Plastipak Packaging, Inc. v. Ice River Springs Water Co. Inc. et al. (D. Mass. 19-cv-11193).

After Plastipak accused Ice River of infringing ten patents relating to manufacturing lighter-weight plastic bottles, Ice River asserted that four limitations, present in some or all of the asserted claims, were indefinite.  Judge Talwani disagreed, finding that the claims and specification adequately defined the meets and bounds of each term.

 Ice River sought a finding that the term “neck portion” was indefinite because the claim language defined the portion as “including” several features but did not define where the neck portion began.  Judge Talwani noted that the claims consistently indicate that the neck portion extends upwardly from a lower portion, and found the specification and figures resolved any possible ambiguity by clarifying that the neck portion did not extend below the support flange.  She further noted that this limitation had been found definite in litigation against a different company by the Eastern District of Virginia, and refused to interpret the term to encompass more based on extrinsic evidence describing generic bottles, finding that Plastipak had acted as its own lexicographer in defining the term in the specification.  Interestingly, Plastipak had itself initially included a portion of the bottle below the flange as a part of the neck portion in an initial patent-related disclosure filed in this litigation, and subsequently amended the disclosure to exclude the portion below the flange.  Ice River asserted that this showed that Plastipak itself couldn’t discern the meets and bounds of the term, but Judge Talwani discounted it as a mistake, likely made not by Plastipak but instead by its counsel, and noted that it had been corrected without reliance or benefit on the initial disclosure.

Judge Talwani found the term “the filling occurring substantially adjacent to where the container is formed” to be definite, rejecting Ice River’s assertion that the specification must provide specific, measurable limitations to describe “substantially adjacent.” She noted that the specification described “conventional ‘blow-and-fill’ operations, including those in which a container is filled just after formation… in close proximity to where the container is formed,” which could be a single integrated machine or two machines “that are adjacent or in close proximity to one another.”  This was distinguished from other conventional methods in which the formed bottles are shipped to a separate location to be filled.  As these conventional methods are well-known in the art, the terms is sufficiently definite.

Finally, Judge Talwani determined that two other terms relating to portions of the bottle were, while “not a testament to clarity,” sufficiently spelled out in the specification to survive an indefiniteness challenge.

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