Evolusion Concepts, Inc. v. HOC Events Inc., Appeal No. 2021-1963 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 14, 2022)

In its only precedential patent case this week, the Federal Circuit disposed of an appeal, holding that the district court’s claim construction was wrong.  In the appeal from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the Federal Circuit addressed the meaning of the term “magazine catch bar” in the asserted claims.  The court held that the generic term “magazine catch bar” could either mean the removed factory-installed catch bar or some other new catch bar, reversing the district court’s grant of summary judgment of non-infringement.

Evolusion Concepts, Inc. owns a patent for a method and device for converting a firearm with a detachable magazine to a firearm with fixed magazine.  Evolusion sued Juggernaut Tactical, Inc., alleging infringement of certain claims of the patent.  On the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment regarding infringement, the district court granted Juggernaut summary judgment of non-infringement, ruling that the term “magazine catch bar” in the asserted claims excluded a factory installed magazine catch bar.  The district court reasoned that because claim 15 required removing “the factory installed magazine catch bar” and then installing “a magazine catch bar,” the magazine catch bar that is installed must be “separate and distinct from the factory-installed magazine catch bar”—otherwise, “factory-installed” would be superfluous.

The Federal Circuit reversed, holding that “magazine catch bar” in the asserted claims included a factory installed magazine catch bar.  The Federal Circuit reasoned that nothing in the language of the claims limited the scope of the generic term “magazine catch bar” to exclude one that was factory installed; nor did either the ordinary meaning of the phrase or any other language in the claims point to such a restriction.

In contrast with the district court, the Federal Circuit disagreed that the use of “magazine catch bar” in claim 15 narrowed the meaning of the term to support the urged exclusion of factory-installed magazine catch bars.  Instead, claim 15 simply claimed a method of removing the factory-installed magazine release button assembly and installing a new device.  As such, the invention involved removing and installing assemblies of parts—not only magazine catch bars.  Thus, an instruction that identified the removed assembly as including a factory-installed magazine catch bar, which focuses the process on conversion of what came from a factory, did not imply any preclusion of reuse of the same bar as one part of the assembly being installed in place of the removed assembly.  Accordingly, the Federal Circuit concluded that the ordinary meaning of the claim language allowed the factory-installed magazine catch bar to be removed as part of the initial assembly removal and reused as part of the assembly installed in a later step.

The Federal Circuit also rejected Juggernaut’s argument that the disclosed embodiments did not illustrate OEM magazine catch bars, noting it has repeatedly held that claims are not limited to the illustrated embodiments.  Looking at the claims here, the Federal Circuit concluded that nothing in the specification suggested that factory provenance of a bar disqualified it from being part of the invention if it was a magazine catch bar under the ordinary meaning, and nothing in the specification suggested that factory installation precluded the possession of the structural features required by the invention.

The opinion can be found here.

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