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RHM convinces Court to Reject a Special Master’s Claim Construction Recommendation

court room

Rozier Hardt McDonough secured a key victory for client Jetaire Aerospace, LLC with a successful motion for reconsideration, which reversed the Court’s prior order from March of 2022 that invalidated the claims of U.S. Patent 9,849,998 for indefiniteness.  The Court’s ruling overturned its prior finding that the term “FAA-certified fuel gauge calibrating procedures” was indefinite and brings an additional patent back into the case for Jetaire in their patent infringement lawsuit against competitor AerSale Inc. just before trial.  

“While we were initially disappointed with the Special Master’s recommendation of indefiniteness for claims 1-3 of the ’998 patent, we were confident in our chances of having this overturned on reconsideration due to several key arguments we felt went overlooked by the Special Master,” said RHM partner Jim McDonough. “Now that the ’998 patent is back in the case, we feel stronger than ever about Jetaire’s positioning in this case and look forward to proving infringement at trial.”

The legal dispute began on December 17, 2020, when Jetaire filed suit against AerSale in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida for infringement of three of Jetaire’s patents pertaining to ignition mitigation in fuel tanks. After advancing past the pleadings, both sides submitted their claim construction briefings to the court, with a notable disagreement on the proper construction of the term “FAA-certified . . . procedures,” present in claims 1-3 of the ’998 patent. Jetaire argued that term should be given its plain and ordinary meaning because a person skilled in the art would understand that FAA regulations include both current and future regulations. Conversely, AerSale asserted that the term was indefinite because it was contingent on a third-party standard promulgated by the FAA, making the scope of the claims indiscernible. In March 2022, the Special Master adopted and recommended AerSale’s construction, invalidating the claims of the ’998 patent as a result. 

Shortly thereafter, Jetaire filed an objection to the Special Master’s recommendation and an ensuing motion for reconsideration. The objection noted that the Special Master failed to acknowledge or consider relevant case law such as Uniloc United States v. Apple, Inc., relied on by Jetaire in the claim construction briefing process. As Jetaire had noted, the Uniloc court held that it was imperative to look at the core functionality described in a third-party standard incorporated into a patent claim, and “if there has been a meaningful change” in the standard, then the term should be constructed to include only the functionality present at the time the invention was patented. Notably, AerSale had not presented any evidence that the FAA standard referenced in Jetaire’s ’998 patent had changed since the patent was issued.

In the end, U.S. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles sided with Jetaire and granted the motion for reconsideration, overturning the Special Master’s finding of indefiniteness as to the claims of the ’998 patent. The Court reasoned: “As Defendant has not provided any authority supporting a finding of indefiniteness for claim terms that incorporate a third-party standard, the Court finds that the FAA-Certified Limitations are not indefinite and accords them their plain and ordinary meaning. To find otherwise would be clear error and run contrary to current case law. Furthermore, an indefinite finding would invalidate the ‘998 Patent and cause manifest injustice to Plaintiff.” Furthermore, the Court emphasized, “a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand that the FAA-Certified Limitations are referencing the current FAA regulations and would include future amendments.”

RHM has represented Jetaire since the case was filed in December of 2020. Jetaire is a privately owned aviation safety engineering firm based out of Atlanta, Georgia.  The company was founded by Georgia-based aerospace engineer Mike Williams in 1984. The RHM team is being led by partners James McDonough, Matthew Rozier, and Jonathan Hardt.  Jetaire and RHM are currently preparing for a trial against AerSale, currently set for December 2023.