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Briggs & Stratton Corporation v. Chongqing Rato Power Co., Ltd.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

July 30, 2015

BRIGGS & STRATTON CORPORATION, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CHONGQING RATO POWER CO., LTD., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

LAWRENCE E. KAHN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This infringement action returns to the Court on Defendants Chongqing RATO Power Co., Ltd., RATO North America, and Denver Global Products, Inc.'s (collectively, "Defendants") Motion for reconsideration of the Court's Memorandum-Decision and Order filed September 30, 2014. Dkt. Nos. 113 ("Motion"); 113-1 ("Memorandum"). Specifically, Defendants seek reconsideration of the part of the Court's Order denying Defendants' Motion for summary judgment that the 1988 Yamaha Terrapro ("Terrapro") anticipates claims 1-6 and 10-12 of U.S. Patent No. 7, 107, 746 ("746 Patent"). Mem. at 1. Plaintiffs Briggs & Stratton Corporation and Briggs & Stratton Power Products Group, LLC ("Plaintiffs") opposed the Motion, Defendants filed a reply, and Plaintiffs were further permitted to file a sur-reply. Dkt. Nos. 116 ("Response"); 119 ("Reply"); 122 ("Sur-Reply"). For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is granted.

II. BACKGROUND

The Court briefly recounts the background and procedural history of this action necessary to the disposition of the present Motion. For further background on the case, reference is made to the Court's September 30, 2014 Memorandum-Decision and Order. Dkt. No. 112 ("September Order").

Plaintiffs commenced this action on March 20, 2013, alleging that Defendants' production and distribution of the RAVEN lawn tractor (the "RAVEN") infringes U.S. Patent No. 6, 510, 678 ("678 Patent") and the 746 Patent. Dkt. No. 1 ("Complaint"). The 678 Patent concerns a suspension system incorporating a "load compensation adjuster." 678 Patent. The 746 Patent refers to the front wheel connection assembly of a lawn mower incorporating the suspension system of the 678 Patent.[1] 746 Patent, Col. 3, Lns. 7-10.

Following discovery, the parties filed claim construction briefs and Defendants moved for summary judgment. In its September Order, the Court construed disputed claim terms. Sept. Order at 6-24. Significantly for the present Motion, the Court found that the preambles of Claims 1 and 10 of the 746 Patent-respectively, "a mower" and "a method of assembling a mower"-were not claim limitations. Id. at 23-24 (citing Am. Med. Sys., Inc. v. Biolitec, Inc., 618 F.3d 1354, 1358-59 (Fed. Cir. 2010)). The Court then granted in part and denied in part Defendants' Motion for summary judgment. See id. at 24-39. The Court granted summary judgment of invalidity on Claim 34 of the 678 Patent, and all of its dependent claims, for failure to provide a written description as required by 35 U.S.C. § 112. Id. at 33-35. The Court denied Defendants' Motion for summary judgment on the 746 Patent as either anticipated or obvious in light of two pieces of prior art: U.S. Patent No. 6, 101, 794 ("Christopherson") and the Terrapro. Id. at 35-39.

Yamaha's website identifies the Terrapro "as the first and only ATV with Power Take Off (PTO) capabilities. This feature enabled the use of a wide range of powered attachments (rough-cut mower, finish-cut mower, tiller, agricultural sprayers, post-hole digger and more)." Dkt. No. 85-3, Ex. KK. The only model year of the Terrapro was 1988. Dkt. No. 85-3, Ex. HH ("Starke Deposition"), 63:18-63:21. Defendants argued that their expert-Dr. Clark J. Radcliffe ("Radcliffe")-had analyzed a Terrapro model and concluded that the Terrapro disclosed every element of the 746 Patent. Dkt. Nos. 83-1 at 14; 84 ("Radcliffe Declaration") ¶¶ 67-70. The Court found that there was a question of material fact as to whether the Terrapro qualified as prior art. Sept. Order at 37-38. The Court determined that the relevant art for the purposes of the 746 Patent included both lawnmowers and suspension systems. Id. at 37. The Court found "a question of fact in whether one of ordinary skill in the lawnmower art would find the Terrapro to be prior art" because the Terrapro is not a lawnmower, but an all-terrain vehicle ("ATV") that can receive a lawnmower attachment. Id. at 37-38. Radcliffe admitted that he did not have experience in the design or analysis of lawnmowers, and the Court therefore found him "unqualified to determine what [was] and [was] not prior art in the art of lawnmowers. Id. at 38. Furthermore, Plaintiffs' experts had provided testimony that created an issue of material fact as to whether one of ordinary skill in the lawnmower art would recognize the Terrapro as prior art. Id.

Defendants moved for reconsideration of the Court's denial of summary judgment on anticipation of the 746 Patent by the Terrapro. Mem. at 1.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion for reconsideration may be granted where there is "an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent a manifest injustice." Official Comm. of Unsecured Creditors of Color Tile, Inc. v. Coopers & Lybrand, LLP, 322 F.3d 147, 167 (2d Cir. 2003) (quoting Virgin Atl. Airways, Ltd. v. Nat'l Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245, 1255 (2d Cir. 1992)) (internal quotation marks omitted). "The standard for granting a motion for reconsideration is strict and reconsideration will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked-matters, in other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court.'" Advanced Fiber Techs. Trust v. J&L Fiber Servs., Inc., 751 F.Supp.2d 348, 382-83 (N.D.N.Y. 2010) (Kahn, J.) (quoting Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995)). "[R]econsideration should not be granted where the moving party seeks solely to relitigate an issue already decided.'" Id. at 383 (quoting Shrader, 70 F.3d at 257).

IV. DISCUSSION

A. September Order

Defendants assert that the Court committed clear error in denying their Motion for summary judgment on the issue of anticipation of the 746 Patent by the Terrapro. Mem. at 1. On summary judgment, Defendants argued that the Terrapro anticipated the asserted claims of the 746 Patent pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 102(b). Dkt. No. 83-1 at 1. The Court found there was "a question of fact in whether one of ordinary skill in the lawnmower art would find the Terrapro to be prior art." Sept. Order at 37-38. Defendants argue that the Court's finding was clear error because: (1) Plaintiffs do not dispute that the Terrapro qualifies as prior art under 35 U.S.C. § 102(b), and (2) "whether a prior art reference qualifies as relevant art' as the Court sought to determine... is not legally part of the anticipation inquiry." Mem. at 2. Defendants state that "[t]he law is clear that the question of whether a reference is analogous art is irrelevant to whether that reference anticipates.'" Id. (quoting In re Schreiber, 128 F.3d 1473, 1478 (Fed. Cir. 1997)). Defendants argue that the Court erroneously relied on the obviousness standard, which requires a court to determine the relevant art. Id. at 3. Defendants contend that "the sole inquiry for purposes of anticipation is whether the [Terrapro] explicitly or inherently discloses every limitation disclosed in the claims.'" Id. (quoting In re Schreiber, 128 F.3d at 1478).

Plaintiffs dispute Defendants' assertion that the field of endeavor is irrelevant to the anticipation inquiry. Resp. at 2. Plaintiffs contend that a reference is anticipatory where it: (1) discloses each and every claim limitation, and (2) "enables one of skill in the art to practice an embodiment of the claimed invention without undue experimentation." Id. (quoting Stored Value Solutions, Inc. v. Card Activation Techs., Inc., 499 F.App'x 5, 14 (Fed. Cir. 2012)). Plaintiffs argue that Defendants have ignored the second part of the anticipation standard, which requires a court to determine the relevant field of art. Id. Plaintiffs therefore argue that the Court did not commit error in determining the relevant field of art for the 746 Patent. Id. at 5-6.

The issue is therefore whether the Court was correct to address the relevant art in considering anticipation of the 746 Patent by the Terrapro. Based on the precedents identified by Defendants, the Court finds that it applied the incorrect standard in the September Order. See Shrader, 70 F.3d at 257 ("[R]econsideration will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked."). Specifically, the Court finds that determining the relevant art is ...


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