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Federal Circuit affirms findings of patent and copyright noninfringement

July 06, 2007
Post by Blog Staff

In a recent decision the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court's grant of summary judgment of noninfringement on one count of patent infringement and two counts of copyright infringement. The Federal Circuit also upheld the district court's denial of the plaintiff's Rule 60(b) motion seeking vacatur of the summary judgments.

More details of Hutchins v. Zoll Med. Corp. after the jump.

Hutchins alleged Zoll Medical Corp. infringed U.S. Patent No. 5,913,685, entitled "CPR Computer Aiding." Each of the '685 claims requires a "general purpose computer system." The construction of the term "general purpose computer" was agreed to by the parties.Zoll’s accused device contained a Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) microprocessor. Hutchins argued that the Zoll system was intended to work with IBM-PC. The district court ruled that, because a RISC microprocessor has a limited functionality, it is "implausible" for it to be a "general purpose computer." The district court further found that the "potential for interfacing with a personal computer did not meet the claim limitation." The district court accordingly concluded that Zoll’s device did not infringe the '685 patent.The Federal Circuit stated that it did not discern error in this finding, further noting that that the term "general purpose computer" was "added to Hutchins' claims during prosecution in order to distinguish the '685 invention from prior art that showed similar devices with dedicated microprocessor units," and thus Hutchins was estopped from asserting that the term "general purpose computer" encompassed a microprocessor. The court also rejected Hutchins’ argument that the term "general purpose computer" was not present in each claim of the '685 patent. The court stated that because the term is present in each independent claim, it is incorporated into each dependent claim. The '685 claims further require an "interactive display unit," the definition of which was agreed on by the parties. The disctrict court found that the Zoll system did not provide for "interactive input by the rescuer." Further, the court agreed with the district court’s finding "that a reasonable jury could not find that the Zoll system employs an interactive display input as described in the '685 patent, for the Zoll rescuer provides no input, but simply follows the instructions issued by the system on monitoring the victim." The court thus affirmed the district court's summary judgment of non-infringement of the '685 patent. Hutchins also alleged that Zoll Medical Corp. infringed two copyrights related to Mr. Hutchins' system. The Federal Circuit initially stated that for copyright causes of action, it looked to the law of the regional circuit, which in this case was the First Circuit. The first copyright at issue was for the "text of computer program" for Mr. Hutchins' system. The second copyright was for a "Script & Word List" of words and phrases. The district court held that Zoll's device did not infringe either copyright. With respect to the first copyright, the Federal Circuit noted "[t]he court correctly held that Mr. Hutchins’ copyright is limited to preventing the copying of the specific computer program that he developed, and does not include coverage of all programs that guide the performance of CPR derived from information in the public domain." The court noted that it was not established that the Mr. Hutchins' specific computer program was ever copied, and affirmed the district court's ruling that the first copyright was not infringed. The court also upheld the district court’s finding of noninfringement of the second copyright, noting "the words and phrases on the Hutchins' list are standard CPR instructions, and the use by Zoll of the same or similar CPR instructions was not shown to have been copied from any original expression or compilation by Hutchins."

To read the full decision in Hutchins v. Zoll Med. Corp., click here.


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