Clare v. Chrysler Group LLC

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Patents
  • Date Filed: 12-04-2014
  • Case #: 13-11225
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 167931
  • Full Text Opinion

Defendant is not liable for patent infringement unless the product is literally equivalent to the patented product or fulfills the doctrine of equivalents.

Opinion (Edmunds): Plaintiffs Clare, Neil Long, and Innovative Truck Storage, Inc. (“Clare”) create truck stowage accessories. Defendant Chrysler Group, LLP (“Chrysler”) is a vehicle designer and manufacturer. Clare alleges that Chrysler infringed upon its patented hidden truck bed storage unit. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the product does not fulfill the external appearance limitation because it is obviously a storage box and the claim does not meet the doctrine of equivalents. "To prove infringement, the patentee must show that an accused product embodies all limitations of the claim either literally or by the doctrine of equivalents." To prove that the patented product meets the doctrine of equivalents, the product must have “substantially the same function in substantially the same way with substantially the same result as each claim limitation of the patented product.” The claim does not “literally infringe” the external appearance limitation because it is visibly a storage unit. Clare was also unable to prove that Chrysler infringed its patent pursuant to the doctrine of equivalents because of the history of estoppel and vitiation. The court determines that “prosecution history estoppel prevents the patentee from asserting an equivalent that was surrendered during the prosecution of the patent.” In this case, “the patent examiner rejected the claims containing the external appearance limitation.” The claim is also barred by vitiation because “the alleged equivalent would ‘vitiate’ the external appearance limitation.” Motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant is GRANTED.

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