Docket No. 2016-2433, -2514
MOORE, HUGHES, STOLL
February 16, 2017
Brief Summary: The DC’s grant of a preliminary injunction against Toro was affirmed.
Summary: Toro/Exmark (a wholly owned subsidiary of Toro) appealed DJ grant of a preliminary injunction (PI) to Metalcraft regarding lawnmowers with a suspended operator platform encompassed by US 8,186,475. The platform supports the entire body of the operator and “can suspend or isolate some controls from the rigid chasis.” Metalcraft (d/b/a Scag Power Equipment) commercialized the technology in its Cheetah line of lawnmowers and Toro introduced a suspended operator platform (MyRIDETM suspension system) in 2015. Toro’s steering controls “are connected to the chasis, not the operator platform.” The FC opinion explains that PIs are reviewed using the law of the regional circuit (7th here) but that FC precedent has “dominant effect…insofar as it reflects considerations specific to patent issues” (Murata, FC 2016, citing Trebro, FC 2014). Both the 7th circuit and the FC review PI decisions for an abuse of discretion which may be established by showing “a clear error in judgment in weighing relevant factors or exercised its discretion based upon an error of law or clearly erroneous factual findings” (Novo, FC 1996). To obtain a PI, a party must show “that [it] is likely to succeed on the merits” (likely to prove infringement (Sciele Pharma, FC 2012)), “that [it] is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in [its] favor, and than an injunction is in the public interest” (Luminara, FC 2016). And a PI “should not issue if the accused infringer ‘raises a substantial question concerning either infringement or validity” (Amazon.com, FC 2001; Senju, FC 2015). Toro argued the DC erroneously rejected its noninfringement defense because the DC’s construction of “‘an entire body of an operator’ excludes the operator’s hands and arms” (although the DC did make the statement “which means that the platform does not support the rider’s arms and hands”) but the FC disagreed. The FC also agreed that only the “[u]nasserted dependent claims…contain limitations that require the steering controls to be connected to the operator platform” (e.g., “the claim language itself keeps these concepts separate”). Thus, the FC concluded the DC did not abuse its discretion on this point. Toro also argued claim 21 would have been obvious in view of two prior art patents but the FC found the DC properly rejected Toro’s motivation to combine argument (“Toro merely identifies a problem that Henriksson sought to solve. However, ‘knowledge of a problem and motivation to solve it are entirely different from motivation to combine particular references…we are left with only hindsight bias that KSR warns against.” Innogenetics, FC 2008; KSR, US 2007). It also declined to consider Toro’s anticipation arguments regarding claims 11 and 14 because of its determinations regarding claim 21 “which reaches all of the accused products.” Regarding irreparable harm, the FC explained that “[t]here is no requirement that the [DC] discuss every fact alleged by Toro” (Fresenius, FC 2009) and “[t]he fact that other infringers may be in the marketplace does not negate irreparable harm” (Pfizer, FC 2005) and found no abuse of discretion. The FC also found no abuse of discretion in its consideration of the balance of equities and the public interest (Hybritech, FC 1988; Atlas Power Co., FC 1985). And it disagreed with Toro that the injunction is too broad as it “discusses both the claims at issue as well as the defendants’ accused products which it enjoins.”