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Unique Concepts, Inc. v. Brown

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
939 F.2d 1558 (1991)


Facts

U.S. Patent No. 4,018,260 disclosed an assembly of border pieces used to attach fabric wall hangings to walls. As originally filed, the patent application included 14 claims. Claim 1 described the assembly as made up of linear border pieces and right angle corner border pieces. Claim 9, which depended from Claim 1, described corner pieces formed by fitting together two mitered linear pieces. The Patent and Trademark Office initially rejected the patent application as unpatentable, finding that similar framing arrangements already existed. The amended patent application canceled various claims, including Claim 9. Thereafter, the patent was issued and exclusively licensed to Unique Concepts, Inc. (Unique) (plaintiff). As issued, Claim 1 of the patent described an assembly of “linear border pieces and right angle corner border pieces.” The included drawings illustrated preformed corner pieces, and the specification referred to these preformed pieces. The specification also briefly mentioned “improvised corner pieces,” which could be made by mitering two linear border pieces and fitting them together at a right angle, as an alternative to preformed corner pieces.  Unique filed suit against Kevin Brown (defendant), claiming that products manufactured by Brown infringed the patent because the products used mitered linear pieces fit together to form a corner of a frame. The district court ruled in Brown’s favor, finding no infringement because the patent language covered only preformed corner pieces and not the type of pieces used in Brown’s products. Unique appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Lourie, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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Dissent (Rich, J.)

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