Seb S.A. v. Montgomery Ward & Co., Inc., No. 2009-1099.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Writing for the CourtRader
Citation594 F.3d 1360
Decision Date05 February 2010
Docket NumberNo. 2009-1099.,No. 2009-1119.,No. 2009-1108.
PartiesSEB S.A., Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant-Cross Appellant, and T-Fal Corporation, Counterclaim Defendant, v. MONTGOMERY WARD & CO., INC., Defendant, and Global-Tech Appliances, Inc., Defendant-Appellant, and Pentalpha Enterprises, Ltd., Defendant/Counterclaimant-Appellant.
594 F.3d 1360
SEB S.A., Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant-Cross Appellant, and
T-Fal Corporation, Counterclaim Defendant,
v.
MONTGOMERY WARD & CO., INC., Defendant, and
Global-Tech Appliances, Inc., Defendant-Appellant, and
Pentalpha Enterprises, Ltd., Defendant/Counterclaimant-Appellant.
No. 2009-1099.
No. 2009-1108.
No. 2009-1119.
United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit.
February 5, 2010.

[594 F.3d 1364]

Norman H. Zivin, Cooper & Dunham LLP, of New York, NY, argued for plaintiff/counterclaim defendant-cross appellant. With him on the brief was Wendy E. Miller.

William Dunnegan, Dunnegan LLC, of New York, NY, argued for defendant-appellant and defendant/counterclaimant-appellant. With him on the brief was Laura Scileppi.

Before RADER, BRYSON, and LINN, Circuit Judges.

[594 F.3d 1365]

RADER, Circuit Judge.


This case began in August of 1999 when Plaintiff SEB S.A. ("SEB") sued defendants Montgomery Ward & Co., Inc. ("Montgomery Ward"), Global-Tech Appliances, Inc. ("Global-Tech"), and Pentalpha Enterprises, Ltd. ("Pentalpha") for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 4,995,312 (the "'312 patent"). Almost seven years later, a jury found that Pentalpha had willfully infringed, and induced infringement of, claim 1 of the '312 patent and awarded SEB $4.65 million in damages. Pentalpha filed post-trial motions on a number of grounds. The district court granted them in part, reducing the amount of damages by $2 million. SEB S.A. v. Montgomery Ward & Co., No. 99-9284, 2007 WL 3165783 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 9, 2007) ("JMOL Opinion"). The district court awarded SEB enhanced damages and attorneys' fees, but later vacated that award in light of this court's decision in In re Seagate Technology, LLC, 497 F.3d 1360 (Fed.Cir.2007) (en banc). SEB S.A. v. Montgomery Ward & Co., No. 99-9284, 2008 WL 4540416 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 1, 2008) ("Enhanced Damages Opinion"). On appeal, Pentalpha raises a host of issues that relate to the jury verdict and the district court's post-trial rulings. SEB cross-appeals the district court's enhanced damages ruling. Detecting no reversible error in the district court proceedings, this court affirms.

I.

SEB is a French company that specializes in home-cooking appliances. It sells products in the United States through an indirect subsidiary, T-Fal Corp. ("T-Fal"). SEB owns the '312 patent, entitled "Cooking Appliance with Electric Heating," which claims a deep fryer with an inexpensive plastic outer shell, or skirt. In the past, skirts for deep fryers were made of plastic material capable of continuously withstanding temperatures higher than 150° C. These heat resistant plastics, however, are expensive and therefore incompatible with large-scale manufacture of low-priced fryers.

The skirt disclosed in the '312 patent, labeled with the number 3 in the cross-section shown below, is well-insulated from the heat of the fryer's metal pan (1).

NOTE: OPINION CONTAINING TABLE OR OTHER DATA THAT IS NOT VIEWABLE

594 F.3d 1366

The '312 patent explains construction of a deep fryer with a well-insulated skirt. A ring of heat-insulating and heat-resistive material (5) joins the top edge of the skirt to the top edge of the pan. Other than that ring, however, the skirt is "completely free with respect to the pan." '312 patent col.1 l.65-col.2 1.2. The skirt and the pan are separated by "an air space of sufficient width to limit the temperature of the skirt." Id. at col.1 II.60-64. Thus, because of the insulation provided by air space, the skirt "can be fabricated from inexpensive ordinary-grade plastic material [that] does not afford resistance to high temperatures." Id. at col.4 II.32-35.

Claim 1 of the '312 patent, the only claim at issue, reads as follows (emphasis added):

An electrical deep fryer comprising a metal pan (1) having a wall, and an electric heating resister [sic] (2) that heats said wall directly by conductive heating to a temperature higher than 150° C, said pan (1) being surrounded by a plastic skirt (3), wherein said skirt (3) is of plastic material which does not continuously withstand a temperature of 150° C, said skirt (3) entirely surrounding the lateral wall (1a) and the base (1b) of the pan and being separated from said wall and said base by an air space (4) of sufficient width to limit the temperature of the skirt (3) to a value which is compatible with the thermal resistance of the plastic material of the skirt (3), said skirt (3) being completely free with respect to the pan (1) with the exception of a ring (5) which joins only the top edge (3a) of the skirt to the top edge (1c) of the pan and to which this latter is attached, said ring (5) being of heat-insulating material which is continuously resistant to the temperature of the top edge (1c) of the pan (1).

Defendant Pentalpha is a Hong Kong corporation and a subsidiary of defendant Global-Tech, a British Virgin Islands corporation, which was formerly known as Wing Shing International, Ltd. (For convenience, this opinion will refer to Pentalpha and Global-Tech collectively as "Pentalpha.") Pentalpha began selling its accused deep fryers to non-party Sunbeam Products, Inc. ("Sunbeam") in 1997. In developing its deep fryer, Pentalpha purchased an SEB deep fryer in Hong Kong and copied its "cool touch" features. Shortly after agreeing to supply Sunbeam, Pentalpha obtained a "right-to-use study" from an attorney in Binghamton, New York. The attorney analyzed 26 patents and concluded that none of the claims in those patents read on Pentalpha's deep fryer. Pentalpha, however, did not tell the attorney that it had copied an SEB deep fryer.

Sunbeam resold the Pentalpha deep fryers in the United States under its own trademarks, "Oster" and "Sunbeam." On March 10, 1998, SEB sued Sunbeam in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleging that Sunbeam's sales infringed the '312 patent (the "Sunbeam Suit"). See SEB S.A. v. Sunbeam Corp., No. 2:98-CV-1050 (date closed May 28, 2002). Pentalpha was notified of the Sunbeam Suit on April 9, 1998. That suit ended in a settlement in which Sunbeam agreed to pay SEB $2 million.

Pentalpha also sold the same deep fryers to non-party Fingerhut Corp. ("Fingerhut") and defendant Montgomery Ward. These sales to Fingerhut and Montgomery Ward occurred after Pentalpha learned of the Sunbeam Suit. Like Sunbeam, Fingerhut and Montgomery Ward also sold the products under their own trademarks, CHEF'S MARK and ADMIRAL. Pentalpha sold these deep fryers to its three customers free on board Hong Kong or mainland China. "Free on board," or "f.o.b.," is a "method of shipment

594 F.3d 1367

whereby goods are delivered at a designated location, usually a transportation depot, at which legal title and thus the risk of loss passes from seller to buyer." Litecubes, LLC v. N. Light Prods., Inc., 523 F.3d 1353, 1358 n. 1 (Fed.Cir.2008).

II.

SEB filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on September 10, 1999. Following a claim construction hearing, the district court granted SEB's motion, holding that SEB was likely to prove at trial that Pentalpha's deep fryers infringe at least claim 1 of the '312 patent. SEB S.A. v. Montgomery Ward & Co., 77 F.Supp.2d 399 (S.D.N.Y.1999) ("Preliminary Injunction Opinion"). This court affirmed the preliminary injunction order without opinion. SEB, S.A. v. Montgomery Ward & Co., Inc., 243 F.3d 566 (Fed.Cir.2000) (Rule 36).

Pentalpha then redesigned its deep fryer by replacing the ring that separated the skirt and the pan with six blocks or ring segments. SEB sought to supplement the original preliminary injunction to include Pentalpha's modified deep fryer. The district court granted SEB's application for supplemental injunctive relief in 2001, finding that SEB was likely to prove at trial that the modified fryer infringes at least claim 1 of the '312 patent under the doctrine of equivalents. SEB S.A. v. Montgomery Ward & Co., 137 F.Supp.2d 285 (S.D.N.Y.2001) ("DOE Opinion"). Pentalpha's primary argument, which the district court did not adopt, was based on prosecution history estoppel. Pentalpha did not appeal the district court's ruling of infringement by equivalents.

Discovery closed on October 30, 2001. On April 17, 2006, the district court commenced a trial. During trial, the record shows that the jury received evidence of Pentalpha's sales to Sunbeam, Fingerhut, and Montgomery Ward. Following the close of evidence, Pentalpha moved for judgment as a matter of law ("JMOL") on SEB's claim that Pentalpha had induced infringement of the '312 patent through those sales. Pentalpha's JMOL motion was based on the lack of evidence that anyone at Pentalpha "had any knowledge whatsoever with respect to the existence of the patent." J.A. 2209. The district court noted at the Rule 50(a) motion proceedings that "there is no evidence that [Pentalpha] was aware of [the '312] patent" before April 9, 1998. Nonetheless, the court held that there was evidence to support SEB's theory of inducement, which the court characterized as follows:

SEB is] saying that you could infer the specific intent to ... encourage the infringement by the fact that [Pentalpha's president] doesn't disclose that [Pentalpha copied the SEB product] to the people doing the [patent] search. [Pentalpha] wants them to do a search that ... is doomed to failure, and that that is enough, that a reasonable jury could infer that, specific intent. .... Here is the argument. There are a zillion patent attorneys in New York City, [yet][t]hey go to this guy in the middle of nowhere to do this patent search.... I don't know what happened. I'm not in [Pentalpha's President's] head. I don't know what he did.... I think it is ... a reasonable argument, could a jury infer from those actions, if they chose to believe them in the way the plaintiffs want, that that was an indication that [he] understood that he was likely violating a patent, in fact violating a patent.

The district court therefore allowed SEB's...

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