The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned a jury verdict based on a claim construction issue, finding Ford Motor Company did not infringe Waner’s patent for a fender liner used on dual rear wheel trucks. In addition, the Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Waner’s unjust enrichment claim on summary judgement. Waner v. Ford Motor Co. , Case Nos. 02-1184, -1185 (Fed. Cir. June 4, 2003).
The Federal Circuit disagreed with the district court’s construction of the claim term "flange." Relying on a dictionary definition as well as intrinsic evidence (i.e., the "structure of the language of the claim"), the Court decided that the claimed fender liner must have a "flange" that is a raised or projecting edge and that the flange must exist prior to installation of the fender liner. Because Ford’s fender liner was a single planar sheet before installation, the Federal Circuit ruled that no reasonable jury could have found infringement. Accordingly, the district court’s denial of a judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) for Ford was reversed.
The Court also affirmed the denial of Waner’s summary judgment motion for unjust enrichment in favor of Ford. The Federal Circuit agreed with the district court that, according to applicable state law, Waner’s had no protectable property interest during the time his invention was in the public domain. Waner sold his fender liners both to Ford and to the public at a horse show. At the time of the sales, Waner had no corresponding patent, nor did he have a confidentiality agreement with Ford. Because there was no dispute that Waner’s invention was in the public domain at that time, his claim of unjust enrichment was properly dismissed.
Judge Newman, in dissent, thought that the claim construction issue was a "close question" and argued for deference to the jury verdict. Judge Newman further argued that the complaint presented a course of action for "unjust enrichment," not trade secret violation as analyzed the majority, and should not have been dismissed.
The content of this article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on in that way. Specific advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
On May 5, 2016, the White House issued a report largely piggybacking on a recent U.S. Treasury Department study, on which we previously posted, with a primary focus on the purported misuse and negative impacts of non-compete agreements.
Over the last decade, communication via email and text has become a vital part of how many of us communicate in the workplace. In fact, most employees could not fathom the idea of performing their jobs without the use of email.
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).