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Claims Must Be Construed In View of Prosecution History


The Federal Circuit, in Bass Pro Trademarks, L.L.C. v. Cabela's, Inc., (No. 2006-1276, April 6, 2007), vacates a district court's contempt order that had found that the defendant's redesigned device had infringed the plaintiff's patent in violation of a settlement agreement and consent judgment that resulted from a previous patent infringement suit. The court explains that the granting of a contempt order for the violation of an injunction against infringement by a modified device, requires that the modified device infringes the patent either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents. In construing the claims, the Federal Circuit determines that the term "vest," as used in the particular patent claims, is a "material element" of the claims based on statements made throughout the prosecution history - particularly arguments made in distinguishing the invention from the prior art. The Court holds that the defendant did not infringe the claims because their device does not contain a "vest."
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