The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge
Presently before the court is defendants' First Quality Baby Products, LLC, First Quality Products, Inc., First Quality Retail Services, LLC, and First Quality Hygienic, Inc. (collectively "First Quality") motion for summary judgment, seeking invalidity on the grounds of indefiniteness certain asserted claims of plaintiff Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc.'s ("KC") U.S. Patent No. 5,147,343 ("Kellenberger Patent") and U.S. Patent No. 5,601,542 ("Melius Patent"). First Quality contends that asserted claims 1, 8, 9, 20, and 41 of the Kellenberger Patent and asserted claims 16, 18, 19, 22-24, 64, 65, 69, 71, 73, 74, 78, 79, 83, 84, and 88 of the Melius Patent are invalid because the claim terms "at least about" and "less than about," found in various combinations throughout the aforementioned patents, are indefinite. KC argues that summary judgment should be denied because both terms are capable of construction, and thus are not insolubly ambiguous.
We will examine the motion under the well-established standard. Lawrencev. City of Philadelphia, 527 F.3d 299, 310 (3d. Cir. 2008). After careful review of the briefs and the record, we will grant defendants' motion.
The Kellenberger Patent concerns an absorbent composite or core for an absorbent article. More specifically, the absorbent composite consists of a matrix of fibers and superabsorbent material that is designed to absorb fluids, but dramatically reduce the thickness and weight of an absorbent article. Like the Kellenberger Patent, the Melius Patent also concerns absorbent articles containing superabsorbent material. Melius advances the technology of Kellenberger by increasing the concentration of superabsorbent within the absorbent composite. In addition, Melius discloses a method and procedure for evaluating superabsorbent materials
This controversy originally began in February 2009 when defendants filed a complaint in this court seeking declaratory judgment of invalidity and noninfringment of the Kuepper Patent. KC moved for dismissal arguing that we lacked subject matter jurisdiction. We agreed and dismissed the case. See First Quality Baby Prods., LLC v. Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc., No. 09-0354, 2009 WL 1675088 (M.D. Pa. June 15, 2009). Prior to our dismissal, however, KC filed a patent infringement action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. On August 31, 2009, KC's infringement action was transferred to this court.
On June 9, 2010, we held a claim construction hearing where both parties set forth their positions on the proper interpretation for disputed claim terms. During this hearing and through accompanying briefs, we became aware of First Quality's contention that certain claim terms found in the Kellenberger and Melius Patents were invalid for indefiniteness. Based on First Quality's submissions, we concluded that its contentions had arguable merit, and we converted its request to the instant motion for summary judgment.
A. Indefiniteness Principles
A patent specification must "conclude with one or more claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter which the applicant regards as his invention." 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 2. The purpose of the definiteness requirement is to "ensure that the claims delineate the scope of the invention using language that adequately notifies the public of the patentee's right to exclude." Datamize, LLC v. Plumtree Software, Inc., 417 F.3d 1342, 1347 (Fed. Cir. 2005). "A decision as to whether a claim is invalid under this provision requires a determination whether those skilled in the art would understand what is claimed." Amgen, Inc. v. Chugai Pharm. Co., Ltd., 927
F.2d 1200, 1217 (Fed. Cir. 1991). The definiteness requirement does not demand absolute clarity. Datamize, 417 F.3d at 1347. "Only claims not amendable to construction or insolubly ambiguous are indefinite." Id. "Even if a claim term's definition can be reduced to words, the claim is still indefinite if a person of ordinary skill in the art cannot translate the definition into meaningfully precise claim scope." Halliburton Energy Servs., Inc. v. M-I LLC, 514 F.3d 1244, 1251 (Fed. Cir. 2008). In the final analysis, "[i]f one skilled in the art would understand the bounds of the claim when read in light of the specification, then the claim satisfies section 112, paragraph 2." Exxon Research and Engineering Co. v. United States, 265 F.3d 1371, 1375 (Fed. Cir. 2001)(citing Miles Labs., Inc. v. Shandon, Inc., 997 F.2d 870, 875 (Fed. Cir. 1993)).
In conducting our analysis, we must be mindful that a patent is presumed valid, 35 U.S.C. § 282, and this presumption can only be overcome by clear and convincing evidence. Helifix Ltd. v. Blok-Lok, Ltd., 208 F.3d 1339, 1346 (Fed. Cir. 2000); see also Datamize, 417 F.3d at 1348 (recognizing that clear and convincing evidence needed to show invalidity based on indefiniteness). To this end, general ...