TEK GLOBAL, S.R.L. v. SEALANT SYSTEMS INTERNATIONAL, decided March 29, 2019, Claim Interpretation

U.S. Patent No. 7,789,110 is directed to an emergency kit for repairing vehicle tires deflated by puncture (pages 2-3).   The claims recite “conduits connecting the container” and “container connecting conduit” where conduit is alleged to be a mean-plus-function limitation (pages 10-11).  The connected elements are definite structure (pages 11-12).  The dependent claims further limit “conduit” by describing particular structural features (e.g., conduit is a hose) (page 12).  The specification treats conduits as physical structures (e.g., physically connecting with inlet and outlet of the conduit) (page 12).  The prosecution history indicated that the claim describes the connections in structural terms rather than ‘means for’ language (page 13).  Extrinsic evidence shows conduit being defined as structure in the mechanical arts (page 13).  “Conduit” is not a means-plus-function limitation (pages 13-14).

Hindsight: Claim differentiation may be used both ways – indicating that a term is for structure or indicating that the term is not for structure by reciting structure more narrowly.  The consistency in usage in the specification and file history and common understanding of the term “conduit” helped to interpret “conduit” more like “circuit” or other broad term for specific structure and less like “device” or other even broader term that may be structural without sufficient detail.