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Blackbird Tech LLC v. ELB Electronics, Inc.

District Court Errs By Importing Non-“Essential” Limitation From Description Into Claim Construction

Blackbird Tech LLC v. ELB Electronics, Inc., __ F.3d __, 2018 WL 3421094 (Fed. Cir. July 16, 2018) (Prost, MOORE, Reyna (dissenting)) (D. Del.: Andrews) (3 of 5 stars)

Fed Cir vacates judgment of noninfringement. Blackbird’s patent related to retrofitting existing light fixtures with more efficient lighting such as LEDs. The district court erred in construing the asserted claim narrowly, so as to require that one claim element (the “attachment surface”) be secured to another (the “ballast cover”). While the patent described that “in typical operation” the two elements would be attached by a fastener, the claim itself recited no such limitation. The opinion notes, “There is no suggestion in the specification or prosecution history that this fastener is important in any way that would merit reading it into [the asserted claim].” Op. at 5. It notes that the description did not use the phrase “the present invention” relating to the fastener, and did not otherwise treat it as essential. Further, the opinion notes that a fastener was originally present in the claim, and was removed during prosecution.

Dissent: Judge Reyna criticizes the majority for extending the claim to “patent scope that is neither described in nor supported by the specification,” Dissent at 2, and for ending up with a claim interpretation that he finds incompatible with the claim’s preamble.

KEYWORDS: CLAIM CONSTRUCTION; IMPORTING LIMITATIONS; CLAIM SCOPE