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Plastic Omnium Advanced Innovation and Research v. Donghee America, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

November 21, 2019

PLASTIC OMNIUM ADVANCED INNOVATION AND RESEARCH, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
DONGHEE AMERICA, INC., DONGHEE ALABAMA, LLC, Defendants-Appellees

          Public Opinion Issued: December 3, 2019 [*]

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Delaware in No. 1:16-cv-00187-LPS, Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark.

          Alexander Hadjis, Oblon, McClelland, Maier and Neustadt, LLP, Alexandria, VA, argued for plaintiff-appellant. Also represented by Robert Carter Mattson, Christopher Ricciuti.

          Eric Shumsky, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, Washington, DC, argued for defendants-appellees. Also represented by Melanie L. Bostwick, Jeremy Peterman; Alyssa Margaret Caridis, Los Angeles, CA; Edmund Hirschfeld, New York, NY.

          Before Newman, Clevenger, and Reyna, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          REYNA, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Plastic Omnium Advanced Innovation and Research appeals from a grant of summary judgment of noninfringement by the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. The district court's determinations on summary judgment are consistent with its claim construction and supported by undisputed facts in the record. We affirm.

         Background

         A. The Asserted Patents

         Plastic Omnium Advanced Innovation and Research ("Plastic Omnium") owns U.S. Patent Nos. 6, 814, 921 ("the '921 patent") and 6, 866, 812 ("the '812 patent"). The patents generally relate to manufacturing plastic fuel tanks formed by blow molding. The fuel tanks are formed in a way that allows accessory components to be installed inside the fuel tank without cutting holes in the tank wall, which could compromise the structural integrity of the wall. A conventional blow molding system is depicted below:

         (Image Omitted)

         J.A. 3482 (Appellee's Technology Tutorial). The image shows the general placement and geometry of the extruder head, die, parison, and molding cavity in a conventional blow molding process.

         The sole figure (shown below) of the '812 patent is representative of the disclosed system and depicts a tubular "parison" that is formed using an extrusion head (component 2) and circular die mounted on the extrusion head. As the parison exits the extrusion head, a blade (component 3) located at the exit of the die splits the parison.

         (Image Omitted)

          '812 patent Fig. 1, col. 5 ll. 28-30; see also '921 patent col. 5 l. 25.

         Claim 1 of the '921 patent recites the following, including the disputed "extruded parison" limitation:

1. A process for manufacturing plastic hollow bodies from two shells formed by molding, which are joined together, at least one shell being produced by compression-molding a portion of a plastic sheet between a mold and a punch and by the remaining portion of the sheet being blow-molded in the region not compression-molded, characterized in that it is applied to the manufacture of a fuel tank and in the sheet is obtained in the same manufacturing line as the shell which will be produced from this sheet, by the cutting and opening an extruded parison of closed cross section.
'921 patent col. 5 l. 44-col. 6 l. 6 (emphasis added to disputed term). Claim 32 of the '812 patent includes a similar disputed term: "extruding a parison."

         B. District Court Proceedings

         On March 23, 2016, Plastic Omnium filed suit against Donghee America, Inc., and Donghee Alabama, LLC (collectively "Donghee") in the District of Delaware, asserting infringement of several patents. The '921 and '812 patents were among the eight patents in Plastic Omnium's amended complaint. After claim construction, Donghee moved for summary judgment of noninfringement as to the asserted claims of the '921 and '812 patents and on other bases not at issue in this appeal. On May 22, 2018, the district court granted Donghee's summary judgment motion. The district court entered final judgment on June 11, 2018.

         1. Claim Construction

         During claim construction, the parties disputed the meaning of the term "parison." Plastic Omnium Advanced Innovation & Research v. Donghee Am., Inc., No. 16-CV-187, 2017 WL 5125725, at *3-4 (D. Del. Nov. 6, 2017) ("Claim Construction Order"). Donghee argued that it should be given its plain and ordinary meaning of "hollow plastic tube exiting the die of an extrusion head." Id. at *3. Plastic Omnium argued that the patentee had acted as its own lexicographer and that "the '921 and '812 patents do not use the term 'parison' [in] its conventional, plain and ordinary meaning." Id. The district court agreed with Plastic Omnium and reasoned that "the patents specify that the 'parison' is cut in two as it leaves the die at the end of the extrusion head" and so "this 'parison' cannot be strictly limited to a fully-formed tubular structure existing in its entirety outside the extrusion head/die." Id. at *4. It recognized that "the principal disagreements between the parties [were] identifying the point at which the molten plastic within the extrusion head becomes a 'parison,' and identifying the location of the die." Id. The district court rejected Plastic Omnium's contention that the "claimed process includes the splitting of molten plastic within the extrusion head/die" based on its determination that neither specification discloses "splitting of the tubular preform at any stage earlier than right as the previously tubular structure leaves the die/extrusion head." Id. (internal quotations omitted). The district court also clarified that "the 'extruded parison' terms should not include molten plastic (or a tubular preform) present inside the die/extrusion head and that the "'die' is located at the 'extrusion head['s]' 'lowest point, '" rejecting Plastic Omnium's contention that the "die" could be located anywhere. Id. at *4, *4 n.4 (quoting '921 patent col. 3 ll. 4-5; '812 patent col. 2 ll. 37-38). Accordingly, the district court construed "parison" as "referring to a plastic tube with a closed cross section that is shaped by-and has reached the end of-a die and is split either immediately upon exiting the die or at some point thereafter." Id. at *4. Building upon that construction, the district court construed "extruded parison of closed cross section" and "extruding a [multilayered] parison" as "a tubular preform with a closed cross-section that has been forced through a die and is cut or split as it exits the die or at some time thereafter" and "a [multilayered] tubular preform with a closed cross-section that has been forced through a die and is cut or split as it exits the die or at some time thereafter," respectively. Id. at *8 (alterations in original).

         2. Summary Judgment

         Donghee moved for summary judgment of noninfringement of five asserted patents, including the '921 and '812 patents involved in this appeal.[1] Donghee argued that its accused product does not infringe the asserted claims of the '921 and '812 patents because it "does not extrude a parison." Plastic Omnium Advanced Innovation & Research v. Donghee Am., Inc., 387 F.Supp.3d 404, 416-17 (D. Del. 2018) ("Summary Judgment Order"). Relying on its claim construction of the "parison" terms, the district court granted summary judgment of noninfringement. Id.

         As to literal infringement, the district court recognized that there was no dispute that Donghee's "'manufacturing process begins by forcing plastic through a circular coextrusion head, and then feeding the plastic that exits the coextrusion head into a separate piece of equipment, referred to as a flat die tool,' and that once inside 'the flat die, the molten plastic is cut into two streams of plastic which are extruded as two sheets.'" Id. at 416 (citing Donghee's brief in support of its motion for summary judgment and Plastic Omnium's brief in opposition). Turning to its claim construction holdings, the district court reiterated its determinations that (1) "parison" was not limited to a fully formed tubular structure that exists entirely outside of the extrusion head/die, i.e., the "parison" may be cut as it exits the die at the end of the extrusion head; (2) the tubular preform cannot be split at any stage prior to its exit of the extrusion head/die such that ...


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