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Marical Inc. v. Cooke Aquaculture Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maine

September 2, 2016

MARICAL INC., et al., Plaintiffs,
COOKE AQUACULTURE INC., et al., Defendants.



         The plaintiffs in this case, Marical Inc., Europharma AS, and Europharma Inc. (Canada) (the “Plaintiffs”), have filed patent infringement claims against the defendants, Cooke Aquaculture Inc., Cooke Aquaculture USA Inc., True North Salmon Co. Ltd., True North Salmon U.S. Inc., True North Sales US, Inc., and Salmones Cupquelan S.A. (the “Defendants”).[1] ECF No. 154 at 1. All parties are engaged in the farming of salmon, which is a type of anadromous fish.[2] Id. at 2.

         The Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants produce and import salmon raised by methods that infringe four patents: United States Patent No. 6, 463, 883 (Patent ‘883); United States Patent No. 6, 475, 792 (Patent ‘792); United States Patent No. 6, 481, 379 (Patent ‘379); and United States Patent No. 6, 564, 747 (Patent ‘747). ECF No. 1 at 1-2.

         The claim construction portion of the case was referred to the United States Magistrate Judge, who filed a Recommended Decision (ECF No. 154) with the court on July 6, 2016, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b). The Plaintiffs and the Defendants each filed an Objection to the Recommended Decision on July 25, 2016 (ECF Nos. 163 and 164). The Defendants filed their Response to Plaintiffs' Objection (ECF No. 167) and the Plaintiffs filed their Response to the Defendants' Objection (ECF No. 168) on August 9. A hearing on the parties' objections to the Recommended Decision was held on August 11, 2016. ECF No. 169.

         I have reviewed and considered the Magistrate Judge's Recommended Decision, together with the entire record, and have made a de novo determination of all matters adjudicated by it. I adopt the claim constructions recommended by the Magistrate Judge, with the exception of the constructions discussed below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         As noted in the Recommended Decision, the grant of a patent is a grant of a monopoly, in exchange for which the inventor is required to teach to others skilled in the art, in clear and precise language, how to make, construct, and use the patented invention. ECF No. 154 at 3 (citing 35 U.S.C. § 112; Gen. Elec. Co. v. Wabash Appliance Corp., 304 U.S. 364, 368-69 (1938)). The requirement that the patentee teach the invention in clear terms is known as the “definiteness requirement, ” Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instr., Inc., 134 S.Ct. 2120, 2128 (2014), and provides notice of the scope of the patent, Dow Chem. Co. v. Nova Chem. Corp. (Canada), 803 F.3d 620, 630 (Fed. Cir. 2015).

         Every patent must “conclude with one or more claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter which the inventor or a joint inventor regards as the invention.” 35 U.S.C.A. § 112(b) (2016). To be definite, terms contained in the patent claim “must be precise enough to afford clear notice of what is claimed, thereby apprising the public of what is still open to them.” Nautilus, 134 S.Ct. at 2129 (citation and quotation marks omitted).


         The initial stage in a patent infringement action-and the current stage of this litigation-involves construction of the patent claim. Wavetronix LLC v. EIS Elec. Integrated Sys., 573 F.3d 1343, 1354 (Fed. Cir. 2009). “The purpose of claim construction is to determine the meaning and scope of the patent claims asserted to be infringed.” O2 Micro Int'l Ltd. v. Beyond Innovation Tech. Co., 521 F.3d 1351, 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (citation and quotation marks omitted). The construction of patent claims is a matter of law, though the construction of a claim term can have “evidentiary underpinnings” that require subsidiary fact-finding. Teva Pharm. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 831, 835 (2015).

         When construing claim terms, the court looks first to intrinsic evidence, which is “the most significant source of the legally operative meaning of the disputed claim language[, ]” Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996), and which includes the patent claims themselves, the patent specification, and the patent prosecution history, id. at 1582-83. The patent specification, in particular, has been described by the Federal Circuit as “the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term[, ]” “[u]sually . . . dispositive, ” and “always highly relevant[.]” Id. at 1582.

         After considering intrinsic evidence, “a court may also seek guidance from extrinsic evidence such as expert testimony, dictionaries, and treatises.” Suffolk Techs., LLC v. AOL, Inc., 752 F.3d 1358, 1362 (Fed. Cir. 2014). However, extrinsic evidence carries less weight in determining the operative language of claim language. Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1317 (Fed. Cir. 2005).

         A. “Freshwater”

         The Recommended Decision construes the term “freshwater” in Patents ‘379 and ‘792 to include specified ranges of calcium and magnesium in part 2 of the definition. ECF No. 154 at 46 (“Water described in [part 1] to which has been added calcium and/or magnesium to achieve concentrations in the ...

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