Cheese Systems, Inc. v. Tetra Pak Cheese and Powder Systems, Inc. et al
ORDER granting in part 34 and 30 Motions Requesting Claims Construction. The court will construe three terms; hearing set for 9/9/2011, 9:00 AM. Signed by District Judge Barbara B. Crabb on 8/14/2011. (llj)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - CHEESE SYSTEMS, INC.,
TETRA PAK CHEESE and POWDER SYSTEMS, INC
and TETRA LAVAL HOLDINGS & FINANCE, S.A.,
CUSTOM FABRICATING & REPAIR, INC.
Third Party Defendant.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Plaintiff Cheese Systems, Inc. seeks a declaration that it does not infringe United
States Patent No. 5,985,347, which is owned by defendants Tetra Pak Cheese and Powder
Systems, Inc. and Tetra Laval Holdings & Finances, S.A. The parties have filed cross
motions for the construction of several terms: “a plurality of sharp cutting edges disposed in
a generally common first plane,” “a plurality of blunt stirring edges disposed in a generally
common second plane,” “means for mounting,” “generally radiating extending blades,”
“generally axially extending blades,” “blades being respectively non-perpendicular,” “agitator
panel,” “cutting face” and “stirring face.”
(Defendants say that plaintiff is seeking
construction of the term “trails,” but I am not including it because plaintiff does not discuss
that term in its brief.)
In the magistrate judge’s preliminary pretrial conference order, dkt. #17, he explained
that it would be each “party’s burden to persuade the court that construction of each
specified term is necessary to resolve a disputed issue concerning infringement or invalidity.”
Id. at 2. The purpose of that requirement is to avoid deciding abstract questions that have
no bearing on the lawsuit. “If [an] order represents a mere advisory opinion not addressed
to resolving a ‘case or controversy,’ then it marks an attempted exercise of judicial authority
beyond constitutional bounds. U.S. Const. art. III, § 2.” Socha v. Pollard, 621 F.3d 667,
670 (7th Cir. 2010).
The parties complied with this directive with respect to the terms “a plurality of sharp
cutting edges disposed in a generally common first plane,” “a plurality of blunt stirring edges
disposed in a generally common second plane” and “agitator panel.” In particular, the
parties explained how construction of these terms could help resolve a question of
infringement. With respect to the first two terms, the question is the extent to which they
cover cheese vats like plaintiff’s with concave or convex walls. With respect to the last term,
the question is whether the agitator panel has “a cutting face and a stirring face that is
opposite . . . the cutting face,” something plaintiff says the accused products do not have.
Plt.’s Br., dkt. #31, at 9-10.
The parties have failed to show that the remaining terms need to be construed. With
respect to the terms “cutting face” and “stirring face,” plaintiff simply refers back to the
terms “a plurality of sharp cutting edges disposed in a generally common first plane” and “a
plurality of blunt stirring edges disposed in a generally common second plane.” (Defendants
do not seek construction of “cutting face” or “stirring face.”) With respect to the remaining
terms, the parties state generally that construction will resolve a disputed issue of
infringement, but they fail to specify how their proposed constructions will do this. Without
a specific explanation, it is impossible for the court to determine whether claim construction
will be a useful exercise.
Far too often, construing claim terms in a vacuum leads to
additional disputes about the meaning of the court’s construction at summary judgment or
to revision when the context of the dispute is revealed.
District courts have an obligation to construe terms when it is necessary to resolve a
genuine and material legal dispute between the parties. O2 Micro International Ltd. v.
Beyond Innovation Technology Co., Ltd., 521 F.3d 1351, 1361-62 (Fed. Cir. 2008). If a
party shows at summary judgment or at trial that construction is needed to resolve a material
dispute, the court will provide it.
However, courts have no obligation to provide
constructions simply because the parties request them; the parties must demonstrate that the
construction is both necessary and correct. Id.; see also E-Pass Technologies, Inc. v. 3Com
Corp., 473 F.3d 1213, 1219 (Fed. Cir. 2007) ("[A]ny articulated definition of a claim term
ultimately must relate to the infringement questions that it is intended to answer."). The
parties are free to request construction of these terms again in the context of a motion for
summary judgment or at trial.
IT IS ORDERED that the motions requesting claim construction filed by plaintiff
Cheese Systems, Inc., dkt. #30, and defendants Tetra Pak Cheese and Poweder Systems, Inc.
and Tetra Laval Holdings & Finances, S.A, dkt. #34, are GRANTED IN PART. The court
will construe the terms “a plurality of sharp cutting edges disposed in a generally common
first plane,” “a plurality of blunt stirring edges disposed in a generally common second plane”
and “agitator panel.” A hearing will be held on these terms on September 9, 2011 at 9:00
Entered this 24th day of August, 2011.
BY THE COURT:
BARBARA B. CRABB
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