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Deep Fix, LLC v. Marine Well Containment Company LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

April 24, 2019

DEEP FIX, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
MARINE WELL CONTAINMENT COMPANY, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON CLAIM CONSTRUCTION

          NANCY F. ATLAS SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This patent case is before the Court for construction of the disputed claim terms in United States Patents No. 8, 833, 393 (“the '393 Patent”) (the “Patent-in-Suit”), titled “Cap Valve.” Plaintiff Deep Fix, LLC (“Deep Fix”) alleges that Defendant Marine Well Containment Company, LLC (“MWCC”) is infringing the Patent-in-Suit.

         The Court conducted a hearing pursuant to Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370');">517 U.S. 370 (1996) (“Markman hearing”), on April 3, 2019. Based on the evidence before the Court, the arguments presented by counsel orally and in writing, and the governing legal authorities, the Court issues this Memorandum and Order construing those disputed claim terms that require construction.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Charles Adams is the sole inventor of the cap valve covered by the '393 Patent. Through a series of assignments, Deep Fix asserts sole ownership of all interest in the '393 Patent.

         MWCC is a consortium of oil and gas companies including ExxonMobil, British Petroleum (“BP”), and others. MWCC manufactures oil and gas well containment systems used in well blowout situations.

         Drilling an offshore well involves connecting a line from a drilling rig, through a well bore, to an oil or gas reservoir beneath the sea floor. See MWCC's Technical Tutorial [Doc. # 69], p. 1');">p. 1. An uncontrolled release of high pressure water, natural gas, and/or crude oil up into the well bore is known as a blowout. See Id. To reduce the chances of a blowout, a blowout preventer (“BOP”) is present near the well during drilling operations. See Id. Traditional BOPs seal off the area of the well bore around the drill pipe, often using “blind shear rams” to cut the drill pipe and seal the well. See Id. at 1-2.

         In April 2010, a blowout and catastrophic fire occurred on the Deepwater Horizon Rig at the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. The BOP failed, the well was not sealed, and oil continued to flow into the Gulf of Mexico. Numerous attempts to cap the well were unsuccessful.

         During the Deepwater disaster, members of the oil and gas industry solicited ideas for a solution that would successfully seal the well. See Complaint [Doc. # 1], ¶ 11. On September 3, 2010, Adams filed a provisional patent application for his cap valve invention. See id., ¶ 14. On September 2, 2011, Adams filed a non-provisional patent application and claimed priority based on the provisional patent application filed in 2010. See Id. The '393 Patent issued on September 16, 2014. See id.

         MWCC manufactures three containment systems: (1) the Subsea Containment System; (2) the 15K PSI Capping Stack, and (3) the 10K PSI Capping Stack (collectively, the “Accused Devices”). Deep Fix filed this patent infringement lawsuit on March 26, 2018, alleging that the Accused Devices infringe the claims of the '393 Patent.

         Deep Fix filed its Opening Claim Construction Brief (“Opening Brief”) [Doc. # 74], MWCC filed its Responsive Brief (“Response Brief”) [Doc. # 76], and Deep Fix filed its Claim Construction Reply Brief (“Reply Brief”) [Doc. # 77]. The Court conducted a Markman hearing at which the parties presented evidence and argument regarding the proper construction of the disputed claim terms. The Court appreciates the parties' presentations, particularly their answers to the Court's questions. The Court requested, however, that Plaintiff submit additional proposed constructions for the disputed claim terms.

         After the Markman hearing, the parties submitted the Joint Submission re Claim Construction [Doc. # 117');">117], Plaintiff's Supplemental Brief on Disputed Claim Terms [Doc. # 118], and Defendant's Post-Markman Hearing Brief on Claim Construction Issues [Doc. # 119]. Based on the parties' briefing, the full factual record, and the parties' presentations and argument in connection with the Markman hearing, the Court construes the disputed claim terms as follows.

         II. GENERAL LEGAL STANDARDS FOR CLAIM CONSTRUCTION

         “It is a bedrock principle of patent law that the claims of a patent define the invention to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude.” Aventis Pharm., Inc. v. Amino Chems. Ltd., 5 F.3d 1363');">715 F.3d 1363, 1373 (Fed. Cir. 2013) (quoting Phillips v. AWH Corp., 5 F.3d 1303');">415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc)). The patent claims in issue must be construed as a matter of law to determine their scope and meaning. See, e.g., Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370');">517 U.S. 370, 390 (1996), aff'g, 52 ...


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