Federal Circuit No. 2012-1167

In Regents of the University of Minnesota (“the University”) v. AGA Medical Corporation (“AGA”), the Federal circuit addressed an issue of claim construction. The University owns two patents (US 6,077,291 and US 6,077,281) relating to “septal occluders”, which are medical devices used to block holes in a thin wall of muscle and tissue (a “septum”) dividing two chambers of the heart. In the patents, the invention is described as a septal occluder with two occluding disks “affixed” to one another at their centers, to define a "conjoint disk”. The University sued AGA, asserting infringement of the two patents. The accused AGA device is described as a one-piece device. The district court determined that the claims of the patents required "two physically separate membrane discs that are attached to one another". The University appealed to the Federal Circuit, asserting that District Court erred in claim construction. The Federal Circuit concluded that the separateness conclusion is fully supported by the specification, including claims, written descriptions and drawings, and also supported by the prosecution history. The Federal Circuit also concluded that the claim construction is faithful to the ordinary meaning of the language of the claims, finding support in a dictionary definition. The District Court decision was affirmed.