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Patent Defenses Addressed On The Merits Even After Non-Infringement Finding Affirmed


In Old Town Canoe Co. v. Confluence Holdings Corp . (May 9, 2006; Nos. 05-1123, 05-1148), a Federal Circuit panel affirms findings of non-infringement and no inequitable conduct based on motions for judgment as a matter of law ("JMOL"), but vacates JMOL findings of no invalidity and remands for further proceedings.  The patent-in-suit claims a method for making a laminated plastic boat hull by rotational molding, and the parties disputed whether, in the accused process, "coalescence" was "completed."  In finding non-infringement, the Federal Circuit affirms the district court's claim construction and agrees that the disputed limitation requires the plastic laminate to reach the end of coalescence, that is, its optimum state as disclosed in one of the patent diagrams.  Because the accused process is "brought to a halt," it does not infringe.

With respect to invalidity, the Federal Circuit concludes that the accused infringer presented enough evidence that a reasonable juror could decide against the patentee on each of the obviousness, enablement, and best mode defenses, and thus vacates the JMOL.  In contrast, patentee did not provide enough evidence for the Federal Circuit to conclude that the district court abused its discretion in finding no inequitable conduct, and thus JMOL of no inequitable conduct is affirmed.

While agreeing with the JMOL of non-infringement, Judge Mayer dissents from the panel's resolution of the invalidity and unenforceability counterclaims as lacking an actual controversy.

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