Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Izzo Golf, Inc. v. Taylor Made Golf Co.

June 23, 2008

IZZO GOLF, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
TAYLOR MADE GOLF COMPANY, INC., D/B/A TAYLOR MADE-ADIDAS GOLF COMPANY, DEFENDANT.
TAYLOR MADE GOLF COMPANY, INC., D/B/A TAYLOR MADE-ADIDAS GOLF COMPANY, COUNTER-CLAIMANT,
v.
IZZO GOLF, INC., COUNTER-DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Izzo Golf, Inc., ("Izzo") brings this action pursuant to federal patent law, (codified at 35 U.S.C. § 100 et. seq.), claiming that defendant Taylor Made Golf Company Inc., ("Taylor Made") has infringed Izzo's United States Patent No. 5,042,704 (filed March 23, 1990)(hereinafter "the '704 patent"), by manufacturing and selling golf bags with straps for carrying the bags that infringe upon the '704 patent. The '704 patent, entitled "Dual Strap Carrying System for Golf Bags" generally discloses a strap designed to evenly distribute the weight of a golf bag across both shoulders of the person carrying the bag. The strap system can also be used to carry a golf bag across only one shoulder.

Pursuant to Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 372, ("Markman"), the parties request that the court construe the disputed claim terms of the '704 patent.*fn1 The following constitutes my construction of the claim terms in dispute.

DISCUSSION

In 1996, the United States Supreme Court held in Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 372, that "construction of a patent, including terms of art within its claim, is exclusively within the province of the court." Because the meaning of claim terms is often "the central issue of patent litigation . . . ." and because "most aspects of trial hing[e] on this determination . . . a conscientious court will generally endeavor to make this ruling before trial." Loral Fairchild Corporation v. Victor Company of Japan, Ltd., 911 F.Supp. 76, 79 (E.D.N.Y. 1996) (Rader, J. sitting by designation)(citing Markman v. Westview Instr., Inc., 52 F.3d 967 (Fed.Cir.1995)(internal quotation omitted)).

In determining how the terms of a claim are to be construed, "the court should look first to . . . intrinsic evidence . . . i.e., the patent itself, including the claims, the specification and, if in evidence, the prosecution history." Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996)(citing Markman, 52 F.3d at 979). "Such intrinsic evidence is the most significant source of legally operative meaning of disputed claim language." Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582. "In most situations, an analysis of the intrinsic evidence alone will resolve any ambiguity in a disputed claim term[,]" and in such circumstances, reliance on extrinsic evidence, such as expert testimony is "improper." Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1583.

In considering the intrinsic evidence, the court looks first to the words of the claims, including the claims not asserted, to define the scope of the patented invention. Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582. The words in the claim are given their ordinary and customary meaning, unless the patentee chooses to define the words in a specific manner. Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582. If the patentee chooses to be his or her own lexicographer, the specified definitions assigned to particular words or terms must be found either in the specification or the file history. Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582. Accordingly, it is always necessary to review the specification to determine if any specialized meanings have been given to terms used in the patent. Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582.

Finally, with respect to intrinsic evidence, the prosecution history of the patent may often be of "critical significance" in defining claim terms. Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582. The prosecution history often contains express representations made by the applicant regarding the scope or limitations of the claims, and therefore is a valuable resource in determining the meanings of words used in the claims. Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582.

CONSTRUCTION OF THE DISPUTED CLAIM TERMS OF THE '704 PATENT

The '704 contains fourteen claims, three of which (Claims 1, 8, and 14) are independent. The independent claims are set forth below, with the disputed claim terms highlighted.

Claim 1 of the '704 patent provides:

In a golf bag adapted to receive a set of golf clubs which each have a club head and an elongated shaft, said golf bag being in the form of an elongated tube including a surrounding sidewall, a closed end and an open end whereby the shafts of said golf clubs may be longitudinally inserted into said golf bag through the open end so that said golf clubs are stored in a position with the club heads projecting out of said golf bag proximate the open end, the improvement comprising a strap assembly adapted to permit a person to carry said golf bag on either or both shoulders, said strap assembly including a single strap comprising a first strap portion including a first central pad, a first strap portion first end attached on one end of said first central pad and a first strap portion second end attached on another end of said first central pad whereby said first strap portion has a first strap first end secured to said golf bag at a first location proximate said open end and a first strap portion second end secured to said golf bag at a second location axially spaced from the first location so that said first strap portion defines a first strap portion opening, and including a second strap portion including a second central pad, a second strap portion first end attached on one end of said second central pad and a second strap portion second end attached on another end of said second central pad whereby said second strap portion has a second strap portion first end secured to said golf bag proximate the second location and having a second strap portion second end secured to said golf bag at a third location axially spaced from the second location between the second location and said closed end to define a second strap portion opening, said first and second strap portions being sized so that one arm of the person can be inserted through the first strap portion opening and another arm of the person can be inserted through the second strap portion opening whereby said golf bag may be supported by said first strap portion extending across one shoulder of the person and by said second strap portion extending across another shoulder of the person.

Claim 8 of the '704 patent discloses:

A golf bag adapted to receive a set of golf clubs for transport by a person, comprising: an elongated tubular body having a longitudinal axis and including a surrounding sidewall, a closed end and an open end such that golf clubs may be inserted into said tubular body through said open end; a shoulder strap assembly including first and second shoulder strap elements, said first strap element having a first strap end portion and a first strap element free end opposite said first strap end portion and said second strap element having a second strap element end portion and a second strap element free end opposite said first end portion; first mounting means on said golf bag at a first location, said first mounting means connected to said first strap element free end for securing said first strap free end to said golf bag at the first location; second mounting means on said golf bag at a second location axially spaced from the first location, said second mounting means connected to said first and second strap end portions for securing said end portions to said golf bag at the second location; third mounting means on said golf bag at a third location axially spaced from the second location between the second location and said closed end wherein, said third mounting means secures said second strap element free end to said golf bag at the third location; and said first and second shoulder strap elements sized to form first and second strap openings respectively when secured whereby the person may selectively carry said golf bag across one shoulder with only said first strap element and selectively carry said golf bag with both shoulders in a fully supported state by inserting his/her arms respectively through the first and second strap openings so that said golf bag is suspended from and supported by both shoulders with said golf bag oriented transversely across the back of the person. Claim 14 of the '704 patent discloses:

In a golf bag to be carried by a person, a golf bag having an elongated enclosure including a surrounding sidewall, a closed end and an open end whereby golf clubs may be inserted lengthwise into said golf bag through the open end, the improvement comprising: a shoulder strap assembly disposed externally of said sidewall including first and second strap members, each of said strap members having opposite ends; first and second securing means for securing each of said opposite ends of said first strap member to longitudinally spaced locations on said sidewall including a first location proximate said open end and a second location longitudinally spaced from said first location whereby said first strap member defines a first strap opening through which one arm of the person can be inserted; and third and fourth securing means for securing each of said opposite ends of said second strap member to longitudinally spaced locations on said sidewall to define a second strap opening that another arm of the person can be inserted through said second strap opening whereby said golf bag can be selectively supported on one shoulder by said first strap member to incline downwardly across the back of the person carrying said golf bag and can be selectively supported on both shoulders by said first and second strap members with said golf bag extending transversely across the back of the person carrying said golf bag.

I discuss the disputed claim terms seriatim.

1. "Sidewall"

Claim 1 of the '704 patent describes the golf bag disclosed therein as "being in the form of an elongated tube including a surrounding sidewall, [with] a closed end and an open end . . . ." '704 patent at Column 15, lines 8-10. Izzo contends that the term "sidewall" should be defined as "the wall or side portion surrounding the elongated tube of the golf bag." Taylor Made argues that the term is not ambiguous, and requires no formal construction. Defendant further asserts that if the court were to construe the term, the court should adopt the plain dictionary meaning of sidewall, to wit: "a wall forming the side of something." Finally, Taylor Made urges the court to reject the addition of the term "side portion" to the definition of the sidewall, as there is no support in the patent for the inclusion of that term, and its inclusion would only render the term "sidewall" ambiguous.

The term "sidewall" is not defined in the '704 patent. It is clear, however, from the context of the patent claim that the term "sidewall" describes the structural member of the golf bag that forms the sides of the bag, and which defines the elongated shape of the bag. Accordingly, I construe the term "sidewall" as the structural member of the golf bag that forms the sides of the bag, and defines the elongated shape of the bag. I expressly decline to expand the definition of "sidewall" to include the ambiguous term "side ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.