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Black & Decker Inc. v. Robert Bosch Tool Corp.

January 12, 2007

BLACK & DECKER INC. AND BLACK & DECKER (U.S.) INC., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ROBERT BOSCH TOOL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Black & Decker Inc. and Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc. (collectively "Black & Decker") brought this lawsuit against Defendant Robert Bosch Tool Corporation ("Bosch") alleging infringement of various claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,308,059 (the "'059 patent") and 6,788,925 (the "'925 patent"). Specifically, Black & Decker accused Bosch's Power Box radio chargers -- Models PB-10 and PB-10-CD -- of infringing each of the patents-in-suit that relate to rugged radios. On September 22, 2006, a jury returned a verdict finding that the Bosch Power Box infringed certain claims of both patents-in-suit. Before the Court is Bosch's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law or to Alter the Judgment and Motion for a New Trial pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 50(b), 59(a), and 59(e). For the following reasons, the Court denies Bosch's motion.

LEGAL STANDARDS

The law of the Seventh Circuit controls motions under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 50 and 59 because they involve procedural issues not unique to patent law. See Primos, Inc. v. Hunter's Specialties, Inc., 451 F.3d 841, 847 (Fed. Cir. 2006); NTP, Inc. v. Research in Motion, Ltd., 418 F.3d 1282, 1324 (Fed. Cir. 2005).

I. Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law -- Rule 50(b)

When ruling on a motion for judgment as a matter of law following a jury verdict, the Court does not re-weigh the evidence presented at trial or make credibility determinations. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b). Instead, the Court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences in a light most favorable of the prevailing party. See Reeves, 530 U.S. at 150-51; Erickson v. Wisconsin Dep't Corrections, 469 F.3d. 600, 601 (7th Cir. 2006). "[T]he question is not whether the jury believed the right people, but only whether it was presented with a legally sufficient amount of evidence from which it could reasonably derive its verdict." Zelinski v. Columbia 300, Inc., 335 F.3d 633, 638 (7th Cir. 2003). In other words, the Court will overturn the jury's verdict only if no reasonable juror could have found in Black & Decker's favor. See Erickson, 469 F.3d at 601. "This is obviously a difficult standard to meet." Waite v. Board of Trs. of Ill. Cmty. Coll. Dist. 508, 408 F.3d 339, 343 (7th Cir. 2005). Finally, a motion for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(a) must be made at the close of evidence before a party may renew the motion after a jury verdict pursuant to Rule 50(b). See Zelinski, 335 F.3d at 638.

II. Motion for a New Trial -- Rule 59(a)

"Rule 59(a), in a bit of a circular way, allows new trials in cases where new trials have been traditionally allowed at law." ABM Mktg., Inc. v. Zanasi Fratelli, S.R.L., 353 F.3d 541, 543 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)). The Seventh Circuit has clarified this standard explaining that a "motion for a new trial should succeed only if the verdict is against the manifest weight of the evidence." Id. at 545 (quotation and citation omitted); see also Aero Products Int'l, Inc. v. Intex Recreation Corp., 466 F.3d 1000, 1016-17 (Fed. Cir. 2006) ("In the Seventh Circuit, a trial court may grant a new trial 'where the verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence,' while the court's ruling on a motion for a new trial is reversed only where there is a clear abuse of discretion.") (citation omitted). To satisfy this standard, Bosch must demonstrate that no rational jury could have rendered a verdict against it. See King v. Harrington, 447 F.3d 531, 534 (7th Cir. 2006). When making this evaluation, the Court views the evidence in a light most favorable to Black & Decker and cannot re-weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations. Id. The Court will sustain the verdict where a reasonable basis exists to support the jury's verdict. Id.

III. Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment -- Rule 59(e)

Rule 59(e) permits parties to file, within ten days of the entry of judgment, a motion to alter or amend the judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). Motions under Rule 59(e) serve the limited function of allowing the Court to correct manifest errors of law or fact or consider newly discovered material evidence. See County of McHenry v. Insurance Co. of the West, 438 F.3d 813, 819 (7th Cir. 2006). Rule 59(e) "does not provide a vehicle for a party to undo its own procedural failures" or "introduce new or advance arguments that could and should have been presented to the district court prior to the judgment." Moro v. Shell Oil Co., 91 F.3d 872, 876 (7th Cir. 1996); see also Estremera v. United States, 442 F.3d 580, 587 (7th Cir. 2006). Instead, Rule 59(e) "essentially enables a district court to correct its own errors, sparing the parties and the appellate courts the burden of unnecessary appellate proceedings." Russell v. Delco Remy Div. of Gen. Motors Corp., 51 F.3d 746, 749 (7th Cir. 1995). Whether to grant a Rule 59(e) motion "is entrusted to the sound judgment of the district court." Matter of Prince, 85 F.3d 314, 324 (7th Cir. 1996); see also Andrews v. E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co., 447 F.3d 510, 515 (7th Cir. 2006) (appellate court reviews denial of Rule 59(e) motion for abuse of discretion).

ANALYSIS

I. The '059 and '925 Patents

In the present motion, Bosch challenges the jury's findings as to Claim 1 of the '059 patent, which recites:

1. A combination battery charger and portable radio comprising; an enclosure; a radio disposed in said enclosure and including a radio receiver for receiving radio signals and generating audio output signals responsive thereto; an AC powered DC power supply disposed in said enclosure for powering said radio and generating a first DC output voltage having a magnitude sufficient to power said radio; a removable DC power supply disposed in said enclosure for powering said radio, said removable DC power supply being selected to generate a second DC output voltage having a magnitude in a range that includes voltages both lower and higher than the magnitude of said first DC output voltage from said AC powered DC power supply; and a power conversion circuit disposed between said AC powered DC power supply and said removable DC power supply, and between said radio and said removable DC power supply, to enable said removable DC power supply to power said radio and be charged by said AC powered DC power supply, regardless of the magnitude of the second DC output voltage from said removable DC power supply.

(PTX 1, U.S. Patent US 6,308,059 B1).

Bosch also argues that the jury committed a manifest error of fact in finding that the Power Box radio satisfied the limitations of Claim 1 of the '925 patent, which recites:

1. a durable portable radio for tradesworkers comprising: an enclosure; a radio disposed in said enclosure and including a radio receiver for receiving radio signals and generating audio output signals responsive thereto; an AC powered DC charger for powering said radio and charging a removable DC voltage power source, said charger generating a first DC output voltage having a magnitude sufficient to power said radio; a removable DC power supply disposed in said enclosure for powering said radio and being charged by said charger, said DC power supply being selected to generate a second DC output voltage having a magnitude in a range that includes voltages both lower and higher than the magnitude of said first DC output voltage from said charger; a power conversion circuit disposed between said radio and said removable power supply, to enable said removable DC powered supply to power said radio regardless of the magnitude of the second DC output voltage from said removable power supply.

(PTX 2, U.S. Patent US 6,788,925 B2).

II. "Enabling Battery to be Charged" Limitation

Claim 1 of the '059 patent requires "a power conversion circuit ... to enable said removable DC power supply to power said radio and be charged by said AC powered DC power supply." (See U.S. Patent US 6,308,059 B1). Here, Bosch argues that Black & Decker presented no evidence that the Power Box radio charger met the "enabling battery charging" limitation. In other words, Bosch contends that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury's finding that the Power Box had a power conversion circuit that enabled the AC powered DC power supply to charge the radio.

Contrary to Bosch's assertion, Black & Decker set forth trial testimony and documents that demonstrated the operation of the "power conversion circuit" in the Power Box radio, including how the IC4 (the voltage regulator) and JK1 (a relay) enabled battery charging. For instance, Black & Decker's technical expert witness, Dr. Andrew Neuhalfen, testified that the "IC4, along with JK1 perform the function of the power conversion circuit, as defined in this patent." (Ex. A, Tr. 648.) Dr. Neuhalfen further testified:

Q: And in this configuration (indicating), the battery pack is disconnected from the radio; is that correct?

A: Yes. And in that particular position, the switch is in a configuration that will disconnect the battery pack from powering the radio.

Q: And the battery pack is connected to PB104 charger circuit board, correct?

A: Yes, it is at that point. (Trial Tr. at 609.) Black & Decker also set forth a Bosch RPU (radio power unit) Schematic, Plaintiff's Exhibit 88, which was the same concept as Bosch's Demonstrative Exhibit 750. (Trial Tr., T. Cheung, at 1312-13.) Based on this schematic, Dr. Neuhalfen testified:

Q: And that if P is connected to 120 volts AC, the switch is open and the battery can get charged; is that correct?

A: Correct.

Q: An that if P is not plugged in, the switch closes and the battery cannot run the audio unit?

A: No, it says "and the battery can run the audio unit."

Q: Can run the audio unit?

A: That's correct.

Q: Is that -- based on your understanding of how the radio charger operates, is that consistent with your understanding?

A: Yes, it is. (Trial Tr. at 564.)

The schematic contained handwritten notes which further supports the jury's finding. Specifically, it states "if P is connected to 120 volts AC, the switch is open and the battery can get charged." (PTX 88, see also Trial Tr., S. Cole, at 932-34.) In another trial exhibit, Plaintiff's Exhibit 112, an email between Bosch's lead engineer, Steve Cole, and other engineers supports the jury's finding that the power conversion circuit enabled battery charging. The email included the following language: "The cut-off function of the charger circuit will not work correctly if any circuit discharges the battery during charging. (E.g., the customer uses the RPU and charges the battery at the same time)." (PTX 112, see also Trial Tr. at 925-27.) Indeed, the email states that "[w]hen the unit is plugged into the wall, a switch is opened and breaks the connection between the audio components and battery. The battery is then free to charge." (PTX 112; see also Trial Tr. at 927.)

On the other hand, Bosch counters that its engineer, John DeCicco, flatly denied that the JK1 enabled battery charging and that its lead engineer, Steve Cole, testified that Plaintiff's Exhibit 88 was not the final Power Box schematic or the demonstrative schematic used at trial. (See Trial Tr. at 888, Trial Tr. at 944-45.) When deciding post-trial motions for judgment as a matter of law, the Court must examine all of the evidence in the record, but cannot re-weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations. See Waite, 408 F.3d at 343. Thus, examining the trial record as a whole and deferring to the jury's credibility determinations, DeCicco's and Cole's testimony is not dispositive.

In fact, despite DeCicco's denial, his later testimony supports the jury's finding:

Q: So, the switch -- JK1 (indicating) -- disconnects the battery, correct?

A: Yes.

Q: It allows that battery to disconnect, correct?

A: Yes.

Q: And it allows the radio to be powered by AC ...


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