Safespan Platform Systems, Inc. et al v. EZ Access, Inc. et al

Filing 54

DECISION AND ORDER. Status Conference set for 3/24/2010 09:00 AM before Hon. Richard J. Arcara. Signed by Hon. Richard J. Arcara on 1/14/2010. (JMB)

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT W E S T E R N DISTRICT OF NEW YORK SAFESPAN PLATFORM SYSTEMS, INC., LAMBROS APOSTOLOPOULOS and P A U L KRISTEN, INC., Plaintiffs, v. DECISION AND ORDER 0 6 -C V -7 2 6 A E Z ACCESS, INC., and A N A S T A S IO S G. HATSIOS, D e fe n d a n ts . IN T R O D U C T IO N T h is is a patent infringement action brought by plaintiffs Safespan Platform S ys te m s , Inc., Lambros Apostolopoulos, and Paul Kristen, Inc. (collectively "S a fe s p a n ") against EZ Access, Inc. and Anastasios Hatsios (collectively "EZ A c c e s s "). On May 13, 2009, this Court held a Markman 1 hearing and issues this D e c is io n and Order resolving the disputed claims. BACKGROUND T h is case involves two patents owned by Safespan: U.S. Patent Nos. 6 ,3 0 2 ,2 3 7 ("the `237 patent") and 6,135,240 ("the `240 patent"). The patents-ins u it relate to bridge platforms which are erected beneath the deck of an existing b rid g e to support workers performing maintenance or other work on the bridge Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967 (Fed. Cir.1995), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370 (1996). 1 structure. The bridge platform system involves individual flooring panels that are la id upon horizontal cables that extend beneath the bridge. Defendant Anastasios Hatsios was employed by Safespan between 1995 a n d 2003, during which time Mr. Apostolopoulos applied for and was granted the p a te n ts -in -s u it. Safespan alleges that when Mr. Hatsios departed in January 2 0 0 3 , he told Safespan that he was retiring. Rather than retire, Mr. Hatsios c re a te d a new company called EZ Access, Inc., a bridge platform company that S a fe s p a n alleges competes directly with Safespan, and uses a process that vio la te s Safespan's patents. A. S a fe s p a n 's Patents The dilemma sought to be addressed by the invention was the need to p ro vid e a safe and effective support system for workers performing cleaning and m a in te n a n c e of the surfaces beneath the deck or roadway of a bridge. Much of th e prior art for such bridge structures involved complex systems that were time c o n s u m in g to erect and dismantle. Other prior art structures were limited in h e ig h t by the manner in which they were attached to the bridge, or were not s u ffic ie n tly rigid to perform the task. The invention sought to provide a new and improved bridge platform and m e th o d of erecting it that: was sufficiently rigid to support workers standing and w a lk in g upon it; was quick, easy and economical to erect and dismantle; and 2 extended for a significant portion of the length of the bridge so that the required m a in te n a n c e could be performed. Both patents summarize the invention as f o l lo w s : The present invention provides a bridge platform and method of e re c tin g the same wherein a plurality of cables extend along a s e c tio n of the bridge in spaced relation below the deck or roadway a n d steel support structure of the bridge, which cables are supported a t opposite ends by a structure of the bridge such as the space-apart ve rtic a l peers of the bridge, and wherein a plurality of platform flo o rin g panels or sections are supported on the cables, extend la te ra lly of the cables, are arranged side-by-side along the section of th e bridge such as between the peers and are removably secured to th e cables. The cables preferably are attached to the bridge piers by c o m p re s s io n clamp structures. The platform flooring sections c o m p ris e elongated rectangular corrugated decking tiles and are a rra n g e d in end-to-end overlapping relation transversely of the c a b le s , side-to-side overlapping relation along the bridge and with th e corrugations extending transversely of the cables. The c o rru g a tio n s maximize the strength-to-weight ratio of the platform flo o rin g and provide recesses or receptacles to contain debris and fa c ilita te its collection and removal. Each of the platform flooring s e c tio n s is releasably connected at spaced locations to the s u p p o rtin g cables on which it rests. This is provided by connector a s s e m b lie s each comprising a first part which engages the upper s u rfa c e of the flooring section and the cable and a second part which e n g a g e s the upper surface of the flooring section, the two parts b e in g removably connected together through a small opening in the flo o rin g . As a result, individual flooring sections can be removed to p ro vid e access through the flooring in emergency or critical s itu a tio n s while at the same time allowing the remainder of the flo o rin g to retain collected debris. S e e `237 Patent, Col. 1, line 43 to Col. 2 line 6; and `240 Patent, Col. 1, line 40 to C o l. 2, line 2. The following constitutes this Court's construction of the disputed c la im s . 3 DISCUSSION I. C la im s at Issue T h e claims involved here are set forth below, with the disputed terms e m p h a s iz e d : Claim 1 of the `237 patent 1. In combination with a bridge having a deck, a platform disposed below said b rid g e deck and attached to said bridge and extending along a portion of th e bridge for supporting persons performing work on the bridge portion a n d for collecting debris resulting from the work, the platform comprising: a ) a plurality of cables extending along said bridge and in spaced re la tio n to each other and in a plane substantially parallel to the p la n e of said bridge deck; b ) means at each end of said cables for securing said cables to s a id bridge so that the plane of the cables is at a desired distance b e lo w the bridge portion; c ) a floor comprising a plurality of flooring panels each extending tra n s ve rs e ly of said cables and resting on said cables, each of said p a n e ls having at least one means defining an opening therein; and d ) means for releasably securing said flooring panels to said c a b le s so that said flooring panels are individually removable from s a id floor and so that the platform may be repeatedly assembled and d is a s s e m b le d , said releasably securing means including a member e xte n d in g through each of said opening means and having a portion w h ic h is shaped to define with said respective panel an eyelet, said o p e n in g means being sized for passage therethrough of said eyelet p o rtio n , and said cables passing through respective ones of said e y e le ts . 4 Claim 1 of the `240 patent: 1. In combination with a bridge having a deck, a platform disposed below said b rid g e deck and attached to said bridge and extending along a portion of th e bridge for supporting persons performing work on the bridge portion a n d for collecting debris resulting from the work, the platform comprising: a ) a plurality of cables extending along said bridge and in s p a c e d relation to each other and in a plane substantially p a ra lle l to the plane of said bridge deck; b ) means at each end of said cables for securing s a id cables to said bridge so that the plane of the c a b le s is at a desired distance below the bridge portion; c ) a floor comprising a plurality of flooring panels each extending tra n s ve rs e ly of said cables and resting on said cables, each of said p a n e ls having at least one means defining an opening therein; and d ) means for releasably securing said flooring panels to said c a b le s , said releasably securing means including means defining e y e le ts on said flooring panels, each said opening at least partially re c e ivin g one of said eyelets, and said cables passing through re s p e c tive ones of said eyelets on said flooring panels. B e fo re the hearing, the parties submitted a chart stipulating as to a number o f claim terms that are not in dispute. The Court will accept and apply those s tip u la te d definitions. Therefore, only the disputed terms will be construed in a c c o rd a n c e with the principles set forth below. II. L e g a l Principles T h e analysis of a claim of literal patent infringement involves two steps: the 5 proper construction of the asserted claim and a determination of whether the a c c u s e d method or product infringes the asserted claim as properly construed. Markman v. W e s tvie w Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 976 (Fed. Cir. 1995), aff'd, 5 1 7 U.S. 370 (1996). The first step, claim construction, is a matter of law that m u s t be addressed by the court, rather than the jury. Markman v. W e s tv ie w In s tru m e n ts , Inc., 517 U.S. at 370, 390 (1996). In construing an asserted claim, the court must look first to the intrinsic e vid e n c e of the record, i.e., the patent itself, including the claims, the specification a n d , if in evidence, the prosecution history. See Markman, 52 F.3d at 979. "Such intrinsic evidence is the most significant source of the legally operative m e a n in g of disputed claim language." Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F .3 d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996). F irs t, the Court must look at the words of the claims themselves to find the s c o p e of the patented invention. Id. (citations omitted); Bell Communications R e s e a rc h , Inc. v. Vitalink Communications Corp., 55 F.3d 615, 619-20 (Fed. Cir. 1 9 9 5 ) ("First, and most importantly, the language of the claim defines the scope o f the protected invention."). The words used in a claim are generally given their o rd in a ry and customary meaning. Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582; York Prods. v. C e n tra l Tractor Farm & Family Ctr., 99 F.3d 1568, 1572 (Fed. Cir. 1996). A p a te n te e may, however, choose to be his own lexicographer and use terms in a m a n n e r other than their ordinary meaning, as long as the special definition of the 6 term is clearly stated in the patent specification or file history. Vitronics, 90 F.3d a t 1582 (citations omitted). T h e court must construe the language in the patent claims in the same m a n n e r the claims would be construed by one "skilled in the art." Hoechst C e la n e s e Corp. v. BP Chems., Ltd., 78 F.3d 1575, 1578 (Fed. Cir.), cert. denied, 1 1 7 S. Ct. 275 (1996) ("A technical term used in a patent document is interpreted a s having the meaning that it would be given by persons experienced in the field o f the invention, unless it is apparent from the patent and prosecution history that th e inventor used the term with a different meaning."). A person "skilled in the a rt" possesses an appropriate level of knowledge and experience in the technical fie ld in question. After examining the claims themselves, the court must next review the s p e c ific a tio n to determine whether the inventor has used any terms in a manner in c o n s is te n t with their ordinary meaning. Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582. The s p e c ific a tio n contains a written description of the invention that enables a person o f ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention. Id.; Markman, 52 F.3d a t 979. "The specification acts as a dictionary when it expressly defines terms u s e d in the claims or when it defines terms by implication." Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1 5 8 2 . "Claims must be read in view of the specification, of which they are a part." Markman, 52 F.3d at 979. "[T]he specification is always highly relevant to the c la im construction analysis" and is usually dispositive. Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582. 7 "[I]t is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term." Id. It is important to keep in mind that although the specification is highly re le va n t to determining the definition of terms used in the claims, the claims th e m s e lve s define the precise scope of the patent. Computer Docking Station C o rp . v. Dell., 519 F.3d 1366, 1373 (Fed. Cir. 2008). References in the s p e c ific a tio n to a particular or preferred embodiment or to an illustrative example d o not limit the scope of the patent claim. Specialty Composites v. Cabot Corp., 845 F.2d at 981, 987 (Fed Cir. 1988). "The written description part of the s p e c ific a tio n itself does not delimit the right to exclude. That is the function and p u rp o s e of claims." Markman, 52 F.3d at 980. Thus, the fact that a particular e m b o d im e n t disclosed in the specification is narrower than a claim does not m e a n that the claim should be limited to that particular embodiment. See Phillips v. AW H Corp. 415 F.3d 1303 (Fed. Cir. 2005) ("[A]lthough the specification often d e s c rib e s very specific embodiments of the invention, we have repeatedly warned a g a in s t confining the claims to those embodiments."). A district court may also rely on extrinsic evidence, which consists of all e vid e n c e , external to the patent and prosecution history, including expert and in ve n to r testimony, dictionaries, and learned treatises. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317. In Phillips, the Federal Circuit explained that extrinsic evidence, such as d ic tio n a rie s , treatises, and expert testimony, can be useful to a court to provide b a c k g ro u n d on the technology at issue, to explain how an invention works, and to 8 ensure that the court's understanding of the technical aspects of the patent is c o n s is te n t with the meaning assigned by one skilled in the art. Id. at 1318. Although extrinsic evidence can be useful, it is also less reliable than that patent its e lf and the prosecution history. Thus, "extrinsic evidence may be useful to the c o u rt, but it is unlikely to result in a reliable interpretation of patent claim scope u n le s s considered in the context of the intrinsic evidence." Id. at 1319. The C irc u it has cautioned that, "judges are free to consult dictionaries and technical tre a tis e s `at any time in order to better understand the underlying technology and m a y also rely on dictionary definitions when construing claim terms, so long as th e dictionary definition does not contradict any definition found in or ascertained b y a reading of the patent documents.'" Id. at 1322-23 (quoting Vitronics, 90 F.3d a t 1584 n.6). M e a n s -P lu s -F u n c tio n Claims P u rs u a n t to 112, 6 of the Patent Act, an inventor may claim an e le m e n t of the invention in terms of its function. See 35 U.S.C. 112(6). The soc a lle d "means-plus-function" claim limitation provides: A n element in a claim for a combination may be e x p re s s e d as a means or step for performing a specified fu n c tio n without the recital of structure, material, or acts in support thereof, and such claim shall be construed to c o ve r the corresponding structure, material, or acts d e s c rib e d in the specification and equivalents thereof. 9 35 U.S.C. 112, 6. In construing means-plus-function claim limitations, a court m u s t first define the particular function claimed. Sage Prods., Inc. v. Devon In d u s ., Inc., 126 F.3d 1420, 1428 (Fed. Cir. 1997). Then, the court must identify "th e corresponding structure, material, or acts described in the specification." 35 U .S .C . 112, 6; see Sage Prods., 126 F.3d at 1427. U s e of the word "means" gives rise to "a presumption that the inventor u s e d the term advisedly to invoke the statutory mandates for means-plus-function c la u s e s ." Sage Prods., 126 F.3d at 1427. However, the presumption is not c o n c lu s ive . For example, where a claim uses the word "means," but specifies no c o rre s p o n d in g function for the "means," it does not implicate section 112. Id. Likewise, where a claim recites a function, but then goes on to elaborate s u ffic ie n t structure, material, or acts within the claim itself to perform entirely the re c ite d function, the claim is not in means-plus-function format. Id. Once the Court determines that the claim term invokes 112, 6, tw o steps are required to construe the term. First, the Court must identify the c la im e d function. See Intellectual Prop. Div., Inc. v. UA-Columbia Cable Vision of W e s tc h e s te r, Inc., 336 F.3d 1308, 1319 (Fed. Cir. 2003). Second, the Court m u s t identify "the corresponding structure, material or acts described in the s p e c ific a tio n " that perform the function. Id. The claim limitation is then construed to mean the corresponding structure, as well as statutory equivalents. See 35 U .S .C . 112, 6. Failure to disclose adequate structure corresponding to the 10 recited function results in the claim being of indefinite scope, and thus invalid, u n d e r 112, 2. Intellectual Prop. Div., 336 F.3d at 1319. The Court will now construe the disputed terms in light of the foregoing p r in c ip le s . III. D is p u te d Terms - `237 Patent T h e parties dispute the following terms set forth in bold in Claim 1 of the `2 3 7 patent: 1. In combination with a bridge having a deck, a platform d is p o s e d below said bridge deck and attached to said bridge a n d extending along a portion of the bridge for supporting p e rs o n s performing work on the bridge portion and for c o lle c tin g debris resulting from the work, the platform c o m p r i s in g : a ) a plurality of cables extending along said bridge and in spaced relation to each other and in a plane s u b s ta n tia lly parallel to the plane of said bridge deck; b ) means at each end of said cables for securing s a id cables to said bridge so that the plane of the c a b le s is at a desired distance below the bridge portion; c ) a floor comprising a plurality of flooring panels each e x te n d in g transversely of said cables and resting on s a id cables, each of said panels having at least one m e a n s defining an opening therein; and d ) means for releasably securing said flooring p a n e ls to said cables so that said flooring panels are in d iv id u a lly removable from said floor and so that the p la tfo rm may be repeatedly assembled and d is a s s e m b le d , said releasably securing means including 11 a member extending through each of said opening m e a n s and having a portion which is shaped to define w ith said respective panel an eyelet, said opening m e a n s being sized for passage therethrough of said e y e le t portion, and said cables passing through re s p e c tive ones of said eyelets. 1. "means at each end of said cables for securing said cables to said bridge" A s to this claim term, the parties agree that the means-plus-function lim ita tio n applies. They also agree that the function disclosed is securing cables to the bridge. However, they disagree as to the structure needed to perform that fu n c tio n . Safespan argues that the structure to perform that function can be e ith e r: "(a) an opening or connector and (b) a cable clamp/clip and/or vertical s u p p o rt cable, and all equivalents thereof," whereas EZ Access argues that the s tru c tu re disclosed in the specification is "compression clamp assembles which u tiliz e a plurality of threaded connecting rods which are tightened to provide the re q u ire d amount of compression force." T h e Court finds that the specification discloses two distinct means for s e c u rin g cables to the bridge. First, the specification discloses what it identifies a s the preferred embodiment - namely, compression clamp assemblies that are a tta c h e d to the bridge piers. These compression clamp assemblies are "clamped to the pedestal by a plurality of threaded connecting rods which are tightened to 12 provide the required amount of compression force." See `237 Patent, Col. 4, lines 2 -5 . The specification further discloses that the cable is connected to an I-beam b y a "plate-like extrusion on the outer flange of the beam and a shackle which fits in an opening in the plate and is connected by a cable clamps [sic] to the end of th e cable." Id. at lines 53-56. The specification also discloses a second structure for securing the h o riz o n ta l cables to the bridge involving the use of vertical ("auxiliary") cables that a re attached to the bridge structure itself at one end, and to the horizontal cables a t the other end, via an additional eyelet located on a "connector assembly" (s o m e tim e s called a "deck clip" by the parties). The specification discloses two typ e s of connector assembly structures, the first type having only one eyelet and th e second type having an additional eyelet "which is welded or otherwise joined . . . to surface of the body [of that connector assembly] at a location between o p e n in g and edge. [Said] [e]yelet receives one end of an additional or auxiliary s u p p o rtin g cable . . . the other end of which is secured to the bridge structural s te e l." See id., Col. 7 at lines 11-16; see also id. at Col. 6, lines 25-30 ("The s e c o n d part of the connector assembly is provided with an eyelet for connection to one end of the auxiliary cable . . . the other end of which is connected to the b rid g e structural steel . . . ."); id. at Fig. 2 (depicting auxiliary or vertical cables (3 2 ) as attached to the structural steel of the bridge at one end and attached to th e bridge platform at the other end); id. at Fig. 10 (depicting the connector 13 assembly with an additional eyelet (210) used to attach the auxiliary cables to the p la tfo rm ) . B e c a u s e the specification discloses two distinct structures for securing c a b le s to the bridge, the defendant's proposed construction - which limits the d is p u te d phrase to only one of the two structures - is rejected. Rather, the Court fin d s that the "means at each end of said cables for securing said cables to said b rid g e " involves either: (1) a compression clamp structure that utilizes a plurality o f threaded connecting rods which are tightened to provide the required amount o f compression force; or (2) use of a connector assembly with two eyelets, w h e re b y the second eyelet2 is welded to the connector assembly, through which a n auxiliary cable is passed at one end and the second end of the cable (which is h u n g vertically from the platform) is connected to the structural steel of the bridge, a n d all equivalents thereof. Support for this construction is found in the specification. As noted, the s p e c ific a tio n discloses that the preferred embodiment for securing the cables to th e bridge is via use of the compression clamp structures, see `237 Patent, Col. 1 , lines 53-55, but also discloses that the cables could be secured to the bridge w ith o u t the need for the clamping structures where the bridge has a large number o f bearing structures per pier. Id. at Col. 5, lines 8-10; see also Col. 8, lines 1-5 The first eyelet on this connector assembly is used to releasably secure the horizontal cable to the flooring panel. 2 14 (explaining that the second type of connector assemblies (with two eyelets) "are in s ta lle d at spaced locations . . . over the surface of the platform, and auxiliary c a b le s . . . are connected between the assemblies and the bridge structural s te e l." ) . 2. " m e a n s defining an opening therein" N e x t, the parties dispute the term "means defining an opening therein" set fo rth in Claim 1(c) of the `237 patent. They also dispute whether the means-plusfu n c tio n limitation applies to this term. Safespan argues that the claim is clear on its face, and that because no corresponding function for the means is disclosed, th e means-plus-function limitation does not apply. Conversely, EZ Access a rg u e s that the mean-plus-function limitation does apply, and that the function is to "provide openings." It further argues that the term delineates "a plurality of o p e n in g s " in each of the flooring panels. The Court finds that the means-plus-function limitation does not apply to this d is p u te d term because, contrary to the defendant's position, there is no function d is c lo s e d to correspond to the use of the word "means." See W e n g e r Mfg. Inc., v. C o a tin g Machinery Sys., Inc., 239 F.3d 1225, 1232 (Fed Cir. 2001) ("[A] limitation th a t uses the word `means' but does not recite a function that corresponds to the m e a n s does not invoke 112, 6."). Rather, the Court adopts plaintiff's proposed construction and finds that the 15 term "means defining an opening therein" simply means an "opening" in the flo o rin g panel. This construction is consistent with the ordinary and customary m e a n in g of the terms in the claim, and is consistent with the specification, which s ta te s that "[e]ach of the panels comprising flooring includes a plurality of o p e n in g s extending therethrough for making connection to the cables." See `237 P a te n t, Col. 5. lines 60-62. Although the specification speaks to a "plurality of o p e n in g s ," it goes on to state that "[t]he number and location of openings will d e p e n d on the size of the panels and the distance between cables." Id. at lines 6 2 -6 4 . T h e defendant's proposed construction (as a "plurality of openings"), seeks to import a limitation from the specification into the claim, and is inconsistent with th e language of the claim itself. The claim requires that "each of said panels h a v[e ] at least one means defining an opening therein . . . . " To construe the d is p u te d phrase as the defendant suggests (i.e., more than one opening) is to ig n o re the "at least one" language appearing before the disputed term. See `237 p a te n t, Claim 1(c) (emphasis added). The claim provides that each panel must h a ve "at least one" opening - it can have more, or it can have only one, but it must h a ve at least one opening in each panel. Indeed, as the specification directs, the n u m b e r of openings will depend upon the size of the panels and the distance b e tw e e n cables. Because defendant's proposed construction improperly in c o rp o ra te s limitations from the specification into the claim, it is rejected. 16 3. " m e a n s for releasably securing said flooring panels to said cables" T h e parties also dispute whether the means-plus-function applies to the term "m e a n s for releasably securing said flooring panels to said cables" set forth in Claim 1 (d ) of the `237 patent. Defendant correctly notes that use of the term "means" a lo n g with the disclosure of a function invokes the presumption that 112, 6 a p p lie s . See Envirco Corp. v. Clestra Cleanroom, Inc., 209 F.3d 1364-65 (Fed. Cir. 2 0 0 0 ). Here, the stated function is a means for "releasably securing" the flooring p a n e ls to the cables, in other words, a "connectable, but detachable" method of s e c u rin g the flooring panels to the cables. See P& M Products, Ltd. v. Rose Art In d u s ., No. CIV.A. 01-231, 2002 W L 461690 (E.D. Pa. March 21, 2002) (finding the te rm "releasably secured" to be unambiguous and construing it to mean "c o n n e c ta b le , but detachable"). Although the plaintiff does not dispute that use of the term "means" invokes th e presumption of means-plus-function treatment, the plaintiff argues that the p re s u m p tio n is overcome because the claim discloses sufficient structure for p e rfo rm in g the stated function. The defendant disagrees that sufficient structure is d is c lo s e d and argues that means-plus-function treatment applies. The Court finds that the disputed term discloses sufficient structure to p e rfo rm the function of releasably securing the panels to the cables. The structure d is c lo s e d is as follows (with emphasis added): 17 said releasably securing means including a member e x te n d in g through each of said opening means and having a portion which is shaped to define with said respective p a n e l an eyelet, said opening means being sized for p a s s a g e therethrough of said eyelet portion, and said c a b le s passing through said respective one of said e y e le ts . The structure disclosed is a member having a portion which is shaped to d e fin e , together with a flooring panel, an eyelet, and where the opening in the panel is sized so that the eyelet may pass therethrough, and where the cable may pass th ro u g h the eyelet. W h e re , as here, the claim recites a sufficiently definite structure fo r preforming the disclosed function, the means-plus-function limitation does not a p p ly. See W e n g e r Mfg., 239 F.3d at 1232. EZ Access seeks to construe the disputed term as "a multi-piece assembly c o n s is tin g of a multiple-piece plate and a U-shaped hook formation which extends th e re fro m for engaging a cable at a position below a flooring panel in close p ro xim ity to the flooring panel, which is provided with a threaded end portion which p ro je c ts through an opening in the plate, with a nut fastening the parts together." See EZ Access Reply Constr. Memo. of Law, Dkt. 38, at 20. That proposed c o n s tru c tio n improperly reads limitations into the claim from the specification. As th e Federal Circuit cautioned in Phillips v. AW H Corp., 415 F.3d at 1323, courts m u s t be careful to avoid reading limitations from the specification into the claim its e lf. W h ile the specification does teach using a multiple-piece plate and a U- 18 shaped hook formation as a means for releasably securing the flooring panels to th e cables, it is clear that the recitation of that structure in the specification is simply a n example of one means to perform that function. Contrary to the defendant's p o s itio n , the structure in the claim is not limited to a multiple-piece plate and a Us h a p e d hook formation, nor is it limited to structures using a nut to fasten the parts to g e th e r. Therefore, the defendant's proposed construction is rejected. A c c o rd in g ly , the Court construes the disputed term as a connectable, but d e ta c h a b le , means for securing the cables to the bridge whereby a member e xte n d s through an opening in the flooring panel and is shaped to define an eyelet, a n d wherein the eyelet is sized so that a cable may pass through the eyelet, and w h e re a cable passes through the eyelet. IV. D is p u te d Terms - `240 Patent W ith regard to the `240 patent, the parties dispute the terms set forth in bold b e lo w . 1. In combination with a bridge having a deck, a platform disposed below s a id bridge deck and attached to said bridge and extending along a p o rtio n of the bridge for supporting persons performing work on the b rid g e portion and for collecting debris resulting from the work, the p la tfo rm comprising: a ) a plurality of cables extending along said bridge and in spaced re la tio n to each other and in a plane substantially parallel to the p la n e of said bridge deck; b ) means at each end of said cables for securing said 19 cables to said bridge so that the plane of the cables is at a desired distance below the bridge portion; c ) a floor comprising a plurality of flooring panels each extending tra n s ve rs e ly of said cables and resting on said cables, each of said p a n e ls having at least one means defining an opening therein; and d ) means for releasably securing said flooring panels to said c a b le s , said releasably securing means including means defining e y e le ts on said flooring panels, each said opening at least partially re c e ivin g one of said eyelets, and said cables passing through re s p e c tive ones of said eyelets on said flooring panels. (emphasis added). The first two disputed terms ("means at each end of the said cables for s e c u rin g said cables to said bridge" and "means defining an opening therein") are id e n tic a l to the claim terms disputed in the `237 patent. Further, the portions of the s p e c ific a tio n relating to those disputed terms are essentially identical to the s p e c ific a tio n of the `237 patent. Because the claim terms and specification portions re la tin g thereto are identical, the Court finds it appropriate to adopt the same c o n s tru c tio n for those terms as was adopted for the `240 patent. Therefore, the te rm "means at each end of said cables for securing said cables to said bridge" fo u n d in the `240 patent shall have the same meaning as it does in the `237 patent, s p e c ific a lly a structure to preform the function of securing the cables to a bridge in vo lvin g either: (1) a compression clamp structure that utilizes a plurality of th re a d e d connecting rods which are tightened to provide the required amount of c o m p re s s io n force; or (2) a connector assembly with two eyelets, whereby the 20 second eyelet3 is welded to the connector assembly, through which an auxiliary c a b le is passed at one end and the second end of the cable (which is hung ve rtic a lly from the platform) is connected to the structural steel of the bridge; and all e q u iva le n ts thereof. As to the disputed term "means defining an opening therein" found in Claim 1 (c ) of the `240 patent, the Court interprets that term to mean at least one opening in the flooring panel. Defendant's proposed construction of a "plurality of openings" is rejected for the reasons stated above. As to the third disputed claim of the `240 patent - "means for releasably s e c u rin g said flooring panels to said cables" the structure disclosed in the claim is d iffe re n t from the structure disclosed in Claim 1 of the `237 patent and therefore, the C o u rt will analyze the term independently of the `237 patent. Because the term invokes "means" language, the presumption of 112, 6 tre a tm e n t applies. The function disclosed is a means for "releasably securing" the flo o rin g panels to the cables. The Court construes the term "releasably securing" a s a "connectable, but detachable" method of securing the flooring panels to the c a b le s . N o tw ith s ta n d in g the means-plus-function presumption, plaintiff argues that 1 1 2 , 6 does not apply because the claim discloses sufficient structure for The first eyelet on this connector assembly is used to releasably secure the horizontal cable to the flooring panel. 3 21 preforming the stated function. The structure disclosed is: said releasably securing means including means defining eyelets on s a id flooring panels, each said opening at least partially receiving one o f said eyelets, and said cables passing through respective ones of s a id eyelets on said flooring panels. T h e parties have stipulated that the term "means defining eyelets on said flo o rin g panels" shall be construed as "two or more eyelets, each eyelet defined by a flooring panel and a portion of the connector assembly which extends through an o p e n in g in the flooring panel" and the Court will interpret that term as stipulated. The disclosed structure also requires that each opening in the flooring panel p a rtia lly receive one of the eyelets on the connector assembly, and that the cables th e n pass through the eyelet. The Court finds that the structure disclosed is s u ffic ie n t to perform the function of releasably securing the flooring panels to the c a b le s , and therefore 112 6 does not apply. The defendant seeks to construe the disputed claim as "a multiple-piece a s s e m b ly consisting of a multiple-piece plate and a U-shaped hook formation which e xte n d s therefrom for engaging a cable at a position below a flooring panel in close p ro xim ity to the flooring panel, and which is provided with a threaded end portion w h ic h projects through an opening in the plate, with a nut fastening the parts to g e th e r." As with defendant's construction of the `237 patent, the Court rejects this c o n s tru c tio n as it improperly incorporates limitations into the claim from the s p e c ific a tio n , namely that the structure includes a multiple-piece assembly 22 consisting of a multiple-piece plate and a U-shaped hook formation along with a nut fa s te n in g the parts together. Because the structure disclosed in the claim is s u ffic ie n tly definite to perform the stated function, 112, 6 does not apply and the d e fe n d a n t's attempt to read limitations from the specification into the claim is r e je c te d . A c c o rd in g ly , the Court construes the disputed term as a connectable, but d e ta c h a b le means for securing the panels to the cables involving two or more e ye le ts , each eyelet defined by a flooring panel and a portion of the connector a s s e m b ly, each of which eyelet extends through an opening in the flooring panel a n d whereby a cable passes through the eyelet. CONCLUSION T h e disputed terms are construed as stated above. The parties shall appear fo r a status conference on March 24, 2010, at 9:00 a.m. SO ORDERED. s/ Richard J. Arcara HONORABLE RICHARD J. ARCARA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE DATED: January 14, 2010 23

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