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Michael S. Powell v. The Home Depot U.S.A., Inc.

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 11-14-2011
Case #: 2010-1409, 2010-1416
Prost, Linn, and Dyk
Full Text Opinion: http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/images/stories/opinions-orders/10-1409-1416.pdf

Patents: “A willful infringement determination requires” that “a patentee must show by clear and convincing evidence that the infringer acted despite an objectively high likelihood that its actions constituted infringement” and if that is met that the “objectively-defined risk was either known or so obvious that it should have been known to the accused infringer”

The Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. (“Home Depot”) appealed from the District Court for the Southern District of Florida’s decision of patent infringement of Michael S. Powell’s (“Powell”) U.S. Patent No. 7,044,039 (“’039 Patent”), the validity of the ‘039 Patent due to inequitable conduct, and the amount awarded to Powell including adjustment for the willfulness of the infringement. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed all the findings of the District Court. Home Depot’s challenge to infringement was based on the District Court’s claim construction of “dust collection structure” and “table top.” The Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court’s construction of the terms and held that there was substantial evidence for a finding of infringement. Home Depot argued that Powell acted inequitably by not updating his Petition to Make Special for the ‘039 Patent due to a change in circumstances. The Court of Appeals stated that an applicant’s failure “to update [] the circumstances which support a Petition to Make Special [] does not constitute inequitable conduct.” The Court of Appeals found that Powell had fulfilled the objective prong and had presented adequate evidence for the jury to decide Powell had met the subjective prong of the two-pronged analysis for willful infringement allowing the enhanced of damages. Finally, the Court of Appeals found that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney fees upon finding the case was exceptional based on Home Depot’s “litigation misconduct and vexatious and bad faith litigation. AFFIRMED.