Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Phillips v. AWH Corporation case brief

Phillips v. AWH Corporation case brief summary
415 F.3d 1303 (2005)

Plaintiff patent holder sued defendant former licensees in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado for misappropriation of trade secrets and patent infringement. The district court dismissed the trade secret misappropriation claim as time-barred and granted summary judgment of noninfringement. The patent holder appealed. An appellate panel affirmed on both issues. The appellate court reheard the appeal en banc.

The patent concerned modular, steel-shell panels that could be welded together to form vandalism-resistant walls. The patent holder made an agreement with the competitors to market and sell the panels. After that arrangement had ended, the patent holder discovered the competitors were continuing to use his trade secrets and patented technology without his consent.


  • The en banc panel affirmed the dismissal of the trade secret misappropriation claim. 
  • However, it found that, the term "baffles" was not subject to 35 U.S.C.S. § 112, para. 6. 
  • Thus, the district court erred by limiting the term to corresponding structures disclosed in the specification and their equivalents. 
  • The fact that the written description of the patent set forth multiple objectives to be served by the baffles in the claims confirmed that the term should not have been read restrictively to require that the baffles serve all of the recited functions. 
  • A person of ordinary skill in the art would not have interpreted the disclosure and claims to mean that a structure extending inward from one of the wall faces was a "baffle" if disposed at an acute or obtuse angle, but was not a "baffle" if disposed at a right angle.

The en banc panel affirmed the portion of the district court's judgment addressed to the trade secret misappropriation claims. However, it reversed the portion of the district court's judgment addressed to the issue of infringement.

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