United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
Sig Sauer, Inc.; Check-Mate Industries, Inc.; Check-Mate International Products, Inc.; Nordon, Inc.; and Thomas Pierce d/b/a Pierce Design, Plaintiffs
Freed Designs, Inc., Defendant Opinion No. 2016 DNH 096
L. Carroll, Esq.
Zachary R. Gates, Esq.
E. Friedman, Esq.
Michael J. Bujold, Esq.
J. McAuliffe United States District Judge
parties propose differing constructions of the following
terms as used in the ‘764 patent at issue:
"shoulder" and "bottom shoulder."
patent protects the invention of a grip extender for
handguns. The grip extender attaches to, and facilitates the
convenient use of, longer magazines in a handgun by providing
a continuous and comfortable hand grip. Oversimplified
perhaps, but it is enough, for current purposes, to say that
the invention operates in the following way. A magazine
slides downward into the grip extender and, as it travels,
the magazine’s floor plate compresses pliable vertical
"ribs" along the inner surface of the extender
until the floor plate clears those ribs, at which point the
bottom of the floor plate comes to rest on a "tang,
" while the bottom of the "ribs" expand back
over the top of the floor plate, thereby securing the
magazine in the extender by means of the opposing pressure
between the ribs and tang. The terms at issue are used in the
following context in Claim 1:
. . . said collar having a size and shape sufficient to
elastically receive and grip the magazine and magazine floor
plate thereby securely retaining the collar and having at
least one pair of opposed tangs oriented inward from the
interior side walls of the collar; and b) further comprising
at least one pair of opposed ribs, said ribs oriented inward
from the interior side walls of the collar, with a bottom
shoulder of said ribs distanced above the tangs, said
distance approximately equal the determinable thickness of
the magazine floor plate; and c) when sliding the grip
extender into its final position on the magazine, a step of
the said tangs engages the lower surface of the floor plate
and captures the corresponding upper surface of floor plate
against said the bottom shoulders of the opposed
ribs. (Emphasis supplied.)
functional description in Claim 1 seems unambiguous and is
easily understood. The ribs and tangs hold the magazine
flange securely between them, thereby stabilizing and
securing the extender to the magazine. It is equally clear
that the term "bottom shoulder" is used in direct
reference to the "ribs" to describe the bottom end
of the ribs that engage the upper part of the flange. (I use
"flange" as a common English word easily understood
as an equivalent but less cumbersome means of expressing
"a floor plate, of determinable thickness, with a lower
surface and an upper surface, with said floor plate also
having a peripheral surface larger than a peripheral surface
of a corresponding body of the magazine.")
what does the phrase "bottom shoulder" of the ribs
mean, as it is used in the patent? Or, more correctly, what
would a person of ordinary skill in the pertinent art think
it means? Neither party deemed it useful to offer the opinion
of a person of ordinary skill in a pertinent art, though they
were given that opportunity at the claim construction
hearing. Both counsel are content to rest on the papers
well-understood that "the words of a claim are generally
given their ordinary and customary meaning."
Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed.
Cir. 2005) (citations and internal punctuation omitted).
"We have made clear, moreover, that the ordinary and
customary meaning of a claim term is the meaning that term
would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art in
question at the time of the invention, i.e., as of the
effective filing date of the patent application."
Id. at 1313 (citations omitted). When construing
claim terms one relies primarily upon "intrinsic
evidence, " i.e., the claims, the specification, and the
prosecution history, reading the terms in the context of the
claim and the patent as a whole. See Sunovion Pharms.,
Inc. v. Teva Pharms. USA, Inc., 731 F.3d 1271, 1276
(Fed. Cir. 2013).
words used in a claim must be given their common meanings
unless the inventor used them differently. Inline
Plastics Corp. v. Tenneco Packing Corp., 979 F.Supp. 79,
83 (D. Conn. 1997), Envirotech Corp. v. Al George,
Inc., 730 F.2d 753, 759 (Fed. Cir. 1984). And, of
course, the common meaning is the meaning a person of
ordinary skill in the relevant art would give to the claim.
Inline Plastics, the term "shoulder" or
here, "bottom shoulder, " as used in Claim 1 of the
‘764 Patent, "is consistent with the relevant,
common dictionary meaning of the word ‘shoulder,
’ that is, any projection for keeping something in
place, or preventing movement past the projection."
Inline Plastics, at 83 (citing Funk and Wagnall,
Standard College Dictionary, (1963). Nothing in the
‘764 patent, or the pleadings filed, suggests that the
inventor meant to use the term "shoulder"
differently. Indeed, in context, the common meaning is
entirely consistent with the described function of the
reasonable person of ordinary skill in the field of
mechanical or product design engineering related to small
arms manufacturing would readily understand the term
"shoulder, " in the context of Claim 1, to mean
that bottom surface of the described ribs that engages the
upper part of the magazine flange. The described
"shoulder" is plainly meant to provide an abutment
between the ribs themselves and the upper part of the flange
- an opposing force capturing or containing the flange,