 2021 Min. Entry.

II. The '569 Patent

Flammable or hazardous gases, vapors, or particles are generated in commercial and industrial buildings and must be captured and transported to a place where they can be discharged. U.S. Patent No. 10, 024, 569 col. 1 ll. 13-17 (filed Oct. 10, 2013), J.A. 0012, ECF No. 32-1. Ventilation ducts are typically routed throughout these buildings; however, when such ducts must transport flammable or hazardous materials, they must be fire-rated-“capable of minimizing the transfer of heat through or across the duct walls.” Id. col. 1 ll. 20-36, J.A. 0012.

The utility of fire-rated ducts can be illustrated by the role they play in commercial kitchens. In a commercial kitchen, exhaust ducts are configured to capture grease-laden air over deep fryers and grills. Id. col. 1 ll. 40-41, J.A. 0012. Such air “is extremely flammable, and must be transported through the building to an exterior area where it can be safely discharged.” See Id. col. 1 ll. 42-44, J.A. 0012. In fact, it is so flammable, a minor kitchen fire “could enter the exhaust duct and quickly spread throughout the duct system.” Id. col. 1 ll. 44-47, J.A. 0012. Therefore, any potential duct fire “must be contained and thermal transfer through the duct walls limited to prevent ignition of adjacent combustible material in the kitchen or other areas of the building.” Id. col. 1 ll. 47-50, J.A. 0012.

Fire-rated exhaust duct systems are usually fabricated in sections, which are shipped to an installation location and welded together to form conduit sections. Id. col. 1 ll. 61-65, J.A. 0012. These systems “typically require the installation of an additional gypsum fire-rated enclosure . . . around the duct.” Id. col. 2 ll. 1-4, J.A. 0012. This “add[ed] step” represented a “known shortcoming[] in the art, ” see Id. col. 2 ll. 5-8, J.A. 0012, which was overcome by chimney manufacturers who “introduced pre-fabricated fire-rated exhaust ducts based on a modification of existing chimney exhaust systems, see Id. col. 2 ll. 7-10, J.A. 0012. But their “characteristic round profile significantly limits the volume of air that can be vertically carried in conventional building footprints” and “is often too large to fit into conventional ceiling . . . spaces or dimensions.” Id. col. 2 ll. 12-16, J.A. 0012.

Enter the '569 Patent, a general illustration of an embodiment of which can be found below.

(Image Omitted)

Id. fig. 1, J.A. 0003.[2] It concerns a “fire-rated modular duct assembly, and improvements therein, suitable for exhausting flammable or hazardous gases, vapour, and the like, ” id. col. 1 ll. 7-9, J.A. 0012, and “suitable for pre-fabrication and configured for assembly in the field, ” id. col. 2 ll. 24-25, J.A. 0012. According to an embodiment, this duct assembly comprises “individual duct sections which are factory fabricated and then mechanically assembled on site, ” id. col. 8 ll. 16-17, J.A. 0015, and the individual sections “are connected together to form longer sections and runs to create a fire-rated exhaust duct system in a building or other type of facility for exhausting or moving flammable or hazardous gases, vapours and materials from an originating source, e.g. an exhaust hood . . . to a location where the flammable or hazardous gases, vapours or materials can be safely discharged, ” see Id. col. 8 ll. 22-28, J.A. 0015.

Specifically, and according to an embodiment, the '569 Patent describes a modular, fire-rated duct assembly comprising “two or more exhaust duct modules, ” each of which having an inner duct liner, an outer casing, and a void between them. Id. col. 2 ll. 26-31, J.A. 0012. This void includes “one or more thermal spacers” configured to maintain the liner and the casing “in a spaced relationship so that . . . insulation material” occupies it. Id. col. 2 ll. 31-35, J.A. 0012. Flange connectors are attached to the modules and “configured to form a field assembly junction for coupling respective ends of . . . [the] modules to form a single exhaust duct run.” Id. col. 2 ll. 36-44, J.A. 0012. Field assembly junctions are in turn encased by joint encasement sections, which are field connectable to each of the modules. Id. col. 2 ll. 44-46, J.A. 0012. According to another embodiment, the inner duct liner is “formed with a generally rectangular cross-section, ” and the outer casing is “formed with a generally rectangular cross-section . . . sized to substantially surround” the inner duct liner. Id. col. 2 ll. 50-54, J.A. 0012.


I. Claim Construction

A. Legal Standard

“The purpose of claim construction is to determine the meaning and scope of the patent claims asserted to be infringed.” O2 Micro Int'l Ltd. v. Beyond Innovation Tech. Co., 521 F.3d 1351, 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (quotation marks omitted). Indeed, this process “serves to define the scope of the patented invention and the patentee's right to exclude.” See HTC Corp. v. Cellular Commc'ns Equip., LLC, 877 F.3d 1361, 1367 (Fed. Cir. 2017). But a court need only construe claim language that is disputed. Vivid Techs., Inc. v. Am. Sci. & Eng'g, Inc., 200 F.3d 795, 803 (Fed. Cir. 1999). “Claim construction is ultimately an issue of law . . . .” Eli Lilly & Co. v. Hospira, Inc., 933 F.3d 1320, 1328 (Fed. Cir. 2019) (citation omitted).

“[T]here is no magic formula or catechism” when it comes to claim construction. Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1324 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc). But the Federal Circuit has nevertheless articulated general principles that guide courts, including the cardinal principle “the words of a claim are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning.” Id. at 1312 (quotation marks and citations omitted). Perhaps more importantly, “the ordinary and customary meaning of a claim term is the meaning that the term would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art [a “POSITA”] in question at the time of the invention, i.e., as of the effective filing date of the patent application.” Id. at 1313 (citations omitted). In addition, a POSITA “is deemed to read the claim term not only in the context of the particular claim in which the disputed term appears, but in the context of the entire patent.” Id.

Sometimes, the ordinary meaning of a claim as understood by a POSITA may be immediately apparent to lay judges, and claim construction involves nothing more than applying the generally accepted meaning of commonly understood words. Id. at 1314. But courts are usually not so lucky. When the meaning of a claim term is not readily apparent, courts look to “those sources available to the public that show what a [POSITA] would have understood disputed claim language to mean.” Id. (quotation marks omitted). These sources are “the words of the claims themselves, . . . the specification, the prosecution history, and extrinsic evidence concerning relevant scientific principles, the meaning of technical terms, and the state of the art.” Id. (quotation marks and citations omitted).

Obviously, “the claims themselves provide substantial...

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