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Unique Industries, Inc v. 965207 Alberta Ltd

February 16, 2012

UNIQUE INDUSTRIES, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
965207 ALBERTA LTD., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document Nos.: 69, 70, 71, 72

MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING THE PARTIES'CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. The defendant is a company that holds two design patents for numerical and star-shaped sparklers, a type of firework that throws off sparks when lit. The plaintiff is a company that sells similar products. The plaintiff commenced this action in pursuit of a declaratory judgment stating that its products do not infringe upon the defendant's design patents, and that the defendant's patents are invalid. The defendant maintains that its patents are valid, and it has asserted counterclaims against the plaintiff for patent infringement. Because genuine disputes of material fact prevent the issuance of summary judgment, the court denies the parties' motions.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Legal Framework

The primary purpose of the patent system is to advance progress in the arts and sciences by granting an inventor the exclusive right to profit from the invention for a period of years.

Sinclair & Carroll Co. v. Interchemical Corp., 325 U.S. 327, 330 (1945); In re CFLC, Inc., 89 F.3d 673, 679 (9th Cir. 1996). To preserve this exclusive right, federal law presumes that all existing patents are valid, 35 U.S.C. § 282 (1994), and this presumption can only be overcome by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. See, e.g., WMS Gaming Inc. v. Int'l Game Tech., 184 F.3d 1339, 1355 (Fed. Cir. 1999).

There are several methods by which a plaintiff may mount an attack on the validity of a patent. For instance, a plaintiff may show that someone else invented the patented subject matter. 35 U.S.C. § 102(f). Such a patent is said to have "derived" from another's invention. See Polymer Indus. Products Co. v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., 2001 WL 253259, at *4 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 13, 2001). In addition, a plaintiff may show that the defendant's patent is invalid because it was "anticipated" by "prior art" -- that is to say, the patented subject matter existed in the public domain at the time that the patent was obtained. Retractable Technologies, Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson & Co., 653 F.3d 1296, 1309 (Fed. Cir. 2011).

Should the patent be deemed valid, its owner may bring suit against individuals or organizations that possess products which "infringe" on the patent. 35 U.S.C. § 271. An individual infringes on a patent by producing a product that is so similar to the patented material that an ordinary observer might mistake one for the other. See Egyptian Goddess, Inc. v. Swisa, Inc., 543 F.3d 665, 678-79 (Fed. Cir. 2008). With this legal framework in mind, the court now turns to the factual and procedural history of this case.

B. Factual & Procedural Background

The plaintiff manufactures and markets party supplies such as balloons, paper goods, wrapping paper and novelty products, including sparklers. Compl. ¶ 5. In early 2008, the defendant contacted the plaintiff, asserting that the plaintiff's sparklers violated two of the defendannt's design patents: U.S. Design Pateent Nos. D4447,207 ("the 207 Patent"") and D451,,164 ("the 1644 Patent"). IId. ¶ 6; Def."s Mot. for CClaim Constrruction at 1. The 207 Paatent covers a set of numerrical sparklerrs, representted by the figgure below:

Def.'s M

Mot. for Claim m Constructiion, Ex. A (2207 Patent).

The 164 Patennt is for a star a -shaped spparkler repreesented by ...


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