E-LYNXX Corp. v. InnerWorkings, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Patents, Doctrine of Equivalents
  • Date Filed: 07-25-2013
  • Case #: 1:10-CV-2535
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2013 US. Dist. LEXIS 104162
  • Westlaw Citation: 2013 WL 3873229
  • Full Text Opinion

When a patentee intentionally choses narrower language in order to overcome unpatentability issues, it will be estopped from later arguing for the a broader interpretation under the doctrine of equivalents.

Opinion (Conner): e-LYNXX Corporation (e-LYNXX) sued InnerWorkings, Inc and Cirquit.com ("InnerWorkings") claiming they infringed two of its patents (the '143 and '106 patents), which cover computerized procurement systems for competitive bidding. As construed by the court, e-LYNXX's '106 patent requires that the buyer send an electronic communication that identifies the vendors in the pool used by the system. The '143 patent requires that the pool of vendors be associated with the buyer.To literally infringe a patent, the accused product must implement each and every claim of the allegedly infringed patent. Because InnerWorkings's system did not permit a buyer to select the vendors in its pool, nor did it associate the vendors with the buyer, the court held it did not literally infringe either the '106 or '143 patents. e-LYNXX attempted to argue that InnerWorkings infringed the '106 patent under the doctrine of equivalents because its use of managers to select the pool of vendors was the functional equivalent of the buyer selecting the pool. However, during prosecution of the '106 patent, e-LYNXX was required to amend language that would have encompassed selection of vendors on behalf of the buyer in order to receive the patent. The doctrine of equivalents is intended to accommodate the imprecise nature of language, however, when the prosecution history shows that a patentee intentionally chose narrower language in order to obtain a patent, it is estopped from later attempting to reclaim the boarder language under the doctrine of equivalents. Because e-LYNNX had narrowed the language of its claim during prosecution of its patent, it was estopped from arguing for a broader reading under the doctrine of equivalents, and thus DID NOT INFRINGE the patents at issue. Cirquit similarly DID NOT INFRINGE the patents because its system did not store the detailed data required by the patents, and therefore it did not implement each and every claim of the patents.

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