United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
DECISION ON MOTIONS FOR RECONSIDERATION
William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge
this court's decision on summary judgment, both sides
filed motions seeking reconsideration and / or clarification
of certain aspects of the court's decision. I address the
parties' arguments below.
MTI's Motion for Reconsideration / Clarification
Stopping Angular Movement versus Drive Movement
patent discloses a safety feature whereby movement of the
crane's wheels is stopped if the controller senses a
wheel is out of position. (ECF No. 98-4 at 2:15-21.) MTI
first argues that this court erred by failing to recognize
that, although the accused machines do not stop angular
movement (that is, rotation around a vertical axis), they
nevertheless do stop drive movement when the machine
senses a wheel is out of position. (Drive movement is what
moves the wheels forward and backward, while angular movement
is what turns the wheel to change direction.) Because
ASCOM's cranes do stop drive movement of the wheels, they
should be found to infringe.
Defendants note, however, this issue was presented and even
discussed in the summary judgment opinion itself. (ECF No.
255 at 32-33.) In that opinion, I concluded that for
something to be “stopped, ” it must be fully at
rest. Because ASCOM's cranes did not stop the
angular movement of the wheels, I concluded that
their cranes' wheels were not “stopped” in
the sense used in the claim terms, and thus did not infringe.
MTI argues this was error.
central problem for MTI is that its claim language is not
broad enough to encompass both angular and drive movement.
Instead, it is clear the claim provides protection only for a
device that stops angular movement of the wheels
when they are out of their intended position-a function that
ASCOM's cranes do not perform. The specification supports
this narrower reading, and so does the claim language itself.
First, Claim 15 describes a “steering system.” A
“steering system, ” of course, is synonymous with
a system for turning the wheels in an angular
fashion because that is what “steering” is.
Because a steering system would only involve the turning of
the wheels in an angular fashion (i.e., steering or turning
the crane), we would not expect the claim to disclose
anything about the drive movement of the wheels in a forward
or reverse manner. Thus, when the claim describes monitoring
the “position” of the wheels, we must assume it
means it is monitoring the angular position of the
wheels. In other words, the controller is asking itself
whether the wheels are properly turned to the right angle
and, if not, the controller will stop the wheels from turning
further. It does not say that it stops drive
movement of the wheels when any wheel is out of position.
This is most clearly set forth in the specification, which
explains that “when one of the wheels exceeds a
predetermined distance between its sensed position and
programmed position (this can happen if a wheel is in a rut)
the controller stops angular movement of the
remaining wheels until the . . . wheel is at its programmed
position.” (ECF No. 98-4, 2:16-21) (italics added).
Because ASCOM's cranes do not stop angular movement of
the wheels, they do not infringe.
addition, the specification further explains that the safety
feature is concerned with wheel position in an angular,
rather than drive, sense. If a wheel is out of position by a
predetermined amount “(e.g., three degrees) for any
wheel, the controller 110 stops turning the other
wheels to their programmed position until the situation is
corrected. . . . In this manner, the wheel that moved the
least (i.e., the stuck wheel) will determine the desired
position of the other steering wheels.” (ECF No. 98-4,
9:46-54) (italics added). By using a threshold of
“three degrees” as an example, it is clear that
the patentee was describing angular position (measured in
degrees) of the wheels rather than the drive position. It is
equally clear that the controller is programmed to stop
turning the other wheels, rather than to stop the
drive movement of the other wheels. Thus, the only thing that
the patent discloses is stopping the turning, or angular,
movement of the wheels.
claim language bears this out. What it discloses is a
controller that monitors
the position of the plurality of wheels, and to control
movement of the plurality of wheels in response to a selected
steering mode, wherein the controller is further configured
such that when at least one wheel has a sensed position a
predetermined distance from a programmed position the
controller stops movement of the remaining wheels.
No. 98-4, 13: 8-16.)
question is what the claim means by “stops
movement.” Although the claim itself does not use the
adjective “angular” to describe the movement
being stopped, it is clear that such was its intent. As noted
above, the specification quite clearly explains that this
means “stops angular movement.” (ECF No. 98-4,
2:16-21). This is not an instance in which a party is asking
to narrow a claim term by importing a limitation from the
specification. Instead, the court is being asked to construe
the somewhat vague term “movement” in accordance
with how the term is used in the specification.
Metabolite Labs., Inc. v. Lab. Corp. of Am.
Holdings, 370 F.3d 1354, 1360 (Fed.Cir. 2004) (“In
most cases, the best source for discerning the proper context
of claim terms is the patent specification wherein the patent
applicant describes the invention.”); see also,
e.g., Kinik Co. v. Int'l Trade Comm'n, 362 F.3d
1359, 1365 (Fed.Cir. 2004) (“The words of patent claims
have the meaning and scope with which they are used in the
specification and the prosecution history.”) The claim
language itself independently supports this conclusion as
well. First, as described above, the claim is disclosing a
steering system, something that is inherently concerned with
angular, rather than drive, movement. Second, it would not
make sense to interpret the claim in the fashion MTI
proposes. The claim states that it “stops movement
of the remaining wheels.” (Id.)
Implicit in such a function is that the stuck wheel is
allowed to keep moving forward. It would not make sense to
stop driv e movement of remaining wheels while
allowing the fourth, misaligned, wheel to keep driving.
Instead, the claim only makes sense if the movement being
stopped is the angular, or turning, movement of the
remaining wheels. As the specification explains, the purpose
of stopping angular movement is that the “wheel that
moved the least (i.e., the stuck wheel) will determine the
desired position of the other steering wheels.” (ECF
No. 98-4, 9:46-54). In other words, if one wheel gets stuck
at 18 degrees, the controller will halt the turning of the
other wheels, so that the stuck wheel is the limiting factor.
when read in proper context, the term “stops
movement” means that the invention stops angular
movement of the wheels when one or more wheels is sensed to
be out of position. ASCOM's cranes do not perform that
function. The fact that ASCOM machines might stop driv
e movement if a wheel becomes misaligned does not mean
they infringe MTI's patent. The motion for
reconsideration will therefore be denied.