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Phillips v. AWH Corp.

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

July 12, 2005, Decided

03-1269, -1286


 [***1323]  [*1309]   BRYSON, Circuit Judge.

Edward H. Phillips invented modular, steel-shell panels that can be welded together to form vandalism-resistant walls. The panels are especially useful in building prisons because they are load-bearing and impact-resistant, while also insulating against fire and noise. Mr. Phillips obtained a patent on the invention, U.S. Patent No. 4,677,798 ("the '798 patent"), and he subsequently entered into an arrangement with AWH Corporation, Hopeman Brothers, Inc., and Lofton Corporation (collectively "AWH") to market and sell the panels. That arrangement ended in 1990. In 1991, however, Mr. Phillips received a sales brochure from AWH that suggested to him that AWH was continuing to use his trade secrets and patented technology without his consent. In a series of letters in 1991 and 1992, Mr. Phillips accused AWH of patent infringement and trade secret misappropriation. Correspondence between the parties regarding the matter ceased after that time.

In February 1997, Mr. Phillips brought suit in the United States District Court for [**11]  the District of Colorado charging AWH with misappropriation of trade secrets and infringement of claims 1, 21, 22, 24, 25, and 26 of the '798 patent. Phillips v. AWH Corp., No. 97-N-212 (D. Colo.). The district court dismissed the trade secret misappropriation claim as barred by Colorado's three-year statute of limitations.

With regard to the patent infringement issue, the district court focused on the language of claim 1, which recites "further means disposed inside the shell for increasing its load bearing capacity comprising internal steel baffles extending inwardly from the steel shell walls." The court interpreted that language as "a means . . . for performing a specified function," subject to 35 U.S.C. § 112, paragraph 6, which provides that such a claim "shall be cons trued to cover the corresponding structure, material, or acts described in the specification and equivalents thereof." Looking to the specification of the '798 patent, the court noted that "every textual reference in the Specification and its diagrams show baffle deployment at an angle other than 90 [degree] to the wall faces" and that "placement of the baffles at such angles creates [**12]  an intermediate interlocking, but not solid, internal barrier." The district court therefore ruled that, for purposes of the '798 patent, a baffle must "extend inward from the steel shell walls at an oblique or acute angle to the wall face" and must form part of an interlocking barrier in the interior of the wall module. Because Mr. Phillips could not prove infringement under that claim construction, the district court granted summary judgment of noninfringement.

Mr. Phillips appealed with respect to both the trade secret and patent infringement claims. A panel of this court affirmed on both issues. Phillips v. AWH Corp., 363 F.3d 1207 (Fed. Cir. 2004). As to the trade secret claim, the panel unanimously upheld the district court's ruling that the claim was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Id. at 1215. As to the patent infringement claims, the panel was divided. The majority sustained the district court's summary judgment of noninfringement, although on different grounds. The dissenting judge would have reversed the summary judgment of noninfringement.

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415 F.3d 1303 *; 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 13954 **; 75 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1321 ***


Subsequent History: As Amended July 14, 2005.

US Supreme Court certiorari denied by AWH Corp. v. Phillips, 546 U.S. 1170, 126 S. Ct. 1332, 164 L. Ed. 2d 49, 2006 U.S. LEXIS 1154 (2006)

Injunction granted at, Judgment entered by, Motion denied by, Motion for new trial denied by, Motion to strike denied by Phillips v. AWH Corp., 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 92891 (D. Colo., Dec. 20, 2006)

Related proceeding at Phillips v. AWH Corp., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86601 (D. Colo., Nov. 15, 2007)

Prior History:  [**1]  Appealed from: United States District Court for the District of Colorado. Judge Marcia S. Krieger.

Phillips v. AWH Corp., 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25199 (D. Colo., Jan. 21, 2003)

Disposition: Affirmed in part, reversed in part, dismissed in part, and remanded.


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Patent Law, Infringement Actions, Claim Interpretation, Means Plus Function Clauses, Specifications, Description Requirement, General Overview, Definiteness, Claims & Specifications, Invention Theory, Invention Date & Priority, Scope of Claim, Enablement Requirement, Aids & Extrinsic Evidence, Evidence, Admissibility, Scientific Evidence, US Patent & Trademark Office Proceedings, Claim Differentiation, Construction Preferences, Standards & Tests, Jurisdiction & Review, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Appeals, Business & Corporate Compliance, Patent Law, Corporate & Government Infringers, Contracts Law, Defenses, Ambiguities & Mistakes, Reissue Proceedings, Ownership, Conveyances, Expert Witnesses, Daubert Standard, Testimony, Exclusive Rights, Limitations, Written Description Versus Enablement, Claims, Claim Language, Duplication & Multiplicity, Patent Invalidity, Presumption of Validity