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ArcelorMittal Atlantique et Lorraine v. AK Steel Corp.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

November 5, 2018

ARCELORMITTAL ATLANTIQUE ET LORRAINE, ARCELORMITTAL, Plaintiffs-Appellants
v.
AK STEEL CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee

          Sealed Opinion issued: November 5, 2018

          Public Opinion issued: November 14, 2018 [*]

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Delaware in No. 1:13-cv-00685-SLR, Judge Sue L. Robinson.

          Constantine L. Trela, Jr., Sidley Austin LLP, Chicago, IL, argued for plaintiffs-appellants. Also represented by Hugh Abrams, Shook Hardy & Bacon, LLP, Chicago, IL; Jeffrey B. Bove, Ratner Prestia, Wilmington, DE.

          Christopher Neil Sipes, Covington & Burling LLP, Washington, DC, argued for defendant-appellee. Also represented by Jeffrey Howard Lerner.

          Before Reyna, Wallach, and Hughes, Circuit Judges.

          REYNA, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Appellants appeal from a grant of summary judgment of non-infringement. The U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware granted summary judgment as a matter of law after concluding Appellants' infringement action was collaterally estopped. Because evidence indicates a material difference in the accused products in this action, collateral estoppel does not apply and the entry of summary judgment was error. We vacate and remand.

         Background

         Plaintiff-Appellants ArcelorMittal Atlantique et Lorraine and ArcelorMittal and Plaintiff-Appellants' predecessor in interest, ArcelorMittal France (collectively "ArcelorMittal") own U.S. Patent No. 6, 296, 805 (the "'805 patent") and two reissues of the '805 patent, U.S. Patent Nos. RE44, 153 (the "RE153 patent") and RE44, 940 (the "RE940 patent"). This appeal primarily involves the RE940 patent.

         1. Hot-Stamped Boron Sheets

         The asserted RE940 patent, issued June 10, 2014, relates to boron steel sheets with an aluminum-based coating that, when hot-stamped, become highly mechanically resistant. Mechanical resistance, or ultimate tensile strength ("UTS"), is measured in megapascals ("MPa").

         Hot-stamping is a thermal treatment process where steel blanks are rapidly heated, inserted into a stamping machine that contains special dies, stamped into a particular shape, and then rapidly cooled, or quenched. See ArcelorMittal Fr. v. AK Steel Corp., 700 F.3d 1314, 1317- 18 (Fed. Cir. 2012) ("ArcelorMittal I"). The hot-stamping process alters the crystalline microstructure of the steel, and thereby its UTS, by transforming at least a portion of the steel's microstructure to a form known as martensite. Id. Steel with a martensitic microstructure is capable of having a high UTS. See id. The hot-stamping process gives the steel significantly higher UTS than its pre-stamped state. Id. Thus, two steel sheets of the same composition can have significantly different UTSs depending on whether and how they have been thermally treated. The high UTS of the hot-stamped steel is desirable for use in the production of auto parts.

         Independent claim 17 of the RE940 patent is representative of the asserted product-by-process claims and recites:

17. A hot-rolled coated steel sheet comprising a hot-rolled steel sheet coated with an aluminum or aluminum alloy coating, wherein said coated steel sheet is in the form of a delivery coil and the steel in the sheet comprises the following composition by weight:
0.15%<carbon<0.5%
0.5%<manganese<3%
0.1%<silicon<0.5%
0.01%<chromium<1%
titanium<0.2%
aluminum<0.1%
phosphorus<0.1% ...

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