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Vivid Techs., Inc. v. American Science & Eng'g, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

December 29, 1999, Decided



 [***1291]  [*799]   NEWMAN, Circuit Judge.

In this declaratory judgment action brought by Vivid Technologies, Inc., the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts held on summary judgment that Vivid's X-ray device did not literally infringe United States Patent No. 5,253,283 (the '283 patent) owned by American Science and Engineering, Inc. (AS&E). AS&E asserts that the district court's claim construction was incorrect, and that the summary judgment of non-infringement, including the denial of all discovery, was based on harmful procedural error as [**2]  well as incorrect in law.

We affirm the district court's claim construction, vacate the summary judgment, and remand for appropriate further proceedings.


X-ray machines for security purposes, adapted to the detection of threat items such as weapons and explosives, are widely used in airports and other secured places. Such machines operate by way of a source of X-ray radiation, one or more detectors of the radiation response, and a display system. When an item to be examined is placed in the radiation path the contents attenuate (partially block), and scatter (deflect) the radiation, to varying degrees.

Transmitted radiation is radiation that travels in a straight path from the X-ray source to the detector. X-rays that an item scatters at angles of greater than ninety degrees with respect to the original direction of travel are called backscatter, and X-rays that an item scatters at angles of less than ninety degrees with respect to the original direction of travel are called forward scatter. The detectors receive these radiation responses, from which images of the contents are produced, generally with the aid of a computer, and displayed on a screen in patterns of light [**3]  composed of pixels. Pixels are dot-like components that emit light of varying intensities. Threat materials with high atomic numbers, such as metal weapons, tend to attenuate more radiation than they scatter, while threat materials with low atomic numbers, such as plastic explosives, tend to scatter more radiation than they attenuate. Thus enhanced detection is obtained from X-ray responses to both transmitted radiation and scattered radiation.

As discussed in the '283 patent, it was known to use both transmitted and scattered X-ray radiation in detection devices. However, the images produced by prior art devices were typically presented in grey tones,  [***1292]  and often were difficult for an operator to interpret quickly and accurately. To improve detection, the invention described in the '283 patent displays in separate colors those objects that exhibit a suspicious response as measured by backscattered and by transmitted radiation, thus enhancing the speed and accuracy of operator performance. The apparatus is illustrated in patent Figure 1, showing transmission detector 50, backscatter detectors 25A and 25B, and the object to be inspected 40:

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200 F.3d 795 *; 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 34428 **; 53 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1289 ***

VIVID TECHNOLOGIES, INC., Plaintiff-Appellee, v. AMERICAN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING, INC., Defendant-Appellant.

Prior History:  [**1]  Appealed from: United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Judge Robert E. Keeton.



radiation, display, color, counterclaim, discovery, infringement, pixels, summary judgment, district court, patent, backscattered, scatter, correspond, threshold, preset, specification, transmitted, X-ray, non-infringement, attenuated, objects, levels, presettable, material fact, machines, literal, scanned, calculation, declaratory, illuminated

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