Continental Can Co. USA, Inc. v. Monsanto Co.

948 F.2d 1264 (1991)

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Continental Can Co. USA, Inc. v. Monsanto Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
948 F.2d 1264 (1991)

Facts

In the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Continental Can Company USA and Continental PET Technologies (collectively, Continental) (plaintiffs) brought a patent-infringement action against Monsanto Company and Monsanto’s successor in the plastic bottle industry, Johnson Controls, Inc. (collectively, Monsanto) (defendants). Continental’s patent-in-suit (the ‘324 patent) bore the title “Ribbed Bottom Structure for Plastic Container,” and the disclosed structure featured an array of ribs extending radially outwardly from a geometric center of a plastic bottle bottom. The ‘324 patent indicated that the disclosed structure provided combined advantages of flexibility, impact resistance, and deformation resistance. The broadest claim of the ‘324 patent (claim 1) specified that each of the ribs were hollow. Monsanto moved for a partial summary judgment of invalidity of the ‘324 patent, predicated on several grounds including two theories of patent anticipation: (1) anticipation under 35 U.S.C. § 102(a) by prior US patent by Marcus (the Marcus patent), and (2) anticipation under 35 U.S.C. § 102(b) by a plastic bottle designed by Marcus (the Marcus bottle), allegedly placed on sale ten years prior to the filing date of the application that issued as the ‘324 patent. Regarding theory (1), Monsanto contended that, even though Continental had produced evidence that the Marcus patent did not expressly disclose hollow-bottom ribs, the Marcus patent inherently disclosed such ribs, because both the bottle disclosed in the Marcus patent and the bottle disclosed in the ‘324 patent were produced by injection blow molding. Regarding theory (2), Monsanto argued that development of the Marcus bottle that occurred pursuant to agreements between Marcus’s employer, Admiral Plastics, and Coca-Cola Company triggered the § 102(b) on-sale bar, even though those agreements, while specifying commercial quantities and pricing maxima, indicated that Coca-Cola would purchase bottles from Admiral Plastics only “if a satisfactory bottle was developed.” The district court granted Monsanto’s partial summary judgment motion as to both theories, and Continental appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Newman, J.)

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