Court Construes “Coupled” and “Extending Continuously” in Markman

The terms “coupled” and “continuously” both find their way into mechanical patent claims, and often times have specific meanings intended by the drafter. The order for the Markman construction in Swimways Corp. v. Aqua-Leisure Industries (EDVA, Docket 2:16cv260) was issued on April 24, 2017 and gives an example of claim construction of these terms.

With respect to “coupled,” the plaintiff proposed that the term be given the plain and ordinary meaning. The defendant proposed that “coupled” be interpreted as “physically joined or attached,” i.e., direct attachment, because several of the embodiments have such an arrangement. The defendant also argued that, without such limitation, the term “coupled” would be meaningless because every part of the invention would be coupled to every other part. To the contrary, the Court gave the term the plain and ordinary meaning based on the dictionary definition, which does not require direct attachment. Further, the Court noted that one use of “coupled” in the detailed description was by indirect connection through an intermediate component, which supports the plain and ordinary meaning, without limitation of direct attachment.

With respect to “extending continuously,” the defendant proposed that the term mean “extending completely and without interruption,” i.e., with no holes or gaps. The plaintiff argued that the claim phrase “without an intervening buoyant member” further modifies the claim term “extending completely.” Specifically, during prosecution, the claim was rejected based on a prior art reference that included an intervening buoyant member, and the claim was specifically amended to include “extending continuously” to overcome this rejection. Based on this information, the Court construed “extending continuously” to mean “uninterrupted by an intervening buoyant member.”

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