附屬項的均等論討論 - Honeywell International, Inc. v. Hamilton Sundstrand Corp.(CAFC) , 申請專利.專利研討會.專利申請-聯誠國際專利商標聯合事務所
附屬項的均等論討論 - Honeywell International, Inc. v. Hamilton Sundstrand Corp.(CAFC)

 

解釋獨立項專利範圍時,其均等範圍會受到禁反言影響,這裡討論將附屬項改寫為獨立項的情況是否適用均等論?

 附屬項的均等論討論   

- Honeywell International, Inc. v. Hamilton Sundstrand Corp.(CAFC)

案例討論:

案件資訊:

原告(專利權人)Honeywell International, Inc.

被告(侵權被告、上訴人)Hamilton Sundstrand Corp.

系爭專利:US4,380,893US4,428,194

 

US4,380,893

  專利涉及一種控制壓縮機洩放空氣的系統,其中透過一個電湧洩氣閥surge bleed valve,控制洩氣的比例維持一個恆定的最小氣流量。此系統可用於交通工具上,如飛機。

 

  系爭專利,指'893,在審查過程中,曾經表示其獨立項不准專利,但是某附屬項修改為獨立項即可獲准專利,Honeywell也據此修正。

Honeywell International, Inc. v. Hamilton Sundstrand Corp. (CAFC 2004/2008)

 

2004年討論:

(Honeywell I)

  案件進入侵權訴訟中(地方法院),被告自然是抓住這個審查中的修正(限縮)作為均等論不適用的抗辯,但專利權人則主張這是將原附屬項改寫為獨立形式,範圍並未變動,沒有建立禁反言。在地方法院中,陪審團認為均等論適用,侵權成立,被告應賠償專利權人45百萬美元。

(Honeywell II)

  CAFC2004年對Honeywell v. Hamilton案例的判決表示,否決地方法院作出侵權成立(均等論適用)的決定,因為專利權人審查時刪除了原獨立請求項,因此建立了歷史禁反言。

  法院發回重審,事實上是因為知道建立禁反言的基礎是有實質修正與新的限縮特徵加入請求項範圍,但是本系爭專利審查的修正僅是併入原附屬項的限制,因此作出發回重審的決定,希望地院陪審團可以重新審視Honeywell是否有"拋棄"範圍的意圖,而適用Festo判例所建立的禁反言規則presumption of surrender under the criteria set forth in Festo)。

 

(Honeywell III)

  案件回到地方法院,這回,地方法院就順著CAFC2004年的決定作出不侵權判決,也就是專利範圍不適用均等論的決定。這個決定涉及「可預見性foreseeability,可看本文後段解釋。

  法院認為,因為專利權人並未證明在修正當時的均等範圍可預見性,或是限縮專利範圍與相關均等範圍無關(沒有超過略為相關的關聯),使得均等論不適用。

"Because Honeywell did not show that the alleged equivalent was unforeseeable at the time of the narrowing amendment or that the narrowing amendment bore no more than a tangential relation to the alleged equivalent, this court affirms."

 

(Honeywell IV)

2008年討論:

  CAFC2008年對Honeywell v. Hamilton作出結論,此處涉及均等範圍的可預見性,同意地方法院對此案均等論意見的「解套」,判決指出,專利權人Honeywell無法證明修正當下已經可以預見目前意欲均等的範圍,這是需要專家證人與外部證據來證明。

"The Court held that the patentee could not show that the alleged equivalent was unforeseeable at the time of the narrowing amendment or that the narrowing amendment bore no more than a tangential relation to the alleged equivalent."

 

  可預見性的原則是要確保專利範圍涵蓋所有可預見的情況,同時保護專利權人對抗不可預見的非實質性變化的情況。

"The Court reiterated that the goal of the principle of foreseeability is to “ensure that the claims continue to define patent scope in all foreseeable circumstances, while protecting patent owners against insubstantial variations from [the] claimed element in unforeseeable circumstances."

 

  一旦被告侵權者(如本案Sundstrand)發展的技術在專利範圍修正之後,這個可預見性將成為重要均等論討論的抗辯理由。這件案例在Honeywell無法提出證據,以及無法反駁歷史禁反言的推論下作出均等論不適用的決定。

 

結論:

For the reasons stated herein, the court holds that Honeywell has failed to rebut the presumption of surrender, and is therefore barred by prosecution history estoppel from asserting the doctrine of equivalents. This court affirms the judgment of the district court.

AFFIRMED

 

反對意見:

  法官Newman對此案從2004年到2008年都持反對意見,就此案來看,她也表示反對意見,認為CAFC2004年的決定已經破壞原本專利附屬項的意義,附屬項範圍應該視為獨立項,附屬項的撰寫方式是為了簡潔的方便,也方便審查,當獲准時,若沒有範圍的修正或限縮,應仍適用均等論解釋專利範圍。

 

一些Newman的意見摘錄:

"The court today applies its new presumption of surrender to all equivalents of the claim elements and limitations that originated in dependent claims that were never amendedand that were not the subject of prosecution history estoppel. The court held in its previous opinion, Honeywell Int'l, Inc. v. Hamilton Sundstrand Corp., 370 F.3d 1131 (Fed. Cir. 2004) that "the surrendered subject matter is defined by the cancellation of independent claims that do not include a particular limitation and the rewriting into independent form of dependent claims that do include that limitation."

 

"Under such circumstances, the surrendered subject matter is defined by the cancellation of independent claims that do not include a particular limitation and the rewriting into independent form of dependent claims that do include that limitation. Equivalents are presumptively not available with respect to that added limitation."

 

"Patent claims are customarily presented in independent and dependent form, a practice encouraged by the Patent and Trademark Office, for it simplifies examination."

 

"Equivalency is determined element by element, Warner-Jenkinson, 520 U.S. at 29, yet on the panel majority's presumption of surrender, there is no restricting action by which to measure what was surrendered. In Festo the Court was explicit that the burden is to "show[] that the amendment does not surrender the particular equivalent in question." 535 U.S. at 740. My colleagues err in now holding that all equivalents of an element presented by dependent claim are presumed surrendered by simply cancelling the independent claim."

 

  以上均等論適用與否的議題涉及「可預見性(foreseeability)」,判斷均等論適用時也應參考技術上的可預見性,也就是,均等論不能無限上綱,在修改專利範圍的當下,該發明所屬一般技術人員是否可以"預見"所可以均等的範圍?如果均等範圍涵蓋「將來的技術」,若在修正當下不得知道這個未來技術,並非可預見。如果相關領域的先前技術可知的均等範圍,修正時也是可預見的技術。這部分證明應該會仰賴專家以及外部證據。

 

Foreseeability

On remand from the Supreme Court in Festo, this court explained that the foreseeability criterion

presents an objective inquiry, asking whether the alleged equivalent would have been unforeseeable to one of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the amendment. Usually, if the alleged equivalent represents later-developed technology (e.g., transistors in relation to vacuum tubes, or Velcro (R) in relation to fasteners) or technology that was not known in the relevant art, then it would not have been foreseeable. In contrast, old technology, while not always foreseeable, would more likely have been foreseeable. Indeed, if the alleged equivalent were known in the prior art in the field of the invention,it certainly should have been foreseeable at the time of the amendment. By its very nature, objective unforeseeability depends on underlying factual issues relating to, for example, the state of the art and the understanding of a hypothetical person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the amendment. Therefore, in determining whether an alleged equivalent would have been unforeseeable, a district court may hear expert testimony and consider other extrinsic evidence relating to the relevant factual inquiries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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