By Barry Herman
On April 28, 2011, the Federal Circuit issued a non-precedential opinion in John Mezzalingua Associates, Inc. (d/b/a PPC, Inc.) v. Int’l Trade Comm’n, No. 2010-1373.  This was an appeal from the ITC’s final determination in Certain Coaxial Cable Connectors and Components Thereof and Products Containing Same (Inv. No. 337-TA-650).  In the Initial Determination (“ID”), ALJ Gildea found for the Complainant (“PPC”) (see our November 10, 2009 post for more details), but the ITC reversed ALJ Gildea’s claim construction and concluded that no violation under Section 337 had occurred.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit reversed and remanded the Commission’s final determination, finding that ALJ Gildea had properly construed the claims.

By way of background, the investigation was instituted on May 30, 2008.  PPC is the Complainant and there were eight respondents, none of whom were part of the Federal Circuit appeal, and four of whom ultimately defaulted.  PPC only sought a violation on appeal with respect to the four defaulting respondents – Hanjiang Fei Yu Electronics Equipment Factory, Zhongguang Electronics, Yangzhou Zhongguang Electronics Co., Ltd., and Yangzhou Zhongguang Foreign Trade Co., Ltd.  On October 13, 2009, ALJ Gildea issued his ID finding, inter alia, that the defaulting respondents were in violation of Section 337 by reason of infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,470,257 (the ‘257 patent), in addition to 6,558,194, D519,076, and D440,539.  With respect to the ‘257 patent, which was the subject of the appeal, ALJ Gildea concluded that a domestic industry existed in the ‘257 patent, holding that PPC’s “CMP” connector practiced all elements of claim 1.

Upon reviewing the ID, the ITC adopted a different construction of claim 1’s “engagement means” limitation than ALJ Gildea, concluded that PPC’s CMP connector did not practice this limitation, and thus held that PPC had not satisfied the technical prong of the domestic industry requirement for the ‘257 patent.

On appeal, the parties agreed that the “engagement means” limitation is a means-plus-function limitation, and agreed upon the function, but disagreed with respect to the corresponding structure in the specification.  The Federal Circuit agreed with PPC (and with ALJ Gildea) that the “engagement means” limitation “should be construed to include only what is necessary to perform the function, and not import structures that, though present in the preferred embodiment, are not actually necessary.”  Accordingly, the Federal Circuit found that PPC satisfied the technical prong of the domestic industry requirement, removing “the final bar to finding violation of  § 337 as to the defaulting respondents.”  It entered judgment of a violation by the defaulting respondents, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.  The Federal Circuit declined PPC’s invitation to direct entry of a general exclusion order, finding that this would be premature, “at least because the ITC has not made findings on the proper remedy and bonding.”