The Fed. Cir. reverses a district court for failing to enforce a party’s stipulation that, should the doctrine of equivalents apply, the accused product would infringe by equivalence. The Fed. Cir. remanded for entry of judgment of infringement. The district court rejected accused infringer R&P’s argument that the doctrine of equivalents could not capture equivalents foreseeable when the claims were prepared. The district court held that finding equivalence would vitiate the limitation in question, and so entered summary judgment of noninfringement.
Ring & Pinion Service, Inc. v. ARB Corp., ___ F.3d ___ (Fed. Cir. Feb. 19, 2014) (MOORE, Clevenger, Reyna) (W.D. Wash.) (1 of 5 stars)
Foreseeability and the DOE: The Fed. Cir. confirmed that there is no foreseeability exception to the doctrine of equivalents. “There is not, nor has there ever been, a foreseeability limitation on the application of the doctrine of equivalents.” Slip op. at 4. After distinguishing “equivalence” when assessing literal infringement of means-plus-function limitations from “equivalence” under the doctrine of equivalents, the Fed. Cir. ruled that there is no precedent supporting “a foreseeability exception to the doctrine of equivalents that applies to means-plus-function or any other claim terms.” Id. at 7.
Vitiation: “Vitiation is ‘not an exception to the doctrine of equivalents, but instead a legal determination that the evidence is such that no reasonable jury could determine two elements to be equivalent.’” Id. at 9. Here, the parties’ stipulation established equivalence, so the doctrine of vitiation did not apply. The Fed. Cir. also rejected R&P’s argument that ARB had waived its ability to have the stipulation enforced when ARB did not discuss the stipulation in certain supplemental briefing.