By Eric Schweibenz
On April 17, 2009, ALJ E. James Gildea issued the public version of Order No. 19 (dated April 10, 2009) in Certain Coaxial Cable Connectors and Components Thereof and Products Containing Same (337-TA-650).  ALJ Gildea denied Fu Ching Technical Industry Co., Ltd.’s and Gem Electronics, Inc.’s  (“Respondents”) joint motion for summary determination that (i) they do not infringe certain claims of U.S. Patent No. 5,470, 257 (the “‘257 patent”), (ii) the ‘257 patent is invalid as anticipated, obvious or indefinite, and (iii) Complainant John Mezzalingua Associates, Inc. d/b/a PPC, Inc. (“PPC”) is barred by laches from pursuing the Investigation against Respondents.

In the order, ALJ Gildea determined that a finding of non-infringement was inappropriate because genuine material issues of fact remain relating to at least (i) whether the locking member of Respondents’ accused products is separable from the connector body and (ii) whether a radially protruding circular shoulder is present on Respondents’ accused products at a first position.

Regarding indefiniteness, ALJ Gildea declined “to engage in binding claim construction at this time,” but determined that “assuming arguendo” that the “engagement means” language in claim 1 of the ‘257 patent is expressed in means-plus-function format, such claim was not insolubly ambiguous because the descriptions in the specification adequately describe corresponding structure. With respect to the remaining invalidity issues, ALJ Gildea found that the Respondents failed to meet the clear and convincing standard for showing that Claims 1-5 and 10 of the ‘257 patent were anticipated by a single piece of prior art or that they would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art.  Moreover, ALJ Gildea found that factual issues remain with respect to “the underlying considerations for obviousness, particularly relating to the scope and content of the prior art.”

As to laches, ALJ Gildea found that “Respondents have failed to set forth supporting evidence for their claim that PPC exercised unreasonable and inexcusable delay in bringing this investigation such that Respondents were materially prejudiced.”  ALJ Gildea further held that laches does not “provide a respondent accused with patent infringement with any meaningful defense in a Section 337 investigation” due to the type of prospective relief sought in Section 337 cases.  Accordingly, ALJ Gildea denied  Respondents’ joint motion for summary determination in full.