United States District Court, D. Maryland
CHANGZHOU KAIDI ELECTRICAL CO., LTD., et al.
OKIN AMERICA, INC., et al.
CATHERINE C. BLAKE, District Judge.
Among a host of other claims, Changzhou Kaidi Electrical Co. and Kaidi, LLC (together, "Kaidi") seek a declaratory judgment that the KDPT005 linear actuator in no way infringes any claim of United States Patent Number 5, 927, 144 ("the 144 patent"), which Dewert Okin GmbH owns by assignment and which it and Okin America, Inc. (together, "Okin") practice via manufacture of the Okin Betadrive linear actuator. Okin, in turn, alleges that the KDPT005 infringes that patent. Okin seek summary judgment on the ground of infringement of claims 1 and 26-28 of the 144 patent, while Kaidi seeks summary judgment on the ground of noninfringement of those claims, as well as claim 2. The motions have been fully briefed and no hearing is necessary to their resolution. See Local Rule 105.5 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons explained below, Kaidi's motion will be granted as to claim 2, on the basis of Okin's concession, and denied as to the remaining claims. And Okin's motion will be denied.
Okin produces and sells linear actuators, including the Okin Betadrive, throughout the United States. (First Am. Compl. 2-3, ECF No. 24; Answer First Am. Compl. 2, ECF No. 34.) Kaidi produces and imports into the United States linear actuators, including the KDPT005. (First Am. Compl. 2; Answer First Am. Compl. 2.) Okin claims to own the 144 patent, which it claims to practice via the manufacture and sale of its Betadrive. (First Am. Compl. 5; Answer First Am. Compl. 3.) Okin asserts that Kaidi's KDPT005 infringes claim 1 of the 144 patent and one or more of the patent's other claims, each of which is dependent on claim 1. (Counterclaim 18-19, ECF No. 34.) Kaidi, in turn, seeks a declaratory judgment that its KDPT005 infringes no valid and enforceable claim of the 144 patent, among other causes of action. (First Am. Compl. 8-9.)
After a hearing, this court previously issued a memorandum and order construing components of the claims contained in the 144 patent, pursuant to Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967 (Fed. Cir. 1995). (ECF Nos. 63, 64.) On the basis of that claim construction, the parties subsequently filed these motions for summary judgment.
A. Standard of Review
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), summary judgment should be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (emphases added). Whether a fact is material depends upon the substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Accordingly, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment." Id. at 247-48. "A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings, ' but rather must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Bouchat v. Balt. Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and draw all reasonable inferences in his favor. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (citation omitted); see also Greater Balt. Ctr. for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. v. Mayor & City Council of Balt., 721 F.3d 264, 283 (4th Cir. 2013). At the same time, the court must not yield its obligation "to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial." Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Where, as here, both parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment, "the court examines each motion separately, employing the familiar standard under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure." Desmond v. PNGI Charles Town Gaming, LLC, 630 F.3d 351, 354 (4th Cir. 2011).
B. Patent Infringement
"[W]hoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent." 35 U.S.C. § 271(a). "[T]o find infringement, the accused device must contain each limitation of the claim....'" TIP Sys., LLC v. Phillips & Brooks/Gladwin, Inc., 529 F.3d 1364, 1379 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (quoting Freedman Seating Co. v. Am. Seating Co., 420 F.3d 1350, 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2005)). "[I]nfringement... is a question of fact. However, a court may determine infringement on summary judgment when no reasonable jury could find that every limitation recited in the properly construed claim either is or is not found in the accused device." EMD Millipore Corp. v. AllPure Techs., Inc., ___ F.3d ___, 2014 WL 4800081, at *2 (Fed. Cir. 2014). Kaidi asserts its entitlement to summary judgment on independent claim 1 and dependent claims 2 and 26-28 of the 144 patent, arguing that its KDPT005 linear actuator lacks (1) the "guide section" and (2) the "accepting device" described in those claims. The first of those arguments fails for want of evidence; the second trips on a misreading of the claims.
1. "Guide Section"
Claim 1 of the 144 patent, which is incorporated by reference into claims 2 and 26-28, describes a "guide section" that, among other things, surrounds the actuator's spindle. See Patent 144 col.6 ll.13-28. After a hearing on the matter, this court construed that "guide section" as a "two-part component that guides a moving part." (Mem. 5, ECF No. 63.) Okin identifies two parallel metal components surrounding the KDPT005's spindle as the requisite two parts of the device's guide section, highlighting the superficial similarity between those components and drawings of the disclosed embodiment of the patented invention contained in the patent's specification. Kaidi, however, asserts that the alleged "guide section" of its KDPT005 includes only one component that guides the slider incorporated into that device; it describes the remaining component identified by Okin as a "spindle cover, " "designed to prevent grease from dripping from the spindle and to achieve a decorative effect, not to guide a moving part along a linear path." (Kaidi Cross-Mot. Partial Summ. J. 6, ECF No. 77-1.) Accordingly, Kaidi concludes, the KDPT005 lacks one of the requisite two parts that make up the patented "guide section" and thus lies beyond the claim's limitations.
Even assuming Kaidi is correct that each component of the guide section must guide a moving part, the record does not support the conclusion that the KDPT005's spindle cover does not guide its slider. Most powerfully, Kaidi argues that the KDPT005's "spindle cover lacks the necessary geometric features that allow the guide section to engage with and guide the moving part." ( Id. at 7.) The exterior of the spindle cover-unlike the guide rail it parallels or drawings of the patent's preferred embodiment included in the specification-is not fashioned into a series of protrusions and depressions that correspond with and touch complementary shapes on the interior of the slider. Compare, e.g., (Kaidi Cross-Mot. Partial Summ. J., Ex. C, Howard Decl. 3 fig.1, ECF No. 77-6), with, e.g., Patent 144 fig.4. "[W]ithout these features, " Kaidi maintains, "the spindle cover cannot engage with or guide a moving part." (Kaidi Cross-Mot. Partial Summ. J. at 8.)
Images of the spindle cover and slider, however, belie Kaidi's interpretation of them. True, the exterior of the spindle cover and adjacent shape of the slider lack the intricate detailing of the guide rail or drawings of the preferred embodiment of the invention. (Howard Decl. 3 fig.1.) But the absence of such intricacy is not pertinent to whether the spindle cover is one component of the two part guide section. ( See Mem. 9 (rejecting Kaidi's argument that, inter alia, both of those two parts must have "substantially the same contour cross-sectional shape"), ECF No. 63.) More importantly, the spindle cover's shape does complement the shape of the slider; it fits inside two shallow, parallel walls of the slider, the shape of which it mirrors with shallow, parallel walls of its own. Kaidi retorts that, according to technical drawings of the KDPT005, these complementary features of the spindle cover do not touch the walls of the slider; approximately 0.2 millimeters should separate them. (Kaidi Reply Supp. Summ. J., Yao Declr. 3, ECF No. 89-5.) Those technical documents do not indicate, however, whether the slider and spindle cover would come into contact once the slider were placed under stress or in ...