The opinion of the court was delivered by: ALFRED WOLIN, Senior District Judge.
The litigants before the Court are both manufacturers of
exercise equipment. At issue is whether the inclination assembly
of a home-use treadmill infringes a patent held by plaintiff,
Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. ("Icon"). Icon initiated this
action alleging that the incline mechanism of the TX350 Treadmill
("TX350"), manufactured by defendant, Sportcraft, Ltd.
("Sportcraft") infringes on United States Patent No. 5,672,140
(the "'140 patent").
In its application for summary judgment, Sportcraft asserts
that the incline adjusters on the TX350 are structures that are
neither identical nor equivalent to the "inclination means"
limitation of the '140 patent. Icon alternatively seeks summary
judgment stating that the TX350 both literally infringes Claim 26
of the '140 patent and infringes based on the doctrine of
equivalents. This motion has been decided upon the written
submissions of the parties pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 78. For the reasons stated herein, the Court will grant
Sportcraft's motion for summary judgment. In doing so, the Court
also denies Icon's motion for summary judgment.
Icon, a company with its principal place of business in Logan,
Utah, is a leading manufacturer of home exercise and sporting
equipment. Icon is the owner by assignment of the '140 patent.
Icon's '140 patent is directed to a reorienting treadmill, that
is, a treadmill that can be selectively moved between a first, or
operational position, and a second, or folded position. More
importantly, the '140 patent discloses treadmills that incline
and decline through various structures and using various
Sportcraft, a Delaware corporation with its principal place of
business in Mt. Olive, New Jersey, provides products for indoor
and outdoor games. In August 2001, Sportcraft entered the
treadmill market with the TX350 brand treadmill. The TX350 is a
reorienting treadmill with an inclination mechanism located near
the rear of the tread base. To adjust the incline of the tread
base on which the user runs, the user must manually rotate each
of the two triangular-shaped feet. Icon claims that the
inclination mechanism of the TX350 infringes Claim 26, ¶ 3 of
the '140 patent.
On November 19, 2001, Icon filed a complaint alleging that the
TX350 infringes the '140 patent. Icon thereafter filed a motion
for a preliminary injunction which the Court denied in a
Memorandum Opinion entered on March 13, 2002. (See Memorandum
Opinion and Order ("Memorandum Opinion")). In the Memorandum
Opinion, this Court acknowledged that the parties dispute only
Claim 26, ¶ 3 of the '140 patent which describes the
adjustable incline mechanism. In the current proceeding, the same
is true. Icon alleges that the incline adjusters of the TX350
infringe the '140 patent because they are either identical or
equivalent to an inclination embodiment of Claim 26, ¶ 3.
A. Summary Judgment Standard
Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides
that summary judgment shall be granted if "the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,
together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party
is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c); see Hersh v. Allen Prods. Co., 789 F.2d 230, 232 (3d Cir.
1986). A dispute involving a material fact is "genuine" only "if
the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).
The Supreme Court also observed that "[o]nly disputes over facts
that might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law
will properly preclude an entry of summary judgment." Id.; see
also Ness v. Marshall, 660 F.2d 517, 519 (3d Cir. 1981) (holding
that the role of district court is to determine whether genuine
issue of material fact exists).
Furthermore, when considering a summary judgment motion, a
Court must view all evidence submitted in a light most favorable
to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.,
Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348,
89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Meyer v. Riegel Prods. Corp., 720 F.2d 303,
307 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1983). Although the summary judgment hurdle is
a difficult one to meet, it is by no means insurmountable.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court concluded that "[o]ne of the,
principal purposes of the summary judgment rule is to isolate and
dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses, and we think
it should be interpreted in a way that allows it to accomplish
this purpose." Celotex Corp. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24,
106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).
The fact that the lawsuit involves a non-infringement analysis
does not render this case unsuitable for summary judgment.
Summary judgment is "as appropriate in a patent case as any
other" case under Rule 56(c). Avia Group Int'l, Inc. v. L.A. Gear
Cal., Inc., 853 F.2d 1557, 1561 (Fed. Cir. 1988); Ciba-Geigy Corp.
v. Alza Corp., 864 F. Supp. 429, 432-33 (D.N.J. 1994). The
Federal Court has advised, "[w]here no issue of material fact is
present . . . courts should not hesitate to avoid an unnecessary
trial by proceeding under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 without regard to the
particular type of suit involved." Chore-Time Equip., Inc. v.
Cumberland Corp., 713 F.2d 774, 778-79 (Fed. Cir. 1983).
It is with these tenets in mind that the Court considers
defendant's motion and plaintiff's cross-motion for summary
A trial court is not obliged "to interpret claim[s]
conclusively and finally during a preliminary injunction
proceeding." Sofamor Danek Group v. DePuy-Motech, 74 F.3d 1216,
1221 (Fed. Cir. 1996). Therefore, although the Court had an
opportunity to construe Claim 26 of the '140 patent in its
Memorandum Opinion, that construction need not be the final
An infringement analysis requires two separate steps. First, a
court must construe the claims asserted to be infringed as a
matter of law in order to establish their meaning and scope. See
Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 976 (Fed. Cir.
1995). Second, the claims as construed are then compared to the
allegedly infringing device. See id. In this latter step, patent
infringement may be found in either of two ways: literal
infringement or infringement under the doctrine of equivalents.
Since Markman, the interpretation of patent claim terms falls
within the exclusive province of the court. See id. at 967; see
also Kraft Foods, Inc. v. Int'l Trading Co., 203 F.3d 1362, 1366
(Fed. Cir. 2000). The standard to be applied for claim
construction is what one of ordinary skill in the art at the time
of the invention would have understood the term to mean. Markman,
52 F.3d at 986. To ascertain the meaning of a patent claim, "the
court should first look to the intrinsic evidence of record,
i.e., the patent itself, including the claims, the specification
and, if in evidence, the prosecution history." Vitronics Corp. v.
Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996); see also
Markman, 52 F.3d at 979-81.
The claims of the patent establish the limits and boundaries of
the patent while the specification, of which the claims are a
part, contains a written description of the invention that would
enable one of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the
invention. Markman, 52 F.3d at 979-80. "For ...