In Planet Bingo LLC v. GameTech International Inc., 81 USPQ2d 1145 (Fed. Cir. 2006), the Federal Circuit upheld the District Court’s decision of non-infringement under the Doctrine of Equivalents because determining a winning combination after a first ball in a bingo game is drawn is substantially different from determining a winning combination before drawing the first bingo ball.
Planet Bingo is the exclusive licensee of two bingo patents which provides additional winning combinations over traditional bingo game play. In particular, a player may win more prizes (e.g., a greater jackpot) if the player is able to achieve a winning combination such as a classic bingo (e.g., a straight line) coupled with an additional indicia (e.g., a straight line that is also all red). The additional color indicia is determined and announced before drawing the first ball in the Planet Bingo game.
Rainbow Bingo which competes with Planet Bingo is played in a similar manner compared to Planet Bingo except that the additional color indicia is determined and announced after the first bingo ball is drawn. Since the claims of the bingo patents were construed to determining the extra winning combination before drawing the first bingo ball, Rainbow Bingo does not literally infringe the claims of the bingo patents.
Moreover, the Federal Circuit affirmed the District Court’s determination that Rainbow Bingo does not infringe the claims of the bingo patents under the Doctrine of Equivalents. In particular, the District Court stated that “after is opposite of before, not equivalent.” Also, the Doctrine of Equivalents should not broaden the meaning of “before” so as to include “after” because to do so would entirely eliminate the “before” claim limitation.
The Federal Circuit distinguished the present case from the opinion of Wright Medical Technology v. Ostenoics Corp., 122 F.3d 1440 (Fed. Cir. 1997). In particular, the court stated that accused equivalent in those cases achieved at least some of the functionality of the claimed invention.
For the foregoing reasons, the Federal Circuit affirmed the District Court’s determination of non infringement literally and under the Doctrine of Equivalents.