Goodwin Insights January 24, 2020

Federal Circuit Decisions And Arguments

Federal Circuit Reverses Claim Construction and Vacates Orders Excluding Garage Door Openers

Techtronic Indus. Co. v. Int’l Trade Comm’n, No. 2018-2191 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 12, 2019) (on appeal from Inv. Nos. 337-TA-1016)

Before: Federal Circuit (Lourie, Dyk, and Wallach)

Practice Tips and Insights:

This appeal is an example of a case in which a single contested issue of law can unwind powerful remedial orders entered by the Commission. It is well established that the Federal Circuit reviews legal determinations of the Commission, including claim constructions, de novo. When faced with an exclusion order or cease and desist order, a losing respondent at the Commission should strongly consider whether it can raise any issues of law on appeal, for which the Federal Circuit will afford the Commission no deference.

Holding and Status:

The Federal Circuit reversed the Commission’s claim construction and its final determination of infringement, and vacated the limited exclusion orders and cease and desist orders.

Case Background:

Chamberlain filed a Section 337 complaint in 2016 alleging various respondents infringed an asserted patent related to garage door openers. The parties disputed the construction of only one term of the asserted patent, which the ALJ construed narrowly. Based on the ALJ’s claim construction order, the respondents moved, unopposed, for summary determination of noninfringement, which was granted. The Commission then reversed the ALJ’s construction, vacated the ALJ’s initial determination of noninfringement, and entered limited exclusion orders and cease and desist orders.

Notable Disputed Issues and Related Points of Law:

Claim Construction: Reviewing the Commission’s construction of the term “wall console” de novo, the Federal Circuit concluded that the Commission’s construction was wrong. The Commission had construed “wall console” broadly, finding that the patentee did not disavow wall consoles without passive infrared detectors. The Court concluded that the patentee had indeed disavowed wall consoles lacking passive infrared sensors. The Court noted that the specification was replete with descriptions of the invention touting the improvement gained by including the infrared sensor in the wall console, which thus amounted to a disavowal.