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Doctrine Of Equivalents Cannot Eliminate Claim Element


In Planet Bingo, LLC v. Gametech Int'l, Inc. (No. 05-1476; December 13, 2006), the Federal Circuit affirms a decision of the district court in which defendant was found not to infringe Planet Bingo's patents directed to alternative methods for playing bingo. The district court held that the claim language “establishing a predetermined combination as a winning combination for a progressive jackpot” required that the winning combination must be established before the bingo game begins. As defendant's game did not disclose to a player what the winning combination was until after the game began, the district court found no literal infringement. In addition, the district court rejected plaintiff's assertions of infringement under the doctrine of equivalents, as interpreting “after” to include “before” would eliminate the requirement that the winning combination be “predetermined.” On appeal, the Federal Circuit states that it “cannot overlook [a] limitation or expand the doctrine of equivalents beyond its purpose to allow recapture of subject matter excluded by a deliberate and foreseeable claim drafting decision,” and, therefore, affirms the district court's decision.

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