The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHIN
In this patent case involving collapsible clothes hampers, plaintiff Allure Home Creation Co., Inc. ("Allure") alleges that defendants LaMont Limited and LaMONT International Inc. (collectively "LaMont") have willfully infringed United States Patents 5,356,024 (the "'024 patent") and 5,464,113 (the "'113 patent"). Defendants move for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted and plaintiff's complaint is dismissed.
Allure develops, markets, and imports various home products, including collapsible clothes hampers. Allure has marketed its collapsible hampers since approximately 1992. The hampers have been a "considerable commercial success" because their small size permits merchants to stock large numbers of hampers in a small space, requiring less shelf and warehouse space, which translates into lower sales costs. (Pl. Opp. at 3).
The hampers are covered by two patents, the '024 and '113 patents. The '113 patent is a continuation of the '024 patent. The caption, "Collapsible Hamper for Storage of Laundry and Other Items," appears on both patents. (Pl. Opp. Exs. 5 & 6). In addition, both patents contain the following abstract:
The present invention relates to a collapsible hamper, used for the storage of laundry or other items comprising a rigid upper frame, a rigid lower frame, a lid movably hinged to the upper frame, a flexible side wall woven out of polypropylene strips, fabric or other weavable material, and a plurality of supporting rods removably secured between the upper and lower rigid frames, which define a three dimensional internal storage space and decorative external structure that is attractive to the eye when the hamper is assembled for use and which can be easily disassembled and collapsed for convenient storage or transport when not in use.
(Id.). Figure 1 of both patents illustrates the hamper when assembled and fully erect. A copy of that figure is annexed to this decision as Exhibit 1. Figure 2 of both patents depicts the hamper in its collapsed fashion. That figure is annexed to this decision as Exhibit 2.
Allure alleges infringement of claims 6, 7, 8, and 17 of the '024 patent and claims 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 14, and 15 of the '113 patent. (Defs. Mem. Ex. C, Response to Interrogatories No. 1 and No. 3). Allure concedes, however, that claims 7 and 8 of the '024 patent are dependent on claim 6 of that patent; claims 2, 4, and 5 of the '113 patent are dependent on claim 1 of that patent; and claim 15 of the '113 patent is dependent on claim 14 of that patent. (Pl. 56.1 Statement PP 8, 10, 11). Hence, the only claims that need to be addressed on this motion are claims 6 and 17 of the '024 patent and claims 1, 7, and 14 of the '113 patent.
Claim 6 is illustrative of claims 17, 1, and 7. It reads:
A collapsible hamper comprising:
a side wall substantially fabricated of a sheet of flexible material;
the top and bottom edges of said side wall being secured about the outside circumferential surface of said upper rigid frame of said lower rigid frame respectively;
a plurality of supporting rods removably secured and extending between the downward surface of said upper rigid frame and the upward surface of said lower rigid frame to define a three dimensional internal storage space; and
a lid hingably [sic] fixed to the upward surface of said upper rigid frame, said lid covered with the same flexible material as that comprising said side wall;
said upper rigid frame being fabricated from a molded polymeric material and comprising,
a rectangular outside wall, and
said outside wall having a circumference greater than ...