Claim Term Given Plain Meaning Absent Clear Disclaimer or Disavowal

Author: Christopher B. McKinley
Editor: Jeff T. Watson

In Luminara Worldwide, LLC v. Liown Electronics Co., No. 15-1671 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 29, 2016), the Federal Circuit vacated a preliminary injunction because there was substantial question as to whether the asserted claim was anticipated by the prior art.

Luminara sued Liown for infringing its patent covering flameless, light-flickering candles. Luminara moved for a preliminary injunction to bar Liown from making, using, or selling its own artificial candles. The district court found no substantial question of validity that would challenge Luminara’s likelihood of success and granted the injunction. In reaching its decision, the district court, based on embodiments shown in the specification, construed “free to pivot” to mean a moving body having four degrees of freedom, thereby distinguishing the claim over the closest prior art reference, which disclosed a body that moves in only two ways.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit found the district court’s construction inconsistent with the plain meaning of “free to pivot.” Moreover, the Court explained that there was no instruction in the specification to depart from the plain meaning. Accordingly, the Court preliminarily construed the claim to require “chaotic pivoting, with no further requirements on movement.” Because it was undisputed that the asserted prior art teaches pivoting on two axes, the Court found that Liown’s argument that the prior art anticipates the claim raised a substantial question of validity and, thus, vacated the district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction.

 

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