Kinetic Concepts v. Blue Sky Medical Group (Fed. Cir. 2009)
Virtually every theory or defense in patent law requires claim construction before coming to a final conclusion. This case focused on obviousness and considered how the results turn on the construction of the claim term "treating a wound." A two-member majority (Judges Prost and Bryson) narrowly construed the term to only include treatment of surface wounds (instead of internal organs) and affirmed a nonobviousness holding. The dissent (Judge Dyk) saw a broader definition leading him to a conclusion that the claims were obvious in light of the prior art.
Hal Wegner aptly notes that it would be "difficult without an intensive study of the record to determine whether the majority or the dissent has properly construed the claims under Federal Circuit precedent: Indeed, it is possible that both constructions are acceptable. Kinetic Concepts thus once again points to the continued imperative of statutory claim construction reform."
As per usual, Judge Dyk's dissent is sharp - finding that the majority erred first by finding that the term should be limited to the disclosed embodiments and erred again by narrowly misreading the scope of the disclosed embodiments:
"In my view, the majority improperly holds that the claim term “wound” can be limited to the disclosed embodiments in the specification, and, having done so, then misreads the specification as showing only embodiments treating harm to the surface of the body or skin wounds. Under the correct construction of this claim term, the asserted claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,636,643 (“’643 Patent”) and 5,645,081 (“’081 Patent”) would have been obvious."
Notes: Read the decision 07-1340.pdf.