2015年9月15日 星期二

附屬項的均等論討論 - Honeywell International, Inc. v. Hamilton Sundstrand Corp.(CAFC)

札記:

Felix v. Honda案例中有關均等論的討論:

"當專利權人刪除獨立項,並為了要獲准專利而改寫附屬項為另一新增獨立範圍,即使這個修改仍未被核准,仍建立了歷史禁反言"("The rewriting of dependent claims into independent form coupled with the cancellation of the original independent claims creates a presumption of prosecution history estoppel.")

地方法院認為,Felix在答辯過程中,在「襯墊」的限制為核准專利的重要的限制條件,故不能主張均等擴張範圍(The district court rejected Felix's argument that the amendment adding the gasket limitation was tangential to patentability)

"Felix在修正過程中,放棄了主要範圍Claim 1而將Claim 7改寫為另一新增獨立項(非如審查委員建議可核准的Claim 8),建立了歷史禁反言"("Felix’s decision in the first amendment to cancel original claim 1 and to rewrite original claim 7 in independent form as claim 14 gave rise to a presumption of surrender.4")

與同事討論中也提到:
在這案例中,” Felix在修正過程中,放棄了主要範圍Claim 1而將Claim 7改寫為另一新增獨立項,而非如審查委員建議可核准的Claim 8

這個修正結果造成禁反言,”Felix在第一次答辯過程的限縮並非是順著審查委員可核准的方面去限縮,造成歷史禁反言。

意思就是,如果造著審查委員可核准方向限縮,將保有「均等論適用」?
不過,按照CAFC認為,將附屬項改寫為獨立項的動作視為「限縮」來看,這種按照核准方向的限縮應該仍不適用均等論。

也就是:
附屬項改寫為獨立形式,表示已經拋棄了原獨立請求項範圍,這個修正產生了禁反言("The rewriting of dependent claims into independent form coupled with the cancellation of the original independent claims creates a presumption of prosecution history estoppel.")

"根據Festo判例,當專利權人回應核駁理由而做出範圍限制,這個動作將使得專利權人日後無法主張被原有Claim所涵蓋較廣的權利範圍,無法主張均等論"

"Felix在第一次答辯過程的限縮並非是順著審查委員可核准的方面去限縮,造成歷史禁反言"

"當專利權人刪除獨立項,並為了要獲准專利而改寫附屬項為另一新增獨立範圍,即使這個修改仍未被核准,仍建立了歷史禁反言"("We therefore hold that the presumption of prosecution history estoppel attaches when a patentee cancels an independent claim and rewrites a dependent claim in independent form for reasons related to patentability, even if the amendment alone does not succeed in placing the claim in condition for allowance.")

另一案例Honeywell v. Hamilton:
即便限縮的附屬項並未變動,但是改寫為獨立項的修正,如案例Honeywell,因為將原獨立項刪除(拋棄),已經建立禁反言。
("Honeywell, 370 F.3d at 1142 (“[T]he fact that the scope of the rewritten claim has remained unchanged will not preclude the application of prosecution history estoppel if, by canceling the original independent claim and rewriting the dependent claims into independent form, the scope of subject matter claimed in the independent claim has been narrowed to secure the patent.”)")

均等論推定非適用加入的限制上。
("Equivalents are presumptively not available with respect to that added limitation.")

CAFC於2004年案例"Honeywell International Inc. v. Hamilton Sundstrand Corporation"指出,將附屬項改寫為獨立項後,即便附屬項逐項來看,範圍沒變,仍不適用均等論。不同於地方法院,CAFC將此合併範圍視為限縮修正
"On appeal, the Federal Circuit held that rewriting a dependent claim into independent form is a narrowing amendment, which bars the application of the Doctrine of Equivalents for the subject matter added from the dependent claim to the original subject matter of the independent claim."


案例討論:

案件資訊:
原告(專利權人):Honeywell International, Inc.
被告(侵權被告、上訴人):Hamilton Sundstrand Corp.
系爭專利:US4,380,893US4,428,194

US4,380,893
專利涉及一種控制壓縮機洩放空氣的系統,其中透過一個電湧洩氣閥(surge bleed valve),控制洩氣的比例維持一個恆定的最小氣流量。此系統可用於交通工具上,如飛機。

系爭專利,指'893,在審查過程中,曾經表示其獨立項不准專利,但是某附屬項修改為獨立項即可獲准專利,Honeywell也據此修正。

Honeywell International, Inc. v. Hamilton Sundstrand Corp. (CAFC 2004/2008)

2004年討論:

(Honeywell I)
案件進入侵權訴訟中(地方法院),被告自然是抓住這個審查中的修正(限縮)作為均等論不適用的抗辯,但專利權人則主張這是將原附屬項改寫為獨立形式,範圍並未變動,沒有建立禁反言。在地方法院中,陪審團認為均等論適用,侵權成立,被告應賠償專利權人4千5百萬美元。

(Honeywell II)
CAFC在2004年對Honeywell v. Hamilton案例的判決表示,否決地方法院作出侵權成立(均等論適用)的決定,因為專利權人審查時刪除了原獨立請求項,因此建立了歷史禁反言。
法院發回重審,事實上是因為知道建立禁反言的基礎是有有實質修正與新的限縮特徵加入請求項範圍,但是本系爭專利審查的修正僅是併入原附屬項的限制,因此作出發回重審的決定,希望地院陪審團可以重新審視Honeywell是否有"拋棄"範圍的意圖,而適用Festo判例所建立的禁反言規則(presumption of surrender under the criteria set forth in Festo)。

(Honeywell III)
案件回到地方法院,這回,地方法院就順著CAFC於2004年的決定作出不侵權判決,也就是專利範圍不適用均等論的決定。這個決定涉及「可預見性(foreseeability)」,可看本文後段解釋。
法院認為,因為專利權人並未證明在修正當時的均等範圍可預見性,或是限縮專利範圍與相關均等範圍無關(沒有超過略為相關的關聯),使得均等論不適用。
"Because Honeywell did not show that the alleged equivalent was unforeseeable at the time of the narrowing amendment or that the narrowing amendment bore no more than a tangential relation to the alleged equivalent, this court affirms."

(Honeywell IV)
2008年討論:
CAFC於2008年對Honeywell v. Hamilton作出結論,此處涉及均等範圍的可預見性,同意地方法院對此案均等論意見的「解套」,判決指出,專利權人Honeywell無法證明修正當下已經可以預見目前意欲均等的範圍,這是需要專家證人與外部證據來證明。
"The Court held that the patentee could not show that the alleged equivalent was unforeseeable at the time of the narrowing amendment or that the narrowing amendment bore no more than a tangential relation to the alleged equivalent."

可預見性的原則是要確保專利範圍涵蓋所有可預見的情況,同時保護專利權人對抗不可預見的非實質性變化的情況。
"The Court reiterated that the goal of the principle of foreseeability is to “ensure that the claims continue to define patent scope in all foreseeable circumstances, while protecting patent owners against insubstantial variations from [the] claimed element in unforeseeable circumstances."

一旦被告侵權者(如本案Sundstrand)發展的技術在專利範圍修正之後,這個可預見性將成為重要均等論討論的抗辯理由。這件案例在Honeywell無法提出證據,以及無法反駁歷史禁反言的推論下作出均等論不適用的決定。

結論:
For the reasons stated herein, the court holds that Honeywell has failed to rebut the presumption of surrender, and is therefore barred by prosecution history estoppel from asserting the doctrine of equivalents. This court affirms the judgment of the district court.
AFFIRMED

(重要)
法官Newman對此案從2004年到2008年都持反對意見(我認為她太棒了,她常常否定自己同事的多數決定,不少是獲得很多人的認同),就此案來看,她也表示反對意見,認為CAFC在2004年的決定已經破壞原本專利附屬項的意義,附屬項範圍應該視為獨立項,而且是為了簡潔的方便,也方便審查,當獲准時,若沒有範圍的限縮,應仍適用均等論解釋專利範圍。

一些Newman的意見摘錄:
"The court today applies its new presumption of surrender to all equivalents of the claim elements and limitations that originated in dependent claims that were never amended and that were not the subject of prosecution history estoppel. The court held in its previous opinion, Honeywell Int'l, Inc. v. Hamilton Sundstrand Corp., 370 F.3d 1131 (Fed. Cir. 2004) that "the surrendered subject matter is defined by the cancellation of independent claims that do not include a particular limitation and the rewriting into independent form of dependent claims that do include that limitation."

"Under such circumstances, the surrendered subject matter is defined by the cancellation of independent claims that do not include a particular limitation and the rewriting into independent form of dependent claims that do include that limitation. Equivalents are presumptively not available with respect to that added limitation."

"Patent claims are customarily presented in independent and dependent form, a practice encouraged by the Patent and Trademark Office, for it simplifies examination."

"Equivalency is determined element by element, Warner-Jenkinson, 520 U.S. at 29, yet on the panel majority's presumption of surrender, there is no restricting action by which to measure what was surrendered. In Festo the Court was explicit that the burden is to "show[] that the amendment does not surrender the particular equivalent in question." 535 U.S. at 740. My colleagues err in now holding that all equivalents of an element presented by dependent claim are presumed surrendered by simply cancelling the independent claim."

議題涉及「可預見性(foreseeability)」,均等論適用也應參考技術上的可預見性,也就是,均等論不能無限上綱,也就是在修改專利範圍的當下,該發明所屬一般技術人員是否可以"預見"所可以均等的範圍?如果均等範圍涵蓋「將來的技術」,若在修正當下不得知道這個未來技術,並非可預見。如果相關領域的先前技術可知的均等範圍,修正時也是可預見的技術。這部分證明應該會仰賴專家以及外部證據。

Foreseeability
On remand from the Supreme Court in Festo, this court explained that the foreseeability criterion
presents an objective inquiry, asking whether the alleged equivalent would have been unforeseeable to one of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the amendment. Usually, if the alleged equivalent represents later-developed technology (e.g., transistors in relation to vacuum tubes, or Velcro (R) in relation to fasteners) or technology that was not known in the relevant art, then it would not have been foreseeable. In contrast, old technology, while not always foreseeable, would more likely have been foreseeable. Indeed, if the alleged equivalent were known in the prior art in the field of the invention, it certainly should have been foreseeable at the time of the amendment. By its very nature, objective unforeseeability depends on underlying factual issues relating to, for example, the state of the art and the understanding of a hypothetical person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the amendment. Therefore, in determining whether an alleged equivalent would have been unforeseeable, a district court may hear expert testimony and consider other extrinsic evidence relating to the relevant factual inquiries.

my two cents:

寫於附屬項的發明理論上解釋為是一個獨立範圍,只是因為專利撰寫上的方便,或是簡潔的要求而寫為附屬項。不過,這個附屬項卻不會因為獲准專利而保有「均等論適用」,只是因為曾經"修改"為獨立項(特別是因為有先前技術阻礙的關係),但是事實上該項範圍並未實質變動,只是拋棄了原本獨立項範圍,直覺上是感到"怪怪的"。如此,"早知道"應該就於申請時寫成獨立範圍,不會產生修正造成的禁反言。

是否還有案例可以支持這些概念,或是反例?

CAFC 2008年判決:

資料參考:
http://www.sughrue.com/Honeywell-International-Inc-v-Hamilton-Sundstrand-Corporation-Nos-02-1005--1082/
http://www.finnegan.com/Publications/federalcircuit/FCCDetail.aspx?pub=c2944dc1-41f7-40f1-a4d0-821daec8aca6


Ron

2 則留言:

adeline7717 提到...

您好,非常有這個榮幸拜讀您的文章,對於文章討論的問題感到非常有興趣
其中,在文中有個地方感到很困惑~
文中所述的「將附屬項改寫為獨立項的動作」,就是單指將附屬項的技術內容當成獨立項請求嗎?但如此的話,請求的範圍明顯就會變得很大,又難以被核准了不是嗎…
還是說其實就只是「將附屬項併入獨立項」,因為一般來說,附屬項就是依附在獨立項,也就是在獨立項的技術內容中進一步作出限定來當作附屬項內容,但如此一來,怎麼會有拋棄了原獨立請求項範圍,產生了禁反言的問題,百思不得其解

如果我的想法中有錯的話,還請不吝指教,謝謝><

EN & Jane's murmur 提到...

感謝你的留言,有關「將附屬項改寫為獨立項的動作」,附屬項範圍解釋時,會加入依附項的內容,因此將附屬項改為獨立項,是一種「限縮」的修正(CAFC的態度),這時表示「放棄了原來被依附項較廣的範圍(可能是被依附的獨立項、在前被依附附屬項)」,因此產生禁反言,將來解釋時不適用均等論。

Ron