Claim Interpretation Of Phrase “Attenuated and Filtered” Has Broader Common Meaning In Light of Dictionary Definition, Specification, And Since the Narrower Meaning Excludes All Embodiments of the Invention

In Nellcor Puritan Bennett, Inc. v. Masimo Corp. 04-1427 (Fed Cir. April 8 2005), the Federal Circuit revisited the issue of claim construction and the process used to construe the claim.  In particular, this case deals with construing the meaning of “attenuated and filtered.”  The District Court construed the phrase “attenuated and filtered” to mean “reduced and removed,” and then granted summary judgment of non-infringement in favor of defendant Masimo based on this narrowed construction. The Federal Circuit vacated the district court’s summary judgment of non-infringement, and remanded for further consideration based on a new construction of the claim terms.  In order to construe the claim, the Federal Circuit first looked at the ordinary meaning of the claim language and relied on a standard dictionary (IEEE, Authoritive Dictionary of IEEE Standard Terms) for such definitions.  Since two of the definitions provided by the dictionary were consistent with the definition proposed by the plaintiff, Nellcor, the Court looked then at the specification.  The specification provided further guidance as to the meaning of the term “attenuated and filtered from the composite,” since at one part of the specification the term “attenuated and filtered” was used to refer to the “effective removal” of data rather than the absolute removal of data.  Furthermore, the Federal Circuit rejected the district court’s interpretation that “attenuated and filtered” meant “reduced and removed” since such interpretation would exclude all of the embodiments of the invention.  According to Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc. 90 F.3d 1576, 1583 (Fed. Cir. 1996), a construction that excludes all of the embodiments of the invention is rarely if ever correct.  As such, the Federal Circuit found that a broader interpretation was both consistent with the ordinary meaning of the phrase and with the examples provided in the specification.


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