238 F.3d 1362 (Fed. Cir. 2001), 99-1489, Flex-Foot Inc v. CRP Inc

Docket Nº:99-1489
Citation:238 F.3d 1362
Party Name:FLEX-FOOT, INC. and VAN L. PHILLIPS, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. CRP, INC. (doing business as Springlite), Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:February 02, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
 
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238 F.3d 1362 (Fed. Cir. 2001)

FLEX-FOOT, INC. and VAN L. PHILLIPS, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

CRP, INC. (doing business as Springlite), Defendant-Appellant.

99-1489

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

February 2, 2001

Appealed from: United States District Court for the Central District of California Judge David O. Carter

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Brenton R. Babcock, Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear, LLP, of Newport Beach, California, argued for plaintiffs-appellees. With him on the brief was Darrell L. Olson.

Paul S. Malingagio, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, of Los Angeles, California, argued for defendant-appellant. With him on the brief were Gary A. Clark, and Jeanine L. Hayes.

Before MAYER, Chief Judge, PLAGER, Senior Circuit Judge, [*] and LINN, Circuit Judge.

LINN, Circuit Judge.

CRP, Inc. d/b/a Springlite ("Springlite") appeals the district court's entry of judgment confirming an arbitration award, its holding that Springlite is collaterally estopped from presenting its patent invalidity defenses and counterclaim, and its entry of judgment in favor of Flex-Foot, Inc. and Van L. Phillips (collectively "Flex-Foot") for an injunction and an award of costs. See Flex-Foot, Inc. v. CRP, Inc., SACV 97-504 DOC (C.D. Cal. entered June 11, 1999). Because the district court did not err in affirming the arbitration award or entering judgment in favor of Flex-Foot, we affirm.

BACKGROUND

This is the third litigation between Springlite and Flex-Foot regarding U.S. Patent No. 4,822,363 (the "'363 patent"). In 1989, Flex-Foot brought the first lawsuit against Springlite for infringement of the '363 patent. That action was promptly settled and dismissed by way of a settlement agreement and a corresponding license agreement in which Springlite agreed to pay a royalty on the accused Springlite device.

Springlite contends that its primary motivation in settling with Flex-Foot at that time was economic. Springlite did not have the financial resources to defend against Flex-Foot's infringement claims. Neither the settlement agreement nor the license agreement acknowledged that Springlite's device infringed the '363 patent. In addition, neither agreement barred Springlite from later challenging the validity of the '363 patent. In fact, the license expressly provided that it would expire upon judicial determination that the '363 patent was invalid.

Springlite brought a second action in 1993 (the "DJ action"), seeking a declaration that the '363 patent was invalid. The parties thereafter conducted discovery and fully briefed a motion for summary judgment regarding Springlite's invalidity allegations. While that motion was pending, however, the parties settled the case

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in March 1994 via another settlement agreement (the "March 1994 Settlement Agreement") and corresponding license agreement (the "March 1994 License Agreement").

The March 1994 Settlement Agreement contains language making it clear that Springlite waived its right to challenge the validity and enforceability of the '363 patent. Specifically, paragraph 7.1 states:

7.1 The CRP Group agrees not to challenge or cause to be challenged, directly or indirectly, the validity or enforceability of the '913 patent and/or the '363 patent in any court or other tribunal, including the United States Patent and Trademark Office. As to the '363 and '913 patents only, the CRP Group waives any and all invalidity and unenforceability defenses in any future litigation, arbitration, or other proceeding. This waiver applies to any product made, used, or sold by the CRP Group or any of their assignees, successors or those who act for or in concert with any of them at any time during the life of either the '363 or '913 patents. 1

In addition, paragraph 6 of the March 1994 License Agreement states:

CRP agrees not to challenge or cause to be challenged, directly or indirectly, the validity or unenforceability, or scope of the '913 patent and/or the '363 patent in any court or tribunal, or before the United States Patent and Trademark Office or in any arbitration proceeding. This waiver is expressly limited to challenges to the '363 and '913 patents, but applies without exception to any and all products which CRP may make, use or sell in the future. CRP also waives any argument that the licensed products are not covered by one or more claims of the '913 or '363 patent.

The March 1994 Settlement Agreement also required arbitration of any infringement claims. Pursuant to the March 1994 Settlement Agreement and the March 1994 License Agreement, the parties entered into a stipulation for dismissal of the DJ action with prejudice.

In 1997, Flex-Foot filed a complaint alleging that Springlite's "G-Foot" prosthetic foot device infringed the '363 patent (the "1997 Complaint"). In accordance with the March 1994 Settlement Agreement, the 1997 Complaint was sent to arbitration. In January 1999, Flex-Foot successfully obtained an arbitration award from the American Arbitration Association ("AAA"). That decision, rendered by a panel of three patent attorneys mutually selected by the parties, found that the accused Springlite device literally infringed asserted claims 16 and 17 of the '363 patent. The arbitration panel awarded Flex-Foot the costs of the arbitration. Soon thereafter, Springlite requested that the arbitrators clarify or modify their award, as well as set forth clear statements about the scope of the contested claim elements. The arbitrators declined both requests.

As a defense to the charge of infringement in the 1997 Complaint, Springlite alleged invalidity of the '363 patent, and subsequent to the arbitrators' award, filed a motion with the district court to vacate the award and consider the invalidity defense. In response, Flex-Foot filed a motion to affirm the arbitration award. The district court granted Flex-Foot's motion to confirm the arbitration award and entered a permanent injunction against Springlite, concluding that Springlite was "collaterally estopped" from challenging the validity and enforceability of Flex-Foot's '363 patent.

Springlite appeals the arbitration panel's award and the district court's judgment to this court. We have jurisdiction over Springlite's appeal from the district court's judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(1) (1994).

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DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

When reviewing district court decisions upholding arbitration awards, we accept findings of fact that are not clearly erroneous and decide questions of law de novo. SeeFirst Options v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938, 948 (1995).

In 1982, Congress enacted provisions that allow...

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