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Fleming v. Escort Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

December 24, 2014

HOYT A. FLEMING, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ESCORT INC. AND BELTRONICS USA, INC., Defendants-Cross-Appellants

Page 1372

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Idaho in No. 1:09-CV-00105-BLW, Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill.

MICHAEL S. DOWLER, Park, Vaughan, Fleming & Dowler, LLP, of Houston, Texas, argued for plaintiff-appellant.

GREGORY F. AHRENS, Wood, Herron & Evans, L.L.P., of Cincinnati, Ohio, argued for defendants-cross-appellants. With him on the brief was BRETT A. SCHATZ.

Before TARANTO, BRYSON, and HUGHES, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1373

Taranto, Circuit Judge.

The district court in this case refused to disturb a jury verdict concerning two reissue patents. The jury found for the patentee on infringement and validity as to most of the asserted claims, but it invalidated five claims. The patentee, Hoyt Fleming, appeals the five invalidity determinations, arguing that (1) the testimony offered to establish invalidity was insufficiently specific to support the verdict; (2) there was insufficient corroboration of the prior invention relied on for the invalidity determinations; and (3) the prior invention, if it existed, was abandoned, suppressed, or concealed, disqualifying it from invalidating the claims. The adjudicated infringers, Escort, Inc., and Beltronics USA, Inc. (collectively, Escort), cross-appeal on the ground that all of the asserted claims are invalid because Fleming's reason for seeking reissue did not meet the " error" precondition for obtaining reissue. We affirm.

Background

Hoyt Fleming owns two reissue patents--U.S. Patent Nos. RE39,038 (issued Mar. 28, 2006) and RE40,653 (issued Mar. 10, 2009)--issued under 35 U.S.C. § 251. Both relate to radar detectors for detecting police signals. They claim methods for incorporating, as well as apparatuses that

Page 1374

incorporate, a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) unit into a radar detector. The incorporated GPS can reduce false alarms ( i.e., the signaling of a police presence when none exists) by allowing the detector to disregard, or " lock out," certain signals from an identified location known to produce such false alarms ( e.g., a storefront door opener transmitting a radar signal that can be mistaken for a police presence).

Claim 1 of the '038 patent is representative of the method claims. It reads:

1. A method, executed by a device having a position, of generating an alert to an incoming radar signal having a frequency and a signal strength, the method comprising the acts of:
(a) detecting the incoming radar signal;
(b) determining the position of the device that detected the incoming radar signal; and
(c) generating an alert if the position of the device is not within a predetermined distance of a predetermined position.

'038 patent, col. 6, lines 49-58.

Claim 18 of the '038 patent is representative of the apparatus claims. It reads:

18. A radar detector for alerting an operator of a motor vehicle to an incoming police radar signal comprising:
(a) a microprocessor;
(b) a circuit coupled to the microprocessor for detecting the incoming ...

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