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Forum US, Inc. v. Flow Valve, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

June 17, 2019

FORUM US, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION, Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
FLOW VALVE, LLC, AN OKLAHOMA LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma in No. 5:17-cv-00495-F, Senior Judge Stephen P. Friot

          Keith Jaasma, Ewing & Jones, PLLC, Houston, TX, argued for plaintiff-appellee. Also represented by Harvey D. Ellis, Jr., David M. Sullivan, Crowe & Dunlevy, PC, Oklahoma City, OK.

          Gary Peterson, Tomlinson McKinstry, PC, Oklahoma City, OK, argued for defendant-appellant. Also represented by Ross N. Chaffin, Kelly J. Kress, Robert D. Tomlinson.

          Before Reyna, Schall, and Hughes, Circuit Judges.

          Reyna, Circuit Judge.

         Flow Valve, LLC appeals from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma's grant of summary judgment of invalidity of its reissue patent. The original patent does not disclose the invention claimed in the reissue patent. The reissue claims therefore do not comply with the original patent requirement of 35 U.S.C. § 251 as a matter of law. We affirm.

         Background

         I. The Patent-in-Suit

         Flow Valve owns U.S. Patent No. RE45, 878 ("the Reissue patent"), entitled "Workpiece Supporting Assembly." The Reissue patent is a reissue of U.S. Patent No. 8, 215, 213 ("the '213 patent"). During prosecution of the Reissue patent, the patentees added seven claims-claims 14 through 20-but made no changes to the written description or drawings of the original '213 patent.[1]

         The Reissue patent relates to supporting assemblies, i.e., fixtures, for holding workpieces during machining. The workpieces disclosed in the patent are machined pipe fittings, such as those used in the oil and gas industry. Such fittings attach to other pipe sections by means of threaded connections where one or more ends of the fitting require machining on a turning machine to form threads or seat surfaces. Reissue patent col. 1 ll. 20-27. A turning machine, such as a lathe, rotates the workpiece while stationary tools perform various operations on the workpiece, such as cutting or sanding, as the workpiece rotates. See id. col. 1 ll. 29-37. Machinists often make and use fixtures that utilize arbors to hold the workpiece while it rotates on the turning machine, and it is advantageous to have a multi-purpose fixture capable of holding a workpiece in multiple orientations to expedite machining by minimizing setup time. See id. col. 111. 36-58.

         The written description and drawings disclose only embodiments with arbors. The following figures illustrate the placement of arbors in a machining fixture for holding the pipe joint as disclosed in the Reissue patent.

         Reissue patent Figs. 4 & 5 (annotations added by Appellee). The written description discloses a first and a second arbor as central to the fixture design:

[T]he body member 52 has a first arbor 58 and a second arbor 60 supported to extend from the body member 52. The first arbor 58 is positioned so that the longitudinal axis 62 thereof is coincident with the datum or central axis 64 of the extending elbow end 12B so that, when workpiece machining implement 40 rotates the chuck 42, the first arbor 58 is rotated about its longitudinal axis 62, the body member 52 will rotate the elbow end 12B about the datum axis 64 thereof.
In like manner, the second arbor 60 is positioned so that the longitudinal axis 66 thereof is coincident with the datum or central axis 68 of the extending elbow end 12C.

         Reissue patent col. 3 ll. 11-22 (emphases added). The written description further explains that "the multiple arbors of the workpiece supporting assembly provides [sic] means for machining the ends of the unfinished elbow member 12 by a single setup and only a change from one arbor to one of the other arbors allows rapid and accurate machining of the workpiece." Id. col. 3 ll. 42-46.

         In the Reissue patent, the patentees broadened the claims to include embodiments of fixtures that do not use arbors by writing new claims without the arbor limitations. Claim 1 of the ...


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