Automotive Technologies v. Siemens Vdo Automotive

Decision Date30 October 2009
Docket NumberCase No. 06-CV-15756-DT.
Citation669 F.Supp.2d 836
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Michigan

Andrew Kochanowski, Lisa R. Mikalonis, Sommers, Schwartz PC, Southfield, MI, Michael H. Baniak, McDonnell, Boehnen, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff.

Boyd T. Cloern, Bingham McCutchen LLP, Jin-Suk Park, Akin, Gump, Washington, DC, Drew M. Wintringham, III, Mark W. Rueh, DLA Piper US LLP, Mark A. Kirsch, Clifford Chance, New York, NY, Kathleen A. Lang, Michelle Thurber Czapski, Dickinson Wright, Detroit, MI, Andrea L. Moody, Lawrence C. Mann, Bowman & Brooke, Troy, MI, Gregory A. Lewis, Peter J. Brennan, Reginald J. Hill, Jenner and Block, Chicago, IL, for Defendants.


ROBERT H. CLELAND, District Judge.

Pending before the court are ten motions for summary judgment filed by the Defendants in this case. The parties have briefed the matter, and the court concludes a hearing on the motion is unnecessary. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(e)(2). For the reasons stated below, the court will grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment of invalidity as to U.S. Patent Nos. 7,025,379, 7,052,038, and 7,070,202, grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment of invalidity as to U.S. Patent No. 6,850,824, and deny the remaining motions as moot.


This litigation involves U.S. Patent Nos. 7,025,379 ("'379 Patent"), 7,052,038 ("'038 Patent"), 7,070,202 ("'202 Patent"), 7,097,201 ("'201 Patent") and 6,850,824 ("'824 Patent"), all of which are related to motor vehicle side-impact sensors that deploy occupant protection apparatus, such as airbags. ATI earlier litigated Patent No 5,231,253 ("'253 Patent") before this court, and the court construed that patent to disclose both a mechanical accelerometer and an electronic-based side crash sensor. The court also concluded that certain defendants should be dismissed because of the locations in vehicles where sensors were mounted. Auto. Techs. Int'l, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., No. 01-71700, 2004 WL 5465964 (E.D.Mich. March 31, 2004) (Cleland, J.). The court later granted summary judgment to the remaining defendants because any claims concerning electronic sensors were invalid for lack of enablement. Auto. Techs. Int'l, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc. (ATI I), 378 F.Supp.2d 780 (E.D.Mich.2005). The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed, finding the '253 patent invalid for lack of enablement. Automotive Technologies Int'l, Inc. v. BMW of North America, Inc., 501 F.3d 1274 (Fed.Cir. 2007).2

ATI contends that the patents involved in this litigation "generally come from two different `families' of earlier ATI patents which followed the '253 Patent, and which add detail to the specification concerning use of an electronic side crash sensor in connection with occupant restraint apparatus." (ATI's Br. at 1.) Defendants dispute this view and contend that ATI is "attempt[ing] to justify the overly broad claim scope it now seeks." (Defs.' Br. at 1-2.) The court construed the parties' claims in its November 11, 2008 order, and following that order the parties agreed to dismissal of Plaintiff's claims as to the '201 patent, and the court entered a stipulated order to this effect on February 3, 2009.


Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(c). "In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, drawing all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." Sagan v. United States, 342 F.3d 493, 497 (6th Cir.2003). "Where the moving party has carried its burden of showing that the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions and affidavits in the record, construed favorably to the non-moving party, do not raise a genuine issue of material fact for trial, entry of summary judgment is appropriate." Gutierrez v. Lynch, 826 F.2d 1534, 1536 (6th Cir.1987) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)).

The court does not weigh the evidence to determine the truth of the matter, but rather, to determine if the evidence produced creates a genuine issue for trial. Sagan, 342 F.3d at 497 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). The moving party must first show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Plant v. Morton Int'l, 212 F.3d 929, 934 (6th Cir.2000) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548). The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). They must put forth enough evidence to show that there exists a genuine issue to be decided at trial. Plant, 212 F.3d at 934 (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256, 106 S.Ct. 2505).

The existence of a factual dispute alone does not, however, defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment—the disputed factual issue must be material. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (citation omitted) ("The judge's inquiry, therefore, unavoidably asks whether reasonable jurors could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff is entitled to a verdict—`whether there is [evidence] upon which a jury can properly proceed to find a verdict for the party producing it, upon whom the onus of proof is imposed.'"). A fact is "material" for purposes of summary judgment when proof of that fact would establish or refute an essential element of the claim or a defense advanced by either party. Kendall v. Hoover Co., 751 F.2d 171, 174 (6th Cir.1984) (citation omitted).

A patent enjoys a presumption of validity pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 282. "Consequently, `a moving party seeking to invalidate a patent at summary judgment must submit such clear and convincing evidence of invalidity so that no reasonable jury could find otherwise.'" Chrimar Sys. v. Cisco Sys., 318 F.Supp.2d 476, 491 (E.D.Mich.2004) (quoting Eli Lilly & Co. v. Barr Labs., 251 F.3d 955, 962 (Fed.Cir. 2001)); see also Beckson Marine, Inc. v. NFM, Inc., 292 F.3d 718, 725 (Fed.Cir. 2002) (holding that a party seeking to establish particular claims as invalid must overcome the presumption of validity in 35 U.S.C. § 282 by clear and convincing evidence). However, "[t]he burden of persuasion created by the presumption of validity of the patent as issued is more easily met when evidence is introduced of more pertinent prior art than that considered by the Patent Examiner during prosecution of the patent application." Standard Mfg. v. United States, 25 Cl.Ct. 1, 50 (Cl.Ct.1991) (citing Solder Removal Co. v. United States Int'l Trade Com., 65 C.C.P.A. 120, 582 F.2d 628, 633 (1978)).

Finally, "[a] quite different burden is that of going forward with evidence-sometimes referred to as the burden of production-a shifting burden the allocation of which depends on where in the process of trial the issue arises." Tech. Licensing Corp. v. Videotek, 545 F.3d 1316, 1327 (Fed.Cir.2008) (citation omitted). First the party alleging invalidity has the burden of going forward with evidence of anticipating prior art, and then the patent-holder has the burden of going forward with evidence

that it is not prior art because the asserted claim is entitled to the benefit of a filing date prior to the alleged prior art. This requires [a party] to show not only the existence of the earlier application, but why the written description in the earlier application supports the claim.

Id. (internal citations omitted). This means "producing sufficient evidence and argument to show that an ancestor to the [patent at issue], with a filing date prior to the [alleged prior art] date, contains a written description that supports all the limitations of . . . the claim being asserted." Id.

In order to establish invalidity on obviousness grounds, Defendants must show that "the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which said subject matter pertains." 35 U.S.C. § 103(a).

Obviousness under 35 U.S.C. § 103(a) is ultimately a legal question, based on underlying factual determinations. See Richardson-Vicks, Inc. v. Upjohn Co., 122 F.3d 1476, 1479 (Fed.Cir.1997). The factual determinations underpinning the legal conclusion of obviousness include 1) the scope and content of the prior art 2) the level of ordinary skill in the art,3 3) the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art, and 4) evidence of secondary factors, also known as objective indicia of non-obviousness. Graham v. John Deere Co., 383 U.S. 1, 17-18, 86 S.Ct. 684, 15 L.Ed.2d 545 (1966).

Eisai Co. Ltd. v. Dr. Reddy's Labs., Ltd., 533 F.3d 1353, 1356 (Fed.Cir.2008); see also Para-Ordnance Mfg., Inc. v. SGS Imps. Int'l., Inc., 73 F.3d 1085, 1088 (Fed. Cir.1995) ("The ultimate determination of obviousness is a question of law, which we review de novo."). "The scope and content of the prior art, differences between the prior art and the claimed invention, the level of ordinary skill in the art, and objective evidence of secondary considerations of patentability are fact determinations." Para-Ordnance Mfg., 73 F.3d at 1088. A...

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