Samson Manufacturing, Corp., et al v Austin Precision Products, Inc. d/b/a Larue Tactical, Civil Action No. 09-cv-30027-MAP, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64287 (D. Mass. June 29, 2010) (Posnor, D.J.) [Indefiniteness, Claim Construction].

The District Court (Posnor, D.J.) issued a memorandum and order construing various disputed terms and phrases in the claims of U.S. Patent Number 7,356,152, and ruling on indefiniteness. Selected claim constructions are reviewed.

Plaintiffs Samson Manufacturing Corp. and Scott W. Samson (“Samson”) sued defendant Austin Precision Products, Inc., d/b/a Larue Tactical (“Austin”) for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,367,152 (the “’152 patent”), directed to a device for mounting firearm accessories, such as scopes and magnifiers, to firearms. In general, the device has two clamps: a bottom half clampable to a firearm and a top half clampable to the accessory. The top half is pivotable relative to the bottom half, permitting a user to move the accessory when it is not in use. The accused device provides similar functionality but does not resemble the drawing of some embodiments in the ’152 patent.

Indefiniteness and Claim Construction: Substantially In the Court’s memorandum and order regarding claim construction, the Court addressed the Defendant’s contention that claim 1 was indefinite, stating the terms “substantial” and “substantially” are not defined in the specification of the ‘152 patent. The Court, however, found that the term “substantially” is commonly used to imply approximate rather than perfect, and that the use of the term in the ’152 patent was consistent with this usage. Accordingly, the claim was not indefinite.

In light of this holding, the Court construed the phrases: “in substantial alignment with” to mean at least largely parallel to; “substantially vertically” to mean substantially perpendicular to the horizon; and “substantially parallel to” to mean largely extending in the same direction. Austin generally argued for narrower definitions but the Court held that the term “substantially” imported a sense of approximation to the phrases. For instance, while the defendant argued that the phrase “substantially parallel” prevented the capture of devices not aligned well enough to position a sighting device with the necessary precision, the Court noted that the degree of precision was not specified by claim 1.

Claim Construction: Longitudinal Symmetry

Defendant attempted to have the phrases “longitudinal axis of said mounting base” and “extending upwardly therefrom” to have meanings that required the mounting base be symmetrical and the supporting structure be symmetrical about the longitudinal axis of the mounting base, respectively. The Court did not find anything in the intrinsic evidence that supported such a limiting meaning.

Claim Construction: Latched and Released Position

Defendant argued that the phrase “latched position” should be construed to mean position in which the accessory receiver is engaged such that a sighting device held by the accessory receiver would be in use, stating that the specification used locked and engaged synonymously in the summary and that engaged and disengaged means active and inactive positions for the accessory clamp. The Court rejected Austin’s argument, noting that different elements of the device described in the patent could be engaged or disengaged while the mount was in use. Accordingly, the Court adopted the following construction: a position of mechanical engagement with the supporting structure. The Court applied similar reasoning to construe “released position” as a position free of mechanical engagement with the supporting structure.

Claim Construction: Means Plus Function Language

Austin argued that the phrase “clamping device” in claim 4 of the ’152 patent and the phrase “clamping means” of claim 5 should both be interpreted as means plus function language under 35 U.S.C. §112, sixth paragraph. The Court stated that the term clamping connoted a certain type of device in common parlance, and thus provided structural specificity that a means plus function element would lack. Accordingly, the Court held that claim 4 did not contain a means plus function element.