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Norgren, Inc. v. ITC

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 11-14-2012
Case #: 2011-1349
Lourie, Linn, and Moore
Full Text Opinion: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=16632831439492953235

Patents: The possibility of drawing inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not mean an administrative agency's conclusion was not supported by substantial evidence.

Opinion (Linn): Norgen sued SMC Corp. of America, claiming infringement of its patent disclosing “a four-sided, generally rectangular clamp for connecting two fluid flow elements.” The International Trade Commission (ITC) reversed the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), finding that several claims in the patent were obvious and SMC’s product, therefore, was not infringing. Norgren appealed. The ALJ also found that prior art, specifically a connector made by SMC, exhibited the four-sided design claimed in the limitations of Norgen’s patent. The ITC accepted that finding in its decision. The Appellate Court recognized that although it was a close a question, a reasonable mind might accept that finding, and determined it was supported by substantial evidence. The ITC also found that the only difference between the prior art and Norgen’s patent was the presence of a hinge. Norgen’s expert witness testified that, at the time of invention, the hinge was a known component that could be used to solve the loose parts problem the hinge was used for in Norgen’s patent. The Federal Circuit determined that the expert testimony, and other evidence considered by the ITC, was substantial evidence and the conclusion that the combination was obvious was “consistent with the law.” Because the ITC’s decision was supported by substantial evidence, the Appeals Court affirmed the ITC.