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Infringement Under Doctrine of Equivalents Not Established by General Similarities

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Federal Circuit Review No. 75-1.

Infringement Under Doctrine of Equivalents is Not Established by General Similarities Between Invention and Accused Product

Advanced Steel Recovery, LLC v. X-Body Equip., Inc., No. 2014-1829, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 19659 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 12, 2015) (Before Moore, Stoll, and Prost, CJ.) (Opinion for the court, Stoll, J.). Click Here for a copy of the opinion.

Advanced Steel sued X-Body Equipment for infringement of a method of loading shipping containers with bulk material.  The “proximate end” of the claimed transfer base, for moving loaded material, was disputed by the parties.  X-Body successfully argued on summary judgment that the piston-and-cylinder for its container packer was not connected to the proximate end of its transfer base, but instead was connected at a point on the bottom of the container packer.  Under the district court’s construction of “proximate end” (which means “the extreme or last part lengthwise”), there was no literal infringement or infringement under the doctrine of equivalents.  

On appeal, Advanced Steel argued that the district court’s construction of “proximate end” was too narrow, and actually referred more broadly to the “back half” of the packer.  The Federal Circuit determined that while the specification did not expressly define “proximate end,” every figure showed the unit connected to the container packer at the extreme edge.

The Federal Circuit affirmed there was no literal infringement, noting that the asserted claims defined a container packer with both a proximate end and a floor.  Because X-Body’s unit attached approximately 35% down the length of the packer to the floor, the Court ruled that no reasonable juror could find this portion connected to the packer’s proximate end.  Further, Advanced Steel failed to present particularized testimony or argument regarding the doctrine of equivalents.  

Advanced Steel failed to show that the differences between the invention and the accused device (particularly at its “proximate end”) are insubstantial with respect to function, way, or result.  Advanced Steel’s expert argued unsuccessfully that there was no difference between having a connection in the bottom middle and at the absolute back end of a packer.  In both inventions, the packer rode along horizontal guides and the cylinder unit was hydraulically powered.  This testimony discussed claim limitations but could not establish a real equivalence between a “proximate end” and a “floor,” the two elements at issue.  Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s ruling.

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