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W.L. Gore & Assocs. v. Garlock, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

November 14, 1983

Appeal Nos. 83-613, 83-614

Opinion

 [***306]   [*1544]  MARKEY, Chief Judge.

Appeal from a judgment of the District Court for the Northern District of Ohio holding U.S. Patents 3,953,566 ( '566) and 4,187,390 ( '390) invalid. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for a determination of the infringement issue.

Background

Tape of unsintered polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE) (known by the trademark  [*1545]  TEFLON of E.I. du Pont de Nemours, Inc.) had been stretched in small increments.  W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc. (Gore), assignee of the patents in suit, experienced a tape breakage problem in the operation [**2]  of its "401" tape stretching machine. Dr. Robert Gore, Vice President of Gore, developed the invention disclosed and claimed in the '566 and '390 patents in the course of his effort to solve that problem.  The 401 machine was disclosed and claimed in Gore's U.S. Patent 3,664,915 ( '915) and was the invention of Wilbert L. Gore, Dr. Gore's father.  PTFE tape had been sold as thread seal tape, i.e., tape used to keep pipe joints from leaking. The '915 patent, the application for which was filed on October 3, 1969, makes no reference to stretch rate, at 10% per second or otherwise, or to matrix tensile strength in excess of 7,300 psi.

Dr. Gore experimented with heating and stretching of highly crystalline PTFE rods. Despite slow, careful stretching, the rods broke when stretched a relatively small amount. Conventional wisdom in the art taught that breakage could be avoided only by slowing the stretch rate or by decreasing the crystallinity. In late October, 1969, Dr. Gore discovered, contrary to that teaching, that stretching the rods as fast as possible enabled him to stretch them to more than ten times their original length with no breakage. Further, though the rod was thus greatly [**3]  lengthened, its diameter remained virtually unchanged throughout its length. The rapid stretching also transformed the hard, shiny rods into rods of a soft, flexible material.

Gore developed several PTFE products by rapidly stretching highly crystalline PTFE, including: (1) porous film for filters and laminates; (2) fabric laminates of PTFE film bonded to fabric to produce a remarkable material having the contradictory properties of impermeability to liquid water and permeability to water vapor, the material being used to make "breathable" rainwear and filters; (3) porous yarn for weaving or braiding into other products, like space suits and pump packing; (4) tubes used as replacements for human arteries and veins; and (5) insulation for high performance electric cables. [***307]  

OPINION

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721 F.2d 1540 *; 1983 U.S. App. LEXIS 13701 **; 220 U.S.P.Q. (BNA) 303 ***

W.L. GORE & ASSOCIATES, INC., Appellant/Cross-Appellee, v. GARLOCK, INC., Appellee/Cross-Appellant

Subsequent History:  [**1]   As Amended November 28, 1983 and February 6, 1984

Disposition:  Affirmed In Part, Reversed In Part, And Remanded.

CORE TERMS

stretch, invention, machine, patent, district court, invalid, crystalline, products, teachings, prior art, infringement, processes, tape, specification, skilled, polymer, matrix, tensile strength, anticipated, references, temperature, indefinite, unsintered, porous, disclosure, shaped, no evidence, undisputed, inventor, shop

Patent Law, Statutory Bars, Experimental Use Exception, General Overview, Anticipation & Novelty, On Sale Bar, Public Use Bar, Nonobviousness, Elements & Tests, Specifications, Definiteness, Best Mode, Description Requirement, Enablement Requirement, Civil Procedure, Remedies, Injunctions, Preliminary & Temporary Injunctions, Jurisdiction & Review, Standards of Review, Trials, Bench Trials, Equitable Relief, Injunctions, Utility Patents, Product Patents, Machines, Elements, Antitrust & Trade Law, Intellectual Property, Bad Faith, Fraud & Nonuse, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Clear & Convincing Proof, Infringement Actions, Defenses

Patent Law, Statutory Bars, Experimental Use Exception, General Overview, Anticipation & Novelty, On Sale Bar, Public Use Bar, Nonobviousness, Elements & Tests, Specifications, Definiteness, Best Mode, Description Requirement, Enablement Requirement, Civil Procedure, Remedies, Injunctions, Preliminary & Temporary Injunctions, Jurisdiction & Review, Standards of Review, Trials, Bench Trials, Equitable Relief, Injunctions, Utility Patents, Product Patents, Machines, Elements, Antitrust & Trade Law, Intellectual Property, Bad Faith, Fraud & Nonuse, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Clear & Convincing Proof, Infringement Actions, Defenses