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Leupold & Stevens, Inc. v. Lightforce USA, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Oregon

January 31, 2018

LEUPOLD & STEVENS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
LIGHTFORCE USA, INC. d/b/a NIGHTFORCE OPTICS and NIGHTFORCE USA, Defendant.

          Kassim M. Ferris Nathan C. Brunette Stoel Rives LLP., Brian C. Park Stoel Rives LLP., Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          Scott E. Davis Klarquist Sparkman, LLP, SW Salmon St., David Casimir Casimir Jones S.C. Attorneys for Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNÁNDEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Leupold & Stevens, Inc. (“Leupold”), brings this action against Defendant Lightforce USA, Inc. (“Nightforce”), alleging that it infringes eight of Leupold's patents concerning optical devices such as riflescopes. The patents-in-suit are listed below. The parties submitted a Joint Markman Chart identifying several disputed terms or phrases from the patents-in-suit. The parties then filed claim construction briefs and responsive memoranda. The Court held a claim construction hearing, also known as a Markman hearing, in which the parties presented oral arguments based on their memoranda and supporting evidence. The Court construes the disputed terms below.

         CLAIM CONSTRUCTION STANDARDS

         Patent infringement analysis involves two steps. First, the court construes the asserted patent claims. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 976 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (en banc). Second, the factfinder determines whether the accused product or method infringes the asserted claim as construed. Id. The first step, claim construction, is a matter of law “exclusively within the province of the court.” Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 372 (1996); Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996). “It is a bedrock principle of patent law that the claims of a patent define the invention to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude.” Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc) (quotation marks and citations omitted). Patent claims must precisely define the relevant invention to put both the public and competitors on notice of the claimed invention. Id.

         To construe a patent claim, courts first look to the language of the claims in the patent itself, the description in the patent's specification, and the patent's prosecution history, all of which constitute a record “on which the public is entitled to rely.” Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1583; Dow Chem. Co. v. Sumitomo Chem. Co., 257 F.3d 1364, 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2001). In most cases, the court should be able to resolve ambiguous claim terms by analyzing this intrinsic evidence. See Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1313-14. The court considers extrinsic evidence only if the intrinsic evidence is insufficient to resolve the ambiguity of a term. Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1586.

         “The actual words of the claim are the controlling focus.” Digital Biometrics, Inc. v. Identix, Inc., 149 F.3d 1335, 1344 (Fed. Cir. 1998). “[T]he words of the claims are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312 (quotation marks and citations omitted). “[T]he 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 in question at the time of the invention, i.e., as of the effective filing date of the patent application.” Id. at 1313. There is a “heavy presumption” that a claim term carries its ordinary and customary meaning, and a party seeking to convince a court that a term has some other meaning “must, at the very least, ” point to statements in the written description that “affect the patent's scope.” Johnson Worldwide Assocs., Inc. v. Zebco Corp., 175 F.3d 985, 989 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (quotation marks and citation omitted). This may be accomplished if: (1) “a different meaning clearly and deliberately set forth in the intrinsic materials” of the patent; or (2) use of “the ordinary and accustomed meaning of a disputed term would deprive the claim of clarity[.] K-2 Corp. v. Salomon S.A., 191 F.3d 1356, 1363 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). In making this assessment, the court should use common sense and “the understanding of those of ordinary skill in the art” of the patent at issue, unless the patent history supplies another meaning. Id. at 1365.

         Beyond the plain language of the claims, the patent specification is always highly relevant and often dispositive to the proper construction. Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582 (explaining that the specification is “the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term”). The purpose of the patent specification is to teach and enable those skilled in the art to make and use the invention, along with the best method for doing so. Cyber Acoustics, LLC v. Belkin Int'l., Inc., No. 3:13-cv-01144-SI, 2014 WL 1225198, at *2 (D. Or. Mar. 24, 2014) (citing Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1323). The inventor can use the specification to describe the invention in a number of ways, such as describing different “embodiments” of the invention and by assigning particular meanings to specific claim language. Metabolite Lab., Inc. v. Lab. Corp. of Am. Holdings, 370 F.3d 1354, 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2004); Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1316. The embodiments serve as illustrative examples of the invention claimed. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1323 (“One of the best ways to teach a person of ordinary skill in the art how to make and use the invention is to provide an example of how to practice the invention in a particular case.”). The inventor can also clarify that he or she intends the claim language to carry a specific meaning different from its ordinary one. Id. In these cases, “the inventor's lexicography governs.” Id. at 1316.

         Finally, the prosecution history, which contains the record of the proceedings before the Patent and Trademark Office, informs what a person skilled in the art would understand the term to mean. Vitronics, 90 F.3d. at 1582-83. The prosecution history becomes useful where it “provides evidence of how the PTO and the inventor understood the patent.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. However, this evidence is less valuable because it represents an “ongoing negotiation” between the inventor and the PTO. Id. The final result of that negotiation, the patent itself, provides better evidence of the claim's intended meanings at the time the patent issued. Id.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Overview

         Plaintiff and Defendant design, manufacture, and sell, among other things, optical scopes. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 2-4, ECF 28. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's accused products infringe its eight patents-in-suit involving optical device structures and functions including: locking adjustment knobs; pivoting lens units; and pivoting lens covers. Id. at ¶¶ 10-16. The dispute centers around patents relating locking adjustment knobs on riflescopes that can be locked after adjustment in order to prevent inadvertent adjustment through physical contact or vibration.

         II. Patents-in-Suit

         Count I, United States Patent No. 8, 006, 429 (“the ‘429 patent”), entitled Locking Adjustment Turret Knob. See Ferris Decl. Ex. 2, ECF 53.

         Count II, United States Patent No. 8, 516, 736 (“the ‘736 patent”), entitled Locking Adjustment Knob for a Sighting Device. See Ferris Decl. Ex. 3.

         Count VIII, United States Patent No. 9, 665, 120 (“the ‘120 patent”), entitled Locking Adjustment Knob. Ferris Decl. Ex. 4. The ‘429, ‘736, and ‘120 patents are collectively known as the “Windauer patents, ” a namesake gained from their shared inventor.

         Count III, United States Patent No. 9, 188, 408 (“the ‘408 patent”), entitled Auto-Locking Adjustment Device. Ferris Decl. Ex. 5.

         Count IV, United States Patent No. 9, 170, 068 (“the ‘068 patent”), entitled Locking Adjustment Device. Ferris Decl. Ex. 6.

         Count V, United States Patent No. 6, 816, 305 (“the ‘305 patent”), entitled Pre-Assembled Pivoting Lens Unit. Ferris Decl. Ex. 7.

         Count VI, United States Patent No. 7, 721, 480 (“the ‘480 patent”), entitled Pivoting Lens Covers for Riflescopes and the Like. Ferris Decl. Ex. 8.

         Count VII, United States Patent No. 6, 351, 907 (“the ‘907 patent”), entitled Spiral Cam Mechanism for Rifle Sight Adjustment. Ferris Decl. Ex. 9.

         III. Disputed Terms

         The parties raised thirty-eight disputed terms in their Joint Markman Chart and claim construction briefs. See Joint Markman Chart, ECF 45. Upon the Court's request, the parties narrowed their list of disputed terms down to fifteen terms for purposes of the Markman hearing. See Joint Notice of Selected Terms, ECF 62. The Court heard arguments on twelve of the fifteen disputed terms. See Minutes of Proceedings, ECF 65. The Court will construe the twelve disputed terms that were discussed at the hearing.

         A. Terms from Counts I, II, and VIII

         1. “telescopic sight” (the ‘429 patent)

         2. “sighting device” (the ‘120 patent)

         3. “actuator” (the ‘736 patent)

         4. “selectively moveable” / “the second portion selectively moveable between locked and unlocked positions” (the ‘736 patent)

         5. “engage one another in a locked position” (the ‘120 patent)

         B. Terms from Count IV

         6. “locking adjustment device for adjusting a setting of a riflescope or other aiming device” (the ‘068 patent)

         7. “around” (the ‘068 patent)

         C. Terms from Count VII 8. “drive face” (the ‘907 patent)

         9. “cam track” (the ‘907 patent)

         10. “actuator” (the ‘907 patent)

         D. Terms ...


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