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Fisher-Price, Inc. v. Evenflo Co.

June 26, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny United States District Judge



Plaintiffs Fisher-Price, Inc. and Gravity, Inc. commenced this action on April 22, 2005, by filing a Complaint with the Court Clerk for the United States District Court, Western District of New York, alleging infringement by Defendant Evenflo Company, Inc. ("Evenflo") of U.S. Patent No. 6,851,375 ("the '375 patent"). On August 16, 2005, an Amended Complaint was filed adding Mattel, Inc. as a Plaintiff and alleging infringement by Evenflo of U.S. Patent No. 6,920,830 ("the '830 patent"), issued on July 26, 2005. Gravity and Mattel are the owners of all right, title and interest in, respectively, the '375 and '830 patents, and Fisher-Price has been granted certain exclusive rights with respect to each patent.

Presently before the Court is Mattel's and Fisher-Price's motion, filed on September 8, 2005, to enjoin Evenflo from infringing the '830 patent.*fn1 Defendant requested, and was granted, the opportunity to conduct discovery relative to the preliminary injunction motion, and briefing on the motion and related issues was completed on March 10, 2006. The Court conducted an evidentiary hearing and heard oral argument on May 24, 2006. For the reasons stated below, the motion for a preliminary injunction is denied.


A. Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction

Plaintiffs Mattel and Fisher-Price*fn2 moved for injunctive relief pursuant to Rule 65(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the United States Patent Statute, 35 U.S.C. § 283 based upon Evenflo's purported infringement of claims 1, 12, 20 and 27 of the '830 patent.

B. Standard of Review

Whether a preliminary injunction should issue in a patent case turns upon four factors: (1) the movants' reasonable likelihood of success on the merits; (2) irreparable harm to the movants if preliminary relief is not granted; (3) a balance of hardships tipping in movants' favor; and (4) the injunction's favorable impact on the public interest. Reebok Int'l Ltd. V. Baker, Inc., 32 F.3d 1552, 1555 (Fed. Cir. 1994) (citing Hybritech, Inc. v. Abbott Labs., 849 F.2d 1446, 1451 (Fed. Cir. 1988)). The burden is on the movants to show entitlement to a preliminary injunction. Reebok, Int'l., 32 F.3d at 155.

C. Factors to be Considered

1. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

To demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits, Fisher-Price must show that, in light of the presumptions and burdens that will inhere at trial on the merits, (1) it will likely prove that Evenflo infringes the '830 patent, and (2) its infringement claim will likely withstand Evenflo's challenge to the validity and enforceability of the patent., Inc. v., Inc., 239 F.3d 1343, 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (citing Genetech, Inc. V. Novo Nordisk, A/S, 108 F.3d 1361, 1364 (Fed. Cir. 1997)). However, an "injunction should not issue if the party opposing the injunction raises a substantial question concerning infringement or validity" by asserting a defense that the movant cannot prove lacks substantial merit. Oakley, Inc. v. Sunglass Hut, Int'l, 316 F.3d 1331, 1340 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (internal quotations and citation omitted).

a. Infringement

An analysis of the likelihood of infringement involves two steps; first, the meaning and scope of the claim is determined, and second, the properly construed claim is compared with the accused device to determine whether all of the claim limitations are present, either literally or by substantial equivalent. Elektra Instrument S.A. v. O.U.R. Scientific Int'l, Inc., 214 F.3d 1302, 1306 (Fed. Cir. 2000) (citations omitted). Claim interpretation is a legal question, Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 970-71 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (en banc), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370, 116 S.Ct. 1384, 134 L.Ed. 2d 577 (1996), but the application of the claim to the accused device is a question of fact, Wolverine World Wide, Inc. v. Nike, Inc., 38 F.3d 1192, 1199 (Fed. Cir. 1994).

In construing the meaning and scope of patent claims, courts look to the claim language, the specification and the prosecution history, in that order. Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1315-17 (Fed. Cir. 2005). Courts first look to the words of the claims themselves and ascribe to them their ordinary and customary meaning. Digital Biometrics, Inc. V. Identix, Inc., 149 F.3d 1335, 1344 (Fed. Cir. 1998). However, where review of the specification reveals a special definition given to a claim term by the patentee that differs from its customary meaning, the inventor's definition governs. Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1996). Courts may also consider the prosecution history, including representations made by the applicant about what the claims mean. Id. at 1582-83.

In the instant case, Fisher-Price contends that it is likely to succeed on the merits because Evenflo infringes Claims 1, 12, 20 and 27 of the '830 patent.*fn3 Pl. Memo, pp. 4-10, App. A. Evenflo has raised defenses of non-infringement and patent invalidity. With regard to the infringement analysis, the parties disagree on the meaning of the phrases "body portion" in claim 1; "contacting substantially all," "substantially the same," "first configuration" and "second configuration" in claim 12; and "perimeter portion" in claim 20.*fn4

(i) Claim 1

What is claimed in claim 1 is as follows:

A tray insert removably disposable within a cavity of a support, the support including a rim and a lower surface defining the cavity, said tray insert comprising: a body portion including a first surface having a plurality of pockets formed therein and a second surface adapted to be disposed adjacent said lower surface of the support; and a coupling member disposed on said body portion, and including a protrusion having an inclined surface, said coupling member adapted to releasably and mechanically engage a recess formed in the support within the cavity of the support.

See '830 patent, col. 5, lines 49-60.

On this claim, the parties disagree as to the meaning of the term "body portion." Evenflo contends that the limitation "coupling member disposed on said body portion" is not met by its accused high chair tray inserts because its coupling mechanisms are located on the perimeter of the outer portion of the tray inserts, not the body portion. According to Evenflo, in the '830 patent, the outer portion is a separately delineated area of the tray insert. Def. Memo, pp. 7-8.

Fisher-Price contends that the "body portion" of a tray insert includes what are elsewhere identified in the patent claims as an "outer portion," an "extending portion" and a "perimeter portion." Under Fisher-Price's proposed construction, a coupling member located anywhere on the tray insert would, necessarily, be disposed on the body portion.

This Court first notes that the word "portion" is ordinarily understood as designating a part of a whole. Thus, a whole object, such as a tray insert, may be comprised of two or more portions.*fn5

When the term "body" is used in connection with an inanimate object, its ordinary meaning is: the main, central or principal part of something as a: the nave of a church b(1): the bed or box of a vehicle on or in which the load is placed (2): the enclosed or partly enclosed part of an automobile usu. not including the hood and fenders.

WEBSTER'S THIRD NEW INT'LDICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE UNABRIDGED(1993); see also, THE AM. HERITAGE DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE: FOURTHED. (2002) (online (defining "body" as, among other things, "the passenger- ...

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