April 5, 2016

BRI Should Not Depart from What the Claim Language and Specification so Clearly Mean

By Bryan K. Wheelock, Principal

In Pride Mobility Products Corporation v, Permobil, Inc., [2015-1585, -1586] (April 5, 2016), the Federal Circuit reversed the PTAB’s construction and cancellation of claim 7, but affirmed cancellation of all the other claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 8,408,598 and 8,408,343 in IPR2013-00407 and IPR2013-00411.

At issue was the claim language “mounting plate [that] is substantially planar and is oriented perpendicular to the drive wheel axis.”  The Federal Circuit said it was unreasonable to read that straightforward language as meaning anything other than that the drive-wheel axis is perpendicular to the surface of the mounting plate that makes the plate substantially planar.  The Federal Circuit explained:

The claim language says two things about the plate: it must be substantially planar, and it must be oriented perpendicular to the drive-wheel axis. The “oriented” term allows the plate and axis not to be touching: it requires that their placement in space must be such that, if translated in space without rotation, they would be perpendicular. With the axis idealized as a line, perpendicularity in the ordinary geometric sense relevant here requires that the axis make a right angle with either an essentially one-dimensional feature (a line or curve) or an essentially two-dimensional feature (a plane or surface) of the plate: lines are not “perpendicular” to a three dimensional object in any other ordinary geometric sense.  And the claim tells us exactly what that feature of the three-dimensional plate is: it is the surface that makes the plate substantially planar. The claim identifies no other feature of the plate. The phrase “oriented perpendicular to the drive wheel axis” must be read to mean that the drive-wheel axis is perpendicular to the mounting plate’s substantially planar surface. We do not see how the claim language can mean anything else without obvious strain.

The Federal Circuit said that the Board’s sole basis for its claim construction does
not reasonably support a departure from what the claim language and specification so clearly mean. There was no evidence of the claim 7 element in the relied-on prior art. Because there is no other Board ruling or properly preserved argument addressed to this element, the Federal Circuit reversed the cancellation of claim 7.