Warner-Jenkinson Company, Inc. v. Hilton Davis Chemical Co.

Warner-Jenkinson Company, Inc. V. Hilton Davis Chemical Co.

Warner-Jenkinson Company, Inc. v. Hilton Davis Chemical Co.

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Description:
Warner-Jenkinson Company, Inc. v. Hilton Davis Chemical Co., 520 U.S. 17 (1997), was a United States Supreme Court decision in the area of patent law, affirming the continued vitality of the doctrine of equivalents while making some important refinements to the doctrine.

Facts

The plaintiff Hilton Davis Chemical Co., a dyemaker, had developed an "ultrafiltration" process to purify dyes. An amendment to the patent had specified that a solution used in the process must have a pH level between 6.0 and 9.0. The amendment was filed in order to clarify that this patent did not overlap with a previously patented process that used a solution with a pH level above 9.0 - however, the plaintiff was unable to explain why the amendment stated a lower level of 6.0. The defendant had developed a process using a solution with a pH level of 5.0, which was outside the range of the plaintiff's patent.

The plaintiff sued for infringement, conceding that the defendant's process did not literally infringe, but relying on the doctrine of equivalents to support the claim of infringement. The defendant argued that the doctrine of equivalents was no longer appropriate for courts to use because Congress had made some changes to the patent statute after the Supreme Court's 1950 decision establishing the propriety of using the doctrine.

Issue

Is the doctrine of equivalents still in force? How is the plaintiff's amendment to figure into the problem?

Result

The Court, in an opinion by...
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