United States: Specification Provides Proper Construction To Resolve Ambiguities In Claim Language

In World Class Technology Corp. v. Ormco Corp., Nos. 13-1679, 14-1692 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 20, 2014), the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court's construction of the claim term "support surface" and the stipulation of noninfringement.

Ormco Corporation ("Ormco") owns U.S. Patent No. 8,393,896 ("the '896 patent"), which describes a bracket that attaches to a tooth for orthodontic braces. The '896 patent states that the bracket includes a slot to hold an archwire that connects the teeth, with a slide that moves across a slot opening to hold the wire in place. The specification also explains that the slide moves at an angle away from the gums, avoiding gum contact, when moving from a slot-closed to a slot-open position.

World Class Technology Corporation filed for DJ for noninfringement of five patents owned by Ormco. Ormco counterclaimed, alleging infringement of the '896 patent and seeking a preliminary injunction. During claim construction, the parties disputed the meanings of the terms "support surface" and "ledge" in independent claim 1 of the '896 patent. The district court denied the preliminary injunction and found that the "support surface" "at least partially supports and guides the movable member [slide] during movement between the open position and the closed position." Slip op. at 5 (quoting World Class Tech. Corp. v. Ormco Corp., 964 F. Supp. 2d 1273, 1280, 1285 (D. Or. 2013)). The district court also adopted a complementary construction of the term "ledge" as contacting the slide only when the slide is in the closed position. The parties stipulated to noninfringement under the district court's "support surface" construction. The parties also stipulated to noninfringement of the other five patents. The district court entered a final judgment. Ormco appealed.

"Where, as here, the claim language itself leaves interpretive questions unanswered, '[t]he construction that stays true to the claim language and most naturally aligns with the patent's description of the invention will be, in the end, the correct construction.'" Slip op. at 7-8 (alteration in original) (quoting Renishaw PLC v. Marposs Societa' per Azioni, 158 F.3d 1243, 1250 (Fed. Cir. 1998)).

On appeal, the Federal Circuit found that the term "support surface" does not, by itself, have a clear, unambiguous meaning with respect to the support surface's role during movement of the slide. The Court reasoned that although the claim term "requires a surface that provides support, and the slide is undisputedly what must be supported, the language itself does not resolve when the slide must be supported." Id. at 6. The Court explained that the claim requires two surfaces—the "support surface" and the "ledge"—and gives the two surfaces different names, suggesting that they have different functions. The Court also noted that the two surfaces line up differently relative to the base surface of a slot and that the claim requires a "specific interaction" for the support surface, but no analogous requirement for the ledge surface. Id. at 7. Finding that this language "leaves uncertainty about whether . . . the slide must move along the support surface," the Court turned to the specification to resolve the ambiguity. Id.

Reviewing the specification, the Court concluded that the district court correctly construed "support surface." The Court explained that, "[c]ritically, the specification in this case identifies gum avoidance as the sole purpose of the acute angle the support surface must make with the slot base," but under Ormco's claim construction, the acute angle would not serve this stated purpose. Id. at 8. Thus, the Court considered Ormco's construction to be "unmoored from, rather than aligned with, the description of the invention." Id. Furthermore, the Court explained that neither the written description nor the drawings disclosed the arrangement Ormco sought to cover. The Court also identified other language in the specification that was contrary to Ormco's construction, including the specification's use of the phrase "translation plane" in identifying an acute angle of the support surface. Id. The Court reasoned that "translation" refers to the movement of the slide along a plane and that the '896 patent ties the translation plane to the support surface.

The Court concluded that the specification "strongly implies that it is along the support surface, not the ledge surface, that the slide generally moves from open to closed position." Id. at 9. Additionally, the Court explained that the specification distinguishes between the support surface and the ledge surface, noting that the support surface is linked with slide movement, but the ledge surface is not. The Court determined that these differences were inconsistent with Ormco's construction, and concluded that the district court correctly resolved the uncertainties in the claim construction.

The Court next considered, and rejected, Ormco's claim differentiation argument that the differences between claim 6 and claim 1 require a broad construction of claim 1. Although noting that claim 6 recites that "the support surface defines a translation plane," the Court explained that its construction of "support surface" did not give claim 1 the same scope as claim 6 because claim 6 requires that the support surface form a corner with one side of the slot, whereas claim 1 does not. Id. at 9-10.

The Court then considered the prosecution history, observing that neither party gave the prosecution history substantial weight, and found that it did not support Ormco's position or support a different construction of "support surface" from the one compelled by the specification.

Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court's decision.

Judges: Prost, Taranto (author), Hughes

[Appealed from D. Or., Magistrate Judge Acosta]

This article previously appeared in Last Month at the Federal Circuit, November 2014

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist 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.

Events from this Firm
16 Jan 2019, Conference, Washington, DC, United States

Finnegan partner Lionel Lavenue will present “The Technology Accelerates: IP Issues at the Cutting Edge” during the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Aviation Law & Insurance Symposium.

17 Jan 2019, Webinar, Washington, DC, United States

As a part of Strafford Publications’ webinar series, Finnegan partners Erika Arner and Michael Flibbert

will discuss best practices for preparing a PTAB case for appeal to the Federal Circuit.

22 Jan 2019, Webinar, Washington, DC, United States

As part of Strafford Publications’ webinar series, Finnegan partners Shana Cyr and Mark Feldstein will provide essential updates on FDA practice and patent law relating to biologics and biosimilars.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
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).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions