IP Law Daily Jury verdict invalidating Bombardier snowmobile frame patents upheld
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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Jury verdict invalidating Bombardier snowmobile frame patents upheld

By George Basharis, J.D.

A jury’s verdict that snowmobile frame patents asserted against Arctic Cat were indefinite and invalid as anticipated or obvious was supported by substantial evidence.

A federal district court correctly upheld a jury verdict invalidating two Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. snowmobile frame patents because substantial evidence supported the jury’s findings that Bombardier’s patent related to rider seat position was indefinite, and its patent for a pyramidal brace assembly was anticipated by prior art snowmobiles, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The federal district court in Minnesota properly denied Bombardier’s post-trial motion for judgment as a matter of law, the Federal Circuit ruled, rejecting Bombardier’s contention that the strength of its evidence was sufficient to nullify the jury’s verdict (Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. v. Arctic Cat Inc., September 20, 2019, Tunheim, J.).

Bombardier brought a patent infringement action against Arctic Cat Inc. alleging that certain Arctic Cat snowmobiles infringed two Bombardier patents related to snowmobile frames: U.S. Patent No. 7,213,669 (the ’669 Patent) and U.S. Patent No. 7,124,847 (the ’847 Patent). Both patents were directed to snowmobile design and construction improvements. The ’669 Patent described "a seat position defined by the seat" that would reposition riders and achieve a "natural riding position." The district court constructed the term "seat position defined by the seat" as incorporating the dimensions for a "standard rider." The ’847 Patent described a "pyramidal brace assembly" that would permit a snowmobile to be converted to an ATV in the summer. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict in Arctic Cat’s favor. Although the jury found the ’669 Patent infringed, the jury found all asserted claims of both the ’669 and ’847 Patents invalid.

The jury’s verdict was based on expert testimony that it would be "nearly impossible" for a skilled artisan to discern the dimensions of the "standard rider" depicted by the ’669 Patent and that a person of ordinary skill in the art could not reasonably ascertained whether a particular seat position fell within the claim scope. The jury also found that the "pyramidal brace assembly" and other chassis improvements described in the ’847 Patent were anticipated and rendered obvious by two prior art snowmobiles. The district court denied Bombardier’s motion for judgment as a matter of law and upheld the jury’s verdict in all respects.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit refused to revive Bombardier’s invalidated patents. The court rejected Bombardier’s contention that the question of indefiniteness should not have been before the jury as there was conflicting expert testimony as to the "seat position" for a standard rider. Bombardier’s expert witness testified that a "seat position defined by the seat" is a standard element of snowmobiles and that a person of ordinary skill in the art would have known exactly how to determine whether a snowmobile contains this limitation, however the jury’s finding that a person of ordinary skill in the art would not understand the dimensions of the "standard rider" was supported by the testimony of Arctic Cat’s expert witness. The court refused to reweigh the evidence on appeal.

The jury’s finding that the ’847 Patent was anticipated by prior art snowmobiles also was supported by substantial evidence. Although not identical to prior art, the ’847 Patent described interconnected braces in a pyramidal assembly that formed an apex, limitations the jury determined were disclosed in the prior art snowmobiles. The Federal Circuit rejected Bombardier’s argument that the chassis improvements described in the ’847 Patent were not obvious because the improvements would add unwanted weight to a snowmobile and a person of ordinary skill in the art would not want to design a snowmobile with this undesirable characteristic. The improvements claimed in the ’847 Patent would add strength and rigidity to a snowmobile, qualities that a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand as a desirable tradeoff. In any event, the court refused to favor Bombardier’s evidence over Arctic Cat’s and determined that because the prior art snowmobiles included limitations of the ’847 Patent, the jury’s obviousness finding was supported by substantial evidence.

This case is No. 18-2388.

Attorneys: Kevin Donald Conneely (Stinson LLP) for Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. and BRP US Inc. Niall Andrew Macleod (Kutak Rock LLP) for Arctic Cat Inc. and Arctic Cat Sales, Inc.

Companies: Bombardier Recreational Products Inc.; BRP US Inc.; Arctic Cat Inc.; Arctic Cat Sales, Inc.

MainStory: TopStory Patent FedCirNews

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