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Properly Construed Claim May Not Cover All Embodiments


In Intamin Ltd. V. Magnetar Technologies, Corp. (No. 05-1546, 1579, April 18, 2007), a Federal Circuit panel vacates part of a district court’s claim construction involving a magnetic braking system for amusement park rides and remands on the issue of non-infringement. On appeal, the parties dispute the district court’s construction of two limitations of the independent claim.

The first limitation involves “an intermediary disposed between adjacent pairs of said plurality of magnets” forming a portion of the brake assembly. The district court construed the term “intermediary” without determining the meaning of “adjacent magnets with alternating polarities”, leaving a question of whether the intermediary can be another magnet, and whether the accused brakes infringe. The panel looks at the understandable meaning of the term and the context of the patent, and finds that “intermediary” can include magnetic substances, but only if “alternating polarity” requires magnets of opposite polarity, a matter to be determined on remand.

The second limitation regards “said at least one conductive rail being adapted to extend the length of the fixed device part”, questioning if “length” refers to the full length of the fixed part, as construed by the district court, or to the orientation of the conductive rail. The specification uses “length” consistently with its meaning as a distance rather than a direction, says the panel. The proper claim construction may result in the claim not covering an embodiment described in the specification, but the patentee may draft different claims to cover different embodiments. The district court was thus correct in recognizing that “length” is not used to refer to direction or orientation.

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