EDGEWELL PERSONAL CARE BRANDS, LLC. v. MUNCHKIN, INC.

EDGEWELL PERSONAL CARE BRANDS, LLC. v. MUNCHKIN, INC., Appeal No. 2020-1203 (Fed. Cir. March 9, 2021).  Before Newman, Moore and Hughes.  Appealed from C.D. Cal. (Judge Gutierrez). (Doctrine of Equivalents)

Background:

Edgewell manufactures and sells a diaper pail system with a replaceable cassette placed inside the pail for soiled diaper collection.  Munchkin marketed a refill cassette as compatible with Edgewell’s pails.  Edgewell sued Munchkin for infringement of a claim directed to a cassette with an “annular cover” that has a “tear-off” section.  The district court construed the “annular cover” as a single, ring-shaped cover with the “tear-off” section being initially formed as part of the same structure as the rest of the annular cover and which can be torn off.  In view of the district court’s claim construction, Edgewell only continued to allege infringement under the doctrine of equivalents because Munchkin’s accused refill cassette has a two-part cover (where shrink wrap or a plastic blister cap is removable from a molded-plastic part).

The district court granted Munchkin’s motion for summary judgment of non-infringement under the doctrine of equivalents holding that Munchkin’s two-part structure cannot be equivalent to the claimed single-component structure as to hold otherwise would vitiate and render meaningless the “annular cover” and “tear-off” section limitations.  Edgewell appealed this grant of summary judgment.

Issue/Holding:

Did the district court err in granting summary judgment of non-infringement under the doctrine of equivalents on the basis of claim vitiation? (continue reading)

Summary byAshley Yeum

To view additional Federal Circuit decisions, please visit our Federal Circuit Case Summaries page.