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BASF Corp. v. Johnson Matthey Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

November 20, 2017

BASF CORPORATION, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
JOHNSON MATTHEY INC., Defendant-Appellee

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Delaware in No. 1:14-cv-01204-SLR-SRF, Judge Sue L. Robinson.

          Deanne Maynard, Morrison & Foerster LLP, Washington, DC, argued for plaintiff-appellant. Also represented by Marc A. Hearron, Seth W. Lloyd, Daniel P. Muino.

          Douglas E. McCann, Fish & Richardson, P.C., Wilmington, DE, argued for defendant-appellee. Also represented by Patrick D. Cooney, Martina Tyreus Hufnal, Robert M. Oakes.

          Before Lourie, O'Malley, and Taranto, Circuit Judges.

          Taranto, Circuit Judge.

         BASF Corporation owns U.S. Patent No. 8, 524, 185, which describes and claims systems for performing catalytic conversion of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in an exhaust gas stream. As relevant here, the patent claims a partly-dual-layer arrangement of coatings on a substrate over which exhaust gas passes-a coat along the full length of the substrate containing "a material composition B effective to catalyze selective catalytic reduction (SCR) of NOx"; and beneath part of that coat, on the outlet end of the gas passage, a partial-substrate undercoat containing "a material composition A effective for catalyzing NH3 oxidation" (ammonia oxidation, or AMOx). '185 patent, col. 19, lines 40-55 (claim 1); see also id., col. 20, lines 3-5 (dependent claim 5, similar); id., col. 20, lines 42-62 (independent claim 17, similar, but adding restrictions concerning precious metals). In 2014, BASF sued its competitor, Johnson Matthey Inc., for infringement of the '185 patent. The district court held that the "effective for catalyzing"/"effective to catalyze" language is indefinite and entered judgment of invalidity of all claims on that basis.

         BASF appeals. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(1). We reverse the judgment of invalidity for indefiniteness. We remand for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.

         I

         A

         The '185 patent claims a partly-dual-layer arrangement of catalytic coatings on a substrate over which exhaust gas passes, e.g., the walls of a flow-through chamber having a honeycomb structure, whose function is to remove NOx from a stream of exhaust gas while minimizing the amount of ammonia that ends up being released from the system. Claim 1 is representative:

         A catalyst system for treating an exhaust gas stream containing NOx, the system comprising:

at least one monolithic catalyst substrate having an inlet end and an outlet end; an undercoat washcoat layer coated on one the outlet end of the monolithic substrate and which covers less than 100% of the total length of the monolithic substrate, and containing a material composition A effective for catalyzing NH3 oxidation;
an overcoat washcoat layer coated over a total length of the monolithic substrate from the inlet end to the outlet end sufficient to overlay the undercoat washcoat layer, and containing a material composition B effective to catalyze selective catalytic reduction (SCR) of NOx; and
wherein material composition A and material composition B are maintained as physically separate ...

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