By Thomas Long, J.D.
Two Oklahoma City fabrication shops—defendants Kat Industries and Kat Machine—did not infringe 14 claims of a Red Dog Mobile Shelters patent that described a "Re-Deployable Mobile Above Ground Shelter" because the accused product did not, as a matter of law, incorporate two limitations of the asserted invention: a "ballast" and "rails that … support the protective shelter on a substrate," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has held. Summary judgment of noninfringement was affirmed (Red Dog Mobile Shelters, LLC v. Kat Industries, Inc., November 3, 2016, Taranto, R.).
Patent-in-suit. Red Dog owned U.S. Patent No. 8,534,001 ("the ’001 patent"), titled "Re-Deployable Mobile Above Ground Shelter." The ’001 patent disclosed certain protective shelters having features that helped the shelter stay in place during high winds or similar conditions. Some of those features exploited the Bernoulli effect, which involved differences in air pressure related to differences in air speeds, to keep the shelter from moving from the substrate beneath it. Disclosed features included "one or more members that elevate the floor above a substrate, a substantially enclosed sub-floor region bounded by the protected shelter and the substrate, and an air duct providing airflow communication between the substantially enclosed sub-floor region and an exterior region of the enclosure via" venting.
Accused product. Kat manufactured mobile protective shelters designed to protect occupants during storms or tornadoes. Red Dog asserted that Kat’s "Tuffy" shelter infringed 14 claims of the ’001 patent. The district court granted Kat’s motion for summary judgment of noninfringement, finding that there was insufficient evidence to create a triable issue about whether the accused Kat shelter met the "support" and "elevate" limitations of the patent. Red Dog appealed.
"Support." Seven claims of the ’001 patent required that the patented product include "multiple rails that extend along the first axis, are coupled to the enclosure, and support the protective shelter on a substrate." Six other claims required that the product include "multiple elongate members extending along the first axis that are coupled to the enclosure and support the protective shelter on a substrate."
To find that the Kat shelters infringed would require an interpretation of "support … on a substrate" that would cover certain raised elements in the Kat shelters that did not sit under the central shelter, which sat on the soil (or substrate). In the Federal Circuit’s view, the district court properly rejected Red Dog’s "support" interpretation. There was no basis to conclude that the ’001 patent contemplated a notion of support by rails other than the common-sense one apparent from the written description—namely, rails sitting beneath the shelter. Therefore, summary judgment was proper with respect to 13 of the claims.
"Elevate." One claim of the ’001 patent mandated that the product have "multiple rails that elevate the floor above a substrate" and "first and second decks supported by the rails." The Federal Circuit concluded that the district court properly held that the "rails that elevate the floor above a substrate" limitation could not cover Kat’s shelter, in which the raised elements—the asserted rails—were to the side of the shelter and did not lift its bottom plate above the ground. The ’001 patent clearly contemplated rails that lifted the bottom plate above the ground and created a gap between the floor panel and the ground. The court rejected Red Dog’s contention that Kat’s shelter was "elevated" because of the thickness of the bottom plate; under this interpretation, it would be impossible to create a floor that was not elevated.
The case is No. 2016-1370.
Attorneys: Elvin E. Smith, III (Law Offices of Elvin E. Smith, III) for Red Dog Mobile Shelters LLC. Richard Brent Cooper (Cooper & Scully) for Kat Industries, Inc. and Kat Machine, Inc.
Companies: Red Dog Mobile Shelters, LLC; Kat Industries, Inc.; Kat Machine, Inc.
MainStory: TopStory Patent FedCirNews
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