311 F.2d 26 (7th Cir. 1962), 13699, Day-Brite Lighting, Inc. v. Compco Corp.

Docket Nº:13699, 13700.
Citation:311 F.2d 26, 136 U.S.P.Q. 17
Party Name:DAY-BRITE LIGHTING, INC., Plaintiff-Appellee, v. COMPCO CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellant. DAY-BRITE LIGHTING, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. COMPCO CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:December 14, 1962
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 26

311 F.2d 26 (7th Cir. 1962)

136 U.S.P.Q. 17

DAY-BRITE LIGHTING, INC., Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

COMPCO CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellant.

DAY-BRITE LIGHTING, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

COMPCO CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee.

Nos. 13699, 13700.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

December 14, 1962

Rehearing Denied Jan. 18, 1963.

Page 27

Jerome F. Fallon, Timothy L. Tilton, Chicago, Ill., for Compco Corp.

Before HASTINGS, Chief Judge, and KNOCH and CASTLE, Circuit Judges.

KNOCH, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff, Day-Brite Lighting, Inc., brought suit against defendant, Compco Corporation, for infringement of plaintiff's design patent and unfair competition.

The District Judge found that the patent was invalid and not infringed. He found the defendant was guilty of unfair competition, granted an injunction and ordered an accounting for damages. The defendant appealed this latter part of the judgment. The plaintiff cross-appealed the finding of invalidity and non-infringement of the patent.

The design of the patent concerns reflectors in commercial fluorescent lighting fixtures. The fixtures here involved are of the 'uplight' type; 48 inches long; made of a housing, a ballast (transformer), a reflector, sockets and wiring for long lighting tubes; all sold, not in component parts but as a unit, ready for ceiling installation. The reflector, sandwiched, the light tubes, has elongated slots and the light tubes, has elongated slots to allow light from the tubes to be directed upward against the ceiling as well as down toward the floor. The fixtures may be positioned end to end in a continuous line.

This type of Fixture, popular in the early 1950's and marketed by a number of companies, including plaintiff's, used cross ribs between the elongated slots, the housings and over-all fixtures being similar in general appearance and size.

In 1954, after complaints of warpage in the reflectors, which caused the porcelain reflective coatings to chip, plaintiff altered its design by extending the cross ribs down the sides of the U-shaped reflector.

Page 28

Although this also presented an attractive appearance, it served to strengthen the reflector. The changed design was embodied in fixtures which the plaintiff began selling in or about October, 1954. These are sold under the name 'C F I-10.' The new appearance of the plaintiff's fixtures was the subject of its Patent No. Des. 176,367, issued December 13, 1955, which plaintiff sought to enforce in this action. Styling is considered important in the industry and such styling does provide product identification which increases salability of products.

In 1955, Mitchell Manufacturing Company manufactured fixtures with reflectors under the names 'Mitchell' and 'Dynalite,' which were almost exact copies of plaintiff's C F I-10 design. On or about December 31, 1955, the plaintiff gave notice of infringement to Cory Manufacturing Company, which had then acquired Mitchell Manufacturing Company and was advertising the reflectors. On or about March 9, 1956, defendant acquired certain of the Mitchell assets from Cory, and defendant then manufactured the Mitchell and Dynalite reflectors, using the same advertising and promotional literature put out by Mitchell and Cory.

On or about March 30, 1956, the plaintiff gave notice of infringement to the defendant. Defendant denied both infringement and the validity of the plaintiff's patent. Two of the plaintiff's other competitors who were offering reflectors having the overall appearance of C F I-10 entered into consent judgments holding the patent valid and infringed. Others discontinued manufacturing such reflectors on notice of infringement.

The District Judge held that plaintiff's patent was invalid. He specifically found that the function of the cross ribs was to strengthen against warp and twist, to minimize distortion due to the heat of the porcelain enameling process, and to prevent chipping of the finish after cooling; that the size, shape and length were dictated by the manufacturing process. He also found that had plaintiff's patent been valid, it would have been infringed by the defendant's reflectors.

The evidence of infringement presents no substantial issue. We must agree with the District Court that if the plaintiff's patent is valid, it is also infringed.

The evidence clearly indicates that the change of design as shown in the patent in suit arose out of a need to meet complaints of warping. While a choice of ribbing to meet the need was available, any particular choice had to be made from those types of ribbing which would be suitable to the functional requirement. The rib design had to be of a type to strengthen the reflector against warp and twist. The plaintiff's Manager of Tools and Dies, Bert A. Kaeppel, testified that the depth and shape of the ribbing was dictated by production requirements....

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