Federal Circuit No. 2013-1679

On October 20, 2014, the Federal Circuit rendered its opinion in World Class Technology Corp. v. Ormco Corp., holding that the stated purpose of an invention may serve to limit the covered embodiments.

In the District Court, World Class Technology brought a declaratory judgment action of non-infringement for five of Ormco's patents. Ormco counterclaimed and sought a preliminary injunction based on U.S. Patent No. 8,393,896, which was the only patent at issue on appeal. The '896 patent relates to self-ligating orthodontic brackets that include a "support surface." The main issue in this case is what constraints the claim language and the specification put on the "support surface" during movement of a moveable member. Based on the District Court's construction, the parties stipulated to a judgment of non-infringement.

On appeal, Ormco argued that the claims were broad enough to cover two embodiments. The first embodiment was described in the specification and involves the "support surface" supporting the moveable member during movement. In this embodiment, the support surface is acutely angled away from the gums so that when the moveable member is inserted from the bottom, the gums are avoided. The second embodiment, which is found nowhere in the specification, involves the moveable member being inserted from the top.

The Federal Circuit began its analysis with the plain meaning of "support surface." Thereafter, the Court looked to the specification, which recited gum avoidance as the sole purpose of the acute angle of the support surface. As such, the Court determined that the claims could not encompass the second embodiment because the sole purpose of the acute angle would not be served in such a configuration. Further, the Court rejected Ormco's claim differentiation argument by stating that the presumption of difference in claim scope may be overcome by a contrary construction dictated by the written description. Accordingly, the District Court's finding of non-infringement was upheld.