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Star Lock Systems, Inc. v. Dixie-Narco

August 30, 2006

STAR LOCK SYSTEMS, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
DIXIE-NARCO, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Gregory L. Frost

Magistrate Judge Mark R. Abel

OPINION AND ORDER

The captioned case involves a patent infringement dispute between Plaintiff, Star Lock Systems, Inc. ("Star Lock"), and Defendants, TriTeq Lock & Security, LLC, Dixie-Narco, Inc., Royal Vendors, Inc., PepsiAmericas, Inc., and G&J Pepsi-Cola Bottlers, Inc.*fn1 As part of this litigation, the parties have requested that the Court construe various patent language pursuant to Markman v. Westview Instruments, Incorporated, 517 U.S. 370 (1996). This claims-construction decision serves that function.

I. Background

Given the procedural posture of this litigation, the Court need not and shall not describe the facts in great detail here. Of import here is that Star Lock is the owner of Patent No. 5,269,161 ("the '161 patent"). The company applied for the patent on March 27, 1991 (relating back to the earlier-obtained Patent No. 5,022,243), and the patent issued on December 14, 1993. The '161 patent is titled "Latching System" and involves technology for a locking assembly.

On July 9, 2003, Star Lock filed the instant suit, claiming that TriTeq has infringed on the '161 patent. Various delays ensued while the parties attempted to settle the litigation and then proceeded to a reexamination period in the U.S. Patent Office. The parties' dispute at this juncture focuses on the following language contained within in the '161 patent:

26. Latching apparatus for releasably latching a first door element, such as a vending machine door, or the like, and a second door element, such as a vending machine frame, or the like, said apparatus comprising: a post member including, at least, a latching portion which includes at least one notched surface; a latching assembly defining a passage for accepting said latching portion of said post member therein, and including, at least, a latch means for effectuating a grip on said notched surface when said latching portion of said post member is within said passage; a releasing means for releasing said grip between said notched surface and said latch means; and a cinch cam means for exerting an axial cinching force on said post member.

('161 Patent, col. 14, lines 63-68, col. 15, lines 1-9.)

27. Apparatus of claim 26, wherein said post member is supported by one of the door elements and includes, at least, a coupling segment and a radial pin which protrudes radically from said coupling segment, wherein said latching assembly is supported by the other of the door elements, wherein said cinch cam means includes, at least, a force-receiving cam surface and a force-exerting cam surface, further including a primary cylindrical cam means for exerting a primary axial force opposite said cinching force on said cinch cam means, and wherein said cinch cam means is constructed to: through said force-receiving cam surface, receive said primary axial force from said primary cylindrical cam means and convert said axial force into a rotational force which effects rotation of said cinch cam means, and through said force-exerting cam surface, convert said rotational force into said axial cinching force and transfer said cinching force to said coupling segment of said post member through said radial pin.

('161 Patent, col. 15, lines 10-32.)

28. Apparatus of claim 26, wherein said apparatus further comprises a primary cylindrical cam means for exerting a primary axial force opposite said cinching force on said cinch cam means, wherein said post member further comprises a coupling segment and a radial pin which protrudes radially from said coupling segment, and wherein said cinch cam means comprises a force-receiving cam surface and a force-exerting cam surface, said cinch cam means constructed to: through said force-receiving cam surface, receive said primary axial force from said primary cylindrical cam means and convert said axial force into a rotational force which effects rotation of said cinch cam means, and through said force-exerting cam service, convert said rotational force into said axial cinching force and transfer said cinching force to said coupling segment of said post member through said radial pin.

('161 Patent, col. 15, lines 33-50.) The Court notes that as a result of proceedings during the stay of this case, the independent Claim 26 has been canceled. Claims 27 and 28 are based on Claim 26, however, and incorporate its language.

The parties have completed briefing the claim-construction issues (Docs. # 104, 105, 108, 109), and on August 4, 2006, the Court held a Markman hearing.

II. Claim Construction

A. Standards Involved

The Federal Circuit has explained that " '[i]t is a "bedrock principle" of patent law that "the claims of a patent define the invention to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude."' " Varco, L.P. v. Pason Systems USA Corp., No. 05-1136, 2006 WL 229926, at *4 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 1, 2006) (quoting Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc) (quoting Innova/Pure Water, Inc. v. Safari Water Filtration Sys., Inc., 381 F.3d 1111, ...


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