27
Aug
By Eric Schweibenz
On August 27, 2010, the Federal Circuit issued its opinion in Pass & Seymour, Inc. v. Int’l Trade Comm’n, 2009-1338, -1369.  This was an appeal by Pass & Seymour, Inc. (“P&S”) from the Commission’s final determination in Certain Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters and Products Containing Same (Inv. No. 337-TA-615) that General Protecht Group, Inc., Wenzhou Trimone Science and Technology Electric Co., Ltd., and Shanghai ELE Manufacturing Corp. (collectively, the “Respondents”) do not infringe the asserted claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,594,398 (the ‘398 patent) and 7,212,386 (the ‘386 patent) and therefore have not violated Section 337.  See our June 4, 2010 post for more details.

In the opinion, the Federal Circuit agreed with the Commission’s claim construction and infringement analyses and affirmed the determination of no violation of Section 337.

The asserted patents and accused products at issue relate to circuit interrupters for use with household electrical appliances.  In particular, the ‘398 patent is directed to improved ground fault circuit interrupters and the ‘386 patent is directed to a device that protects users and appliances from damage caused by miswiring.

Two critical claim terms were at issue in the ‘398 patent: (1) the requirement that “both” contacts be in a spaced, circuit-breaking second position, and (2) the requirement that the electrically conducting member be “unitary” and “carry” the pair of spaced contacts.  The Commission had found that the plain language of the claim required a construction of “both” that was not satisfied by the movement of only one contact.  The Commission had also found that the specification required construing “unitary” to mean that the member was a single, continuous piece and that both contacts are disposed on the same member.  Based on this claim construction, the Commission had found no infringement of the ‘398 patent by the Respondents’ accused products.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit stated that it agreed with the Commission’s claim construction and infringement analyses, and affirmed.

In the ‘386 patent, the dispute was over the claim limitation of a “circuit interrupter coupled to the actuator assembly, the circuit interrupter being configured to disconnect the first conductive path from the second conductive path in response to the actuator signal in the reset state.”  Based on the plain language of the claim and the intrinsic evidence, the Commission had found that the circuit interrupter had to be configured to trip in response to the actuator signal in the reset state.  The Federal Circuit agreed with this construction and dismissed P&S’s arguments to the contrary.  The court then affirmed the Commission’s findings of non-infringement of the ‘386 patent by Respondents’ accused products.

Accordingly, the Federal Circuit affirmed all of the Commission’s claim construction and infringement findings, as well as the Commission’s final determination of no violation of Section 337.
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