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Poly-America, L.P. v. API Industries, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

October 14, 2016

POLY-AMERICA, L.P., Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
API INDUSTRIES, INC., Defendant-Appellee

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Delaware in No. l:14-cv-00599-SLR-SRF, Judge Sue L. Robinson.

          AAEON P. Maurer, Williams & Connolly LLP, Washington, DC, argued for plaintiff-appellant. Also represented by Sanjiv Prakash Laud, Craig D. Singer.

          Jack B. Blumenfeld, Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tun-nell LLP, Wilmington, DE, argued for defendant-appellee. Also represented by MICHAEL J. FLYNN; Mark I. KOFFSKY, EFREM Schwalb, Koffsky Schwalb LLC, New York, NY.

          Before Prost, Chief Judge, Reyna, and HUGHES, Circuit Judges.

          Reyna, Circuit Judge.

         This case is about disavowal of claim scope. The specification and prosecution history of Poly-America, L.P.'s ("Poly-America") U.S. Patent No. 8, 702, 308 ("'308 patent") contain clear and unequivocal statements that the inventor intended to limit the claimed invention to a trash bag with "short seals" at its upper corners that extend inwardly to narrow the bag's upper opening. In light of the inventor's disavowal, the district court correctly construed the term "short seal" to require that such seals extend inwardly. We therefore affirm.

         I. Background

         A. Patented Technology

         The '308 patent is "directed toward an improved construction of an elastic drawstring trash bag." '308 patent col. 3 11. 46-47.

         (Image Omitted)

Id. fig. 1.

         The claimed apparatus is made from two "panels" of polymeric material joined at the sides and the bottom to form an enclosed bag. At the bottom, the panels are joined by a "bottom fold." At the top, a piece of each panel is folded over and sealed to form a "hem." Inside each hem is a drawstring. See id. col. 3 11. 46-54.

         The patent identifies two different seals located along the sides of the bag. The long seals along the length of the panels are referred to as "side seals." Id. col. 4 11. 66-67. The small seals in the upper corners of the bag are referred to as "short seals." Id. col. 5 11. 25-30. The short seals bind together each panel's hem and the ends of the drawstrings located therein. Id.

         A principal feature of the claimed invention is Poly-America's use of inwardly extended short seals to reduce the width of the trash bag's upper opening. When coupled with elastic drawstrings, the narrowed opening allows those drawstrings to wrap around the rim of a trash receptacle more securely than prior art trash bags that do not have a narrowed upper opening. See id. col. 6 1. 32-col. 71. 19.

         Throughout its written description, the '308 patent indicates the significance of the extended short seal feature and the reduced upper opening width the extended short seals provide. To start, the title of the invention is "Reduced ...


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