Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Exmark Manufacturing Company Inc. v. Briggs & Stratton Corporation

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

December 3, 2018

EXMARK MANUFACTURING COMPANY INC., Plaintiff,
v.
BRIGGS & STRATTON CORPORATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOSEPH F. BATAILLON, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on defendant Briggs & Stratton Corporation's (“Briggs”) motion for summary judgment that Claim 1 of U.S. Patent No. 5, 987, 863 (“the '863 Patent”) is invalid due to indefiniteness, Filing No. 826.

         Briggs's motion is premised on the contention that the court adopted a “revised construction” of the term “flow control baffle” in its order reaffirming the validity of the ‘863 patent over the prior art. See Filing No. 800, Memorandum and Order. It contends the agreed-upon construction of flow control baffle as a “structure within the walls of the mower deck that controls the flow of air and grass clippings” has no explicit or implicit requirement that the baffle have a “meaningful” effect on airflow. Filing No. 860, Reply Brief at 1. It argues that the court's ostensible “revised construction of ‘flow control baffle'-requiring the entire baffle to have a meaningful effect on the flow of air and grass clippings-renders claim 1 of the ‘863 patent indefinite because there is no objective way to determine whether the baffle's effect is ‘meaningful.'” Id.

         Exmark argues that Briggs's present motion is controlled by the law of the case. Further, Exmark argues that by failing to raise the present indefiniteness argument before the Federal Circuit, Briggs has waived its right to raise it in this court. Finally, Exmark contends Briggs cannot meet the heavy burden to show that Exmark's '863 patent is invalid as indefinite by clear and convincing evidence.

         I. FACTS

         As relevant to this motion, the record shows that prior to the trial of this matter, Briggs moved for a summary judgment that Claim 1 was invalid as indefinite. Filing No. 309. This court found as a matter of law that the claim was not invalid as indefinite. Filing No. 476, Memorandum and Order at 25-27. The Court stated:

In the context of the claims of this patent, the terms can be easily understood. The court finds the defendant's argument is inconsistent with the claim language, the court's claim construction order, its own experts' opinions on what the prior art teaches, and with the common-sense understanding of the terms. The terms must be viewed with the understanding of the function of the flow control baffle, which was to "control" the flow of the air and grass clippings. There are objective criteria to measure the effect of a flow control baffle. One skilled in the art would understand the limitations to call for a baffle that efficiently controls the flow of the air and clippings. The terms must be understood in the context of the objectives of claimed invention-particularly "to provide a lawn mower . . . having a flow control baffle which efficiently directs the grass clippings and air towards the side discharge of the mower deck in a manner which prevents grass clippings and air from being directed downwardly onto the ground or turf unless the mulching baffles are mounted on the mower."

Filing No. 1, Complaint, Ex. A, '863 Patent at 2:24-29.

         The Court's finding on indefiniteness was affirmed on appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“federal Circuit” or “Appeals Court”). Exmark Mfg. Co. Inc. v. Briggs & Stratton Power Prod. Grp., LLC, 879 F.3d 1332, 1344-47 (Fed. Cir. 2018).[1]

         The Federal Circuit reversed the court's anticipation and obviousness rulings, finding error in the court's purported reliance on the findings of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”). Id. at 1337. It directed the Court to make an independent determination and to address certain legal issues, including claim construction. Id. at 1344. The Appeals Court stated that this court may have adopted a broader construction than the PTO of the “flow control baffle” limitation of the claim and directed the court to reconsider how the claim construction impacted the invalidity analysis. Id. at 1343.

         The Court did so in its order reaffirming the validity of the ‘'863 patent. Filing No. 800, Memorandum and Order at 11-12. The Court clarified that it had not adopted the language from the PTAB construction regarding a flow control baffle having a “meaningful effect” on the flow of air and grass clippings, explaining that “the parties' agreed construction was easily understood and there was no need for the ‘meaningful effect' language.” Id. at 11 (citing Filing No. 476, Memorandum and Order at 24 n.8).

         The Court found

As understood in context, there is no substantive difference between the PTAB's construction and the parties' original agreed-upon construction. In context, to a person of ordinary skill in the art, a baffle is separate from and spaced away from the front wall in order to constitute a “flow control baffle.” The two phrases effectively convey the same basic point-under the Court's claim construction, the claim term “flow control baffle” does not cover thin mounting plates that run along, contact, and conform to the front deck wall as in the Simplicity mulching mower. The concept of a “meaningful effect” is subsumed within the notion of “control” of the flow of clippings.

Id. at 12. The Court also stated that it applied the claim construction adopted early in the litigation in making its determination. Id. at 14. Filing No. 800, Memorandum and Order at 14.[22] The Court also considered indefiniteness in the context of the disclosure required for a patent to be entitled to the benefit of the filing date of an earlier filed application, citing Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., 572 U.S. 898, 134 S.Ct. 2120, 2129 (2014), for the proposition that a claim is indefinite if, when read in light of the specification and prosecution history, it fails ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.