Judge Sue L. Robinson recently granted defendants’ motions for summary judgment of noninfringement because the Court found a reissue patent invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 251. Arcelormittal France, et al. v. AK Steel Corporation, et al., C.A. No. 10-050-SLR (D. Del. Oct. 25, 2013). In this action, the Federal Circuit had issued a mandate following a jury trial, affirming the district court’s construction of a certain limitation in independent claim 1 of U.S. Patent No. 6,296,805 (“the ‘805 patent”). Id. at 1-2. Following the Federal Circuit’s decision, the USPTO reissued the ‘805 patent as U.S. Patent No. RE44,153E (“the RE153 patent”), allowing a new dependent claim 23 “which effectively broadens the scope of the RE153 patent.” Id. at 2. Independent claim 1 of the RE153 patent included the same claim limitations that had been construed by the Federal Circuit in the ‘805 patent. Id.
Defendants moved for summary judgment of “noninfringement implementing the mandate on remand” and also argued that all of the broadened claims of the reissue patent were invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 251(d) (disallowing reissued patents that enlarge the scope of claims of the original patent unless applied for two years from grant of original, which was not the case here). Id. at 2, 5. There was no evidence that defendants infringed claim 1 of the ‘805 patent as construed by the Federal Circuit. Id. at 6.
Plaintiff argued that the case was now governed by the RE153 patent, and that the Court could revisit the construction of claim 1 of the ‘805 patent, and thus the issue of infringement, “in light of the reissue prosecution history which provides important new intrinsic evidence, which differs materially from the evidence of record when the claim construction was first decided.” Id. at 6 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The Court declined to do so, explaining that other courts, including the Federal Circuit, had refused to construe the claims of an original patent in light of a reissue patent. Id. at 7. Instead, the Court concluded that, under Section 251 and its case law, it must “compare the scope of the original claim 1 to the reissued claim 1 (as it must be construed to accommodate new dependent claim 23).” Id. at 7-8. And “[t]hat exercise leads inexorably to the determination that, rather than ‘further limiting’ claim 1, dependent claim 23 broadens the scope of claim 1 in contravention of § 251.” Id. at 8.
Having made this determination, the Court addressed the proper scope of the RE153 patent’s invalidity. Id. at 9. Plaintiff argued that it would be most equitable to only find claim 23 invalid. Id. “Having given this matter considerable thought,” the Court rejected this argument, concluding that “the mandate of the Federal Circuit has been insolubly devitalized by the reissue process. The patent at issue before the Federal Circuit . . . has been surrendered . . . . With the only patent at issue in this case being the RE153 patent, and with said patent having been improperly broadened in violation of § 251(d), the court declines to exercise its inherent equitable powers to resurrect the original scope of the ‘805 patent” Id. at 10. The Court further noted that, because plaintiff attempted to “captur[e] more acts of infringement under the broadening scope of new dependent claim 23 of the RE153 patent” more than two years from the grant of the ‘805 patent, this “intentional strategy to avoid the consequences of this court’s narrow construction” contravened the “fundamental purpose of § 251, that is, repose.” Id. at 10.
As a result, the Court invalidated the RE153 patent under Section 251(d) and granted defendants’ motions for summary judgment. Id. at 11.